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'Tis the season

Seven Steps to Throw an Unforgettable Holiday Party This Season

By Heather Harrington

It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but if you are in charge of planning your firm’s holiday party, it’s also the most stressful. The holidays are almost upon us and that means it’s party planning season.

It’s a time to thank clients, celebrate shared success and, yes, sweat the details to make sure that big investments in planning the perfect party are not squandered.

Party planning for clients is often viewed as one of those “have to do it” marketing expenditures — like attorney award directories and print advertising. Everyone else is doing it, so we do too, regardless of the difficulty of measuring ROI or the stress … or so the thinking goes.

But It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

With smart planning and execution — and plenty of creative flair — a holiday party can be an engaging, enriching experience that bonds a firm and its lawyers to clients and referral resources in an intimate, personal way that’s not possible in most other settings.

How to Plan an Impeccable Holiday Party

Here are seven tips to ensure that your party planning runs smoothly, and exceeds expectations.

  1. Get the word out. You can be sure that yours is not the only event that your guests will be invited to, so get the word out early. A good rule of thumb is to send a save the date six weeks prior, distribute invitations with four weeks to spare, and do at least one reminder a week or two before the event.
  2. Plan and market your event. Successful planning requires that you wear both your party hat and your marketing hat. You can be certain that your guests are being offered lots of opportunities to attend fancy dinners and cocktail parties in the coming weeks. So consider zigging when everyone else is zagging. Instead of making food and alcohol the centerpiece of your event, plan an interactive experience or an event that includes an element of community service. Your guests are busy. They have lots of options. Convince them why they should spend their finite time with you this holiday season by offering them something different.
  3. Pick the right venue. The hottest new restaurant or club in town may be appealing, but tread cautiously and make sure that the venue you pick has the human resources and experience necessary to pull off your vision. A tried-and-true venue that delivers excellent service but may not have the best aesthetic appeal can be transformed visually with great design and staging. Also, choose your venue with convenience in mind. Your guests are making a time trade-off by attending your event, so make it easy to get to and from. (Remember to provide parking information, too.)
  4. Designate one point of contact for the venue. Things can go awry when there is no hierarchy of communication and decision-making established between venue staff and the firm. Before and during an event, questions and problems will arise, and the venue staff needs to understand where to go for answers. Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen — designate a single impresario who is unquestionably in charge.
  5. Make a great first impression. Walking into a party can be awkward, so have plenty of people in place to welcome guests and direct them through your check-in process. Make it easy to check coats and bags, offer guests a special cocktail, and make them feel at home.
  6. Play matchmaker. Assign lawyers the responsibility to make introductions for guests. An attorney who invites a guest should make a point to introduce him or her to at least one other guest who could become a valuable connection moving forward. (And ideally the value would be mutual.)
  7. Leverage the opportunity. Hosting an awesome event is an excellent marketing tactic. But don’t treat it as a moment in time. Extend its impact by conducting thoughtful follow-up. Send guests handwritten thank-you notes. Distribute photo albums from the event. Create a Spotify playlist of the music you carefully curated for the event and share it. Continue the engagement and keep the good vibes felt at the event going.

More Tips for Happy Holiday Events from Attorney at Work

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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