Christmas is a great excuse for a party, and, if you want to thank your team or clients for their commitment during the year, what better way to do it?

Organising a festive shindig can be really good fun, but make sure you start early or you may struggle to secure a venue at this busy time of year.

There’s no time like the (Christmas) present, so get your Santa hat on and start planning, with our 5-step ‘How to Run a Christmas Party’ guide.

Step 1. Build a brief

First things first, what type of Christmas celebration do you want to organise? There are various different options available ranging from a low-key meal in a pub or restaurant or taking part in a shared party night, to organising your own bespoke party from scratch.

Your choice will depend on your guests and your budget (and your appetite for organsing). If you have a small team, then it makes sense to join a bigger party – no one wants to be the only person on the dancefloor. This off-the-shelf option, with all food, drinks and entertainment included, is the easiest to organise – simply buy the tickets and arrange transport.

If your guests are more mature, or have family commitments, dancing into the early hours might not be their idea of fun, and in which case, a slap-up lunch might be the best option.

However, you could always considering adding another element into your event, such as a teambuilding activity, going to see a show or concert, or visiting a Christmas market and perhaps skating on the ice rink?

You’ll need to decide whether you are planning a daytime event, evening event or both, and also if it will be just team members/clients, or partners as well. Recessionary cutbacks saw ‘bring a partner’ events slip out of fashion, but if you can afford it, it’s nice to thank the ‘people behind your people’.

Step 2. Set the date

Before you book a venue, you’ll want to check your guests’ availability. Christmas is a busy period, so diaries fill up fast. You don’t want to arrange a party that perhaps your key clients or members of the management team can’t make.

Decide what days of the week you’ll consider and how close to Christmas your event must be. Naturally, Fridays in the run up to the 25th will be the most in demand and most will have sold out months ago, so you’ll need to be more open minded to get the best deals.

Having a party on a Monday or Tuesday can open up options and actually offer a benefit, in that people can share the gossip and excitement for the rest of the week. If the event will end late and you’re worried about hangovers, perhaps it would even be possible to let the team come into work an hour or two later the next day?

Another alternative is a weekend party. Although weekends are generally unpopular for corporate parties, if you’re inviting partners as well, it can be a real treat for your team or clients. It’s also worth considering late November or early January for the best deals.

Select several potential dates and send them around the office to get a feel for the preferred date. You’ll never be able to find a date that suits everyone, so it’s usually best to go with ‘majority rules’, so long as your VIP guests can make it. Following this process, you’ll also have a better idea of numbers for the event.

Related: Top 5 Christmas party venues in London

Step 3. Book the venue

Once you have chosen a date and set your per head budget, it’s time to start looking for venues. Of course, there’s always the option of using your own office, but guests will find it far easier to relax and unwind out of the workplace.

You might already have a venue/s in mind but if not there are plenty of online portals, such as venuefinder.com or hirespace.com where you can search by city, guests numbers, venue style and date availability.

When shortlisting, don’t forget to bear in mind how your guests will get to and from the venue. If you’re not laying on transport, the venue will need to be near to a tube or train station. The option of onsite or nearby accommodation for those who want to stay the night is also a bonus.

The next step is to obtain details of the venues’ Christmas catering packages and find the best deal. However, the cheapest isn’t always the best option. Choosing a quirky venue, such as a castle or boat, over a bland conference suite, will add value to your event and could save money on additional decoration/themeing.

Organise a site visit and meet with the venue’s event manager to discuss how they can help you plan your event. Ask what’s available for you to use and what you will need to hire in, such as furniture, festive décor, entertainment equipment and waiting staff. It’s always worth trying to negotiate to get extras thrown in, but venues do tend to have the upper hand at this busy time of year.

If you haven’t had a confirmed guestlist or are worried about ‘no shows’, ask if you will be able to book for minimum numbers and add guests later on, and don’t forget to thoroughly check the contract and all charges before signing.

Step 4. Add sparkle

A party’s not a party without entertainment (and alcohol!). Maybe you want to choose a theme and ask guests to come in fancy dress (although this is not everyone’s cup of tea) or dressed to a colour scheme like white and silver.

Get everyone in the party spirit by kicking off with festive arrival drinks, such as Winter Pimm’s, hot mulled wine or Christmas cocktails.

Consider an icebreaker activity such as a wine and cheese tasting quiz, an up-close magician, caricaturists, or other walk-about entertainers. This can help spark conversation between colleagues who don’t work in the same teams.

After the meal, you’ll want a DJ or band that can get the party started. Ask for recommendations or use an entertainment agency. Find out if you can go and see them performing prior to booking and check that your venue can meet their technical requirements.

Other great additions, if your budget will stretch to it, are comedians and speakers, circus acts, casino tables, murder mystery, fun fair rides and fireworks. If you’re limited on budget, quizzes and karaoke can inject fun into the proceedings at very little cost. Take-home goodie bags will always be well received, even if it’s just some chocolate and small novelties for the children.

Related: Throw a more meaningful Christmas party

Step 5. Confirm the finer details

Send out the official invitations to your guests. Don’t forget to request details of any special dietary requirements. Consider using Eventbrite to create a dedicated online event page and handle registrations.

Once guests have RSVP’d, get to work on the table plan. Having designated seats breaks up the office cliques and takes the stress out of the situation for guests. Do spend time thinking about who should be seated together and maybe plan a seat swap after each course, to maximise mixing and mingling.

Now put together a full itinerary to ensure everything remains on the right track for a smooth-running event. Include a complete breakdown of the event, including timings, locations, and contact details for everyone involved. Make sure all suppliers have a copy of the itinerary.

Hopefully, everything will run to plan on the day and you can relax and enjoy the party, but make sure you identify yourself to all suppliers as the person to speak to about any queries.

Finally, don’t forget to hire a photographer to capture the fun. Good shots can be used on the company blog, website and social media and serve as a great reminder of the event for attendees.

Related: Create beautifully designed Christmas event pages

Conclusion

Organising a Christmas party is one of the most rewarding company tasks. It’s the once-yearly chance for staff to let their hair down and, if you do a good job of arranging the festivities, you’ll be on everyone’s Christmas list.