Top tips for a ripper staff Christmas party

This is if work is generous enough to spring for an all staff Christmas party. If they’re not the tightest of bean counters and there’s an opportunity for the work crew to let their hair down, here’s a few suggestions!*

Suggestions on turning your staff Christmas Party from meh to memorable.

Allow partners to come along. I don’t think I can stress this enough, especially since a) times are tough and b) there’s plenty of partners out there that haven’t had an exciting night out in forever. Up until the one from last night, my wife Donna hadn’t been to one of my staff Christmas parties in over five years simply because it wasn’t an option and so she was more excited than I was, purchasing a new outfit and organising Trev the brother in law to keep an eye on the kids the second I showed her the invite with those golden words ‘Partners are welcome’.

Not only is it a nice gesture by the company but you get to meet a whole heap new people, the partners finally get to meet the people you’ve been talking about and provided no one punches anyone, everyone usually gets on famously.

Pick a venue with plenty of escape options. And no, I’m not talking in case of fire, floor, meteor strikes, all in brawls or alien invasion. I’m talking the opportunity for anyone at your staff Christmas party to come and go when they need to and when they please because funnily enough, not even one is going to drink their fill right up until the dying seconds before the words ‘The tab is now empty’ are explained by the bar staff. Some will be working the next day (more on that in a sec), some have to get home before the babysitter starts working out what to do with the overtime, some would like to leave before Janine from HR starts singing Karaoke. Holy crap Janine, not Islands in the stream again!

A venue not in the middle of nowhere and easy to drive to is perfect for people still sober enough to drive from or catch a cab/Uber/rickshaw if they’re not. When you have to take an hour long bus ride to get there, that can be a challenge. Especially when after the bus, you’re stuck on a slow moving paddle steamer for the next four hours and then you’ve got no chance of getting home unless you jump back on the same bus. And if you’re wondering if I’m speaking from experience, sigh, of course I am.

The bus ride to the paddle steamer was fairly civil with three eskies full of cans to keep the crew and partners content. Although a mere 20 minutes in there wasn’t a single Canadian Club can left on board because someone had seriously underestimated the love of the dry version. Spirits were high (can supply was low) by the time we got there and boarded the paddle steamer and then the slow journey started and things started to unravel.

-The food was party pies and sausage rolls that spent far too long in the oven coming out dryer than Sahara sand. There was more variety of drinks on the bus than on the steamer and the view got staler than the food in no time flat.

-One of the people on the boat who shall remain nameless (rhymes with ‘Scott’ though) ended up in a very drunken and very public row with his wife. About what I forget but even though he stayed on one side of the steamer and she on the other, they still screamed the house down across the entire vessel. Remember what I said about escape options? Right now at that point of the staff Christmas party I was praying for rescue by helicopter.

-Right after the speeches management decided to try and be amusing by pairing the two most awkward people in the office to try and dance together as a challenge. I don’t know what they were expecting here Strictly Ballroom maybe? What they got was awkwardness multiplied exponentially and a pretty good reason to get HR on the phone.

-Going nowhere at a snails pace for four hours, it was almost a relief getting back on the bus for the hour ride home. Well that’s what I thought until the super drunk parts of the party on board decided to scream about going clubbing the entire way home and urged the poor bus driver to break the speed limit before club cut off. While I didn’t drown in the river, I was now drowning in sound. I did mention escape options earlier didn’t I? Even in my semi drunken state I was picturing how to build a teleportation device and wished we had reached that level of technology.

A staff Christmas party involving a boat doesn’t usually work well…well until it does.

Above is the sight that greets you when you get off the boat at South Stradbroke Island and when you’re ferried over there at dusk, the sights over the Gold Coast waterways are amazing. In less than an hour you’re on the island and while you might be thinking ‘Okay, then what? Is this staff Christmas party delving into an episode of Survivor now?’ note that behind the trees is a fully functional party palace ready to go. Huge bar, there was a ‘DIY’ burrito stand with so many options and hot meat good to go, a dance floor, eating area, table tennis tables and good god almighty, even a rope swing.

Yes I was drunk on the swing and yes I loved it.

The ride back was just as pretty as it was over, if not even more so thanks to the lights of the city twinkling away. And when you’re back on shore, you’re close to a thousand other options if you want to kick on.

So actually, a boat trip can work – as long as there’s plenty to see, do, eat and drink and as long as you keep Scott and his wife as far away from each other as possible. Okay, back to the ripper tips.

Short speeches if any but even better, no speeches at all. Look, we all understand what’s going on here – either the company had a great year and is looking forward to the next one or the company had a rough year…and is looking for the next one. We work there, we feel it all good and bad, thick and thin etc. But now we’re having fun and mingling, dancing and enjoying ourselves while appreciating the thank you in the form of this staff Christmas party. Please don’t wind down that level of energy by tying the evening up with lengthy speeches. Keep em short or even better, keep em to email.

-At least one surprise (and it doesn’t have to be a big one.) The invite said ‘beer, wine and soft drink options’ and my usual mental response is ‘Sure, that works for me just fine.’ And depending on the venue and the budget, it’s usually limited to a couple of options – basic beers and house wines etc. Last night it was any beer on tap which meant I started with a Carlton, then got onto a Stone and Wood, then a Balter XPA (it’s been a while) and then the alcoholic Ginger beer option (yum!). My wife Donna started on the house white then sparkling then Ginger beer.
And then soon after the cocktails arrived.

No one had specifically ordered cocktails but all of a sudden there they were, approved by management and coming in hot (er chilled) to help actually burn some of the decent amount left on the tab. And so for the first time ever last night I tried a chilli margarita.

Staff Christmas party drinks - chilli margarita

A classic salt lined margarita is one of my favourite cocktails of all time and while I still don’t know what to make of this option with the chilli flakes on the rim and the slice on the ice, I was quite happy to give it a red hot go. Then there was this thing with the lolly snakes – a sugary sledgehammer that I found okay but wifey adored.

Ignored the unironed shirt, I was dressed by Le Dryer

There were plenty more (i missed out on the mojitos sadly) but it was such a great addition to the already sizeable drinks options and the food was top notch too – no oven killed footy favourites, there were mini burgers, chicken sticks, cheeses, cold meats, every thing. Which leads me to my last recommendation:

Put on a spread. (If the budget permits of course.) There’s nothing worse than going to an event and even though you can drink your fill, there’s barely enough to eat (not to mention slightly dangerous depending on how much they drink on an empty stomach…) If you’re celebrating with staff, leave them full and happy. And make sure there’s plenty of ways for them to get home safely too.

Phew, I’m done. Time for a nap. More of what we had last night please work, that ticked all of the boxes!

*Yes this was written less than 24 hours since my last staff Christmas party which absolutely went off, hence a) why I’m writing this article now and b) how I’m still feeling like I wrestled a bus. Great night out though!

1 thought on “Top tips for a ripper staff Christmas party”

Leave a Comment