Asking the right questions to create a perfect party


Somehow, you ended up as the head of the committee that’s supposed to plan the holiday party for your company. What do you do now?

Take a deep breath and get organized, says Joan Gondry. In her role as director of catering and banquets at Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, she’s has been involved in more than few of these things over the years.

Here, Gondry says, are the questions you need to answer:

The date

Even though the holidays are still 10 weeks away, some of the prime weekend dates are filling up quickly at venues around town. (Some dates, in fact, began filling as early as January with companies that have longstanding traditions of holiday parties at one place or another.)

If your preferred weekend date isn’t available, Gondry says some groups have moved to Sunday-night affairs. And firms that are particularly busy during the holidays often look at dates in January. That’s also an option for companies whose employees already feel overwhelmed with holiday commitments.

The time

Although your first thought may be an evening affair, Gondry says holiday luncheons are good option for some companies.

While breakfast events always are a possibility, she says they most often are used by business groups — chambers of commerce and the like — that otherwise struggle to find a time of their members’ busy schedules.

The menu

In this gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose-intolerant, Paleo-diet era, the committee that’s planning a holiday party may be ready to submit a group resignation at this point. Again, Gondry suggests that you take a deep breath.

First, what kind of meal do you want? A traditional plated dinner, delivered by the wait staff to seated guests? A buffet? A reception?

While buffets have long been the most popular option for holiday parties, Gondry says reception-style affairs are chosen by an increasing number of planners. Unlike a sit-down dinner, at which folks visit mostly with the people seated next to them, a reception allows for mingling and wide networking.

You probably have room to be a little more adventurous with the menu than you think. Ethnic food — Indian or Iranian, for instance — is beginning to find its way onto banquet menus in Reno.

And be sure to detail special dietary needs of your guests. Event planners can provide a surprising number of suggestions.

The seating plan

Often overlooked by planning committees, a floor plan will be helpful. Does the boss need to be seated front and center? How will guests find their way to assigned seats?

The entertainment

Start with the décor. You probably want a holiday theme for the room. But do you want a decorated tree?

Do you plan on hiring a professional entertainer? What sort of stage do they require? Do they need anything special that they won’t be bringing themselves?

What audiovisual requirements do you have? Will you displaying the company logo on screens at the front of the room? Running a slide show of candid photos of employees?

If there’s a guest speaker, what does she need? Remember that some will want a green room where they can wait before they hit the stage.

A timeline

Another often-overlooked piece is a timeline for the event. What will happen, step by step, during the evening? Will the president’s remarks come before dinner or after? If it’s a plated dinner, at what point should the service begin?

Gondry encourages planners to share their timeline with the venue’s staff. It provides the cues that the staff needs to provide seamless service.

“We want the food to be hot,” says Gondry. “We want the food to be fresh.”

A skillful event planner can help you navigate most of the questions that have been caused some sleepless nights ever since you got the party-planning assignment.

Maybe you’ll even do so well that the job can be yours again next year.


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