Top Ten Holiday Party Planning Tips

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Alec Baldwin toasts to National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in New York’s Times Square. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for National Geographic Encounter/AP Images)

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey, a first-in-kind entertainment experience in Times Square, a 60,000-square-foot venue that allows visitors a rare opportunity to journey through the depths of the ocean, is a unique venue for meetings and events with state-of-the-art space that is available for holiday parties, corporate events, dinners, and receptions for up to 1,000 people. It has hosted hundreds of events, including the WWE Make-A-Wish Circle of Champions, Friends of St. Jude Spring Gala, hiTechMODA fashion show, and even a TedX talk.

National Geographic Encounter is not a museum, exhibit, movie, aquarium, or virtual reality; instead, the producers consulted with dozens of technologists and scientists to create a new kind of immersive experience that guests can walk through.

All of its events are managed and produced by The Shubert Organization, a professional theatre company, and the largest theatre owner on Broadway. Trevor Moppin, an event manager at The Shubert Organization, has compiled ten tips to keep in mind when planning a successful holiday party.

  1. Go For a Full Buyout. If budgeting allows, a full buyout of a space provides an opportunity to take advantage of all features of the venue, including being able to create different thematic rooms throughout the site.  For example, National Geographic Encounter hosted a shipping company’s corporate event and was able to create a variety of nautical-themed rooms, including one room that looked like a boat while another room was decorated to look like the shoreline.
  2. Have Fun. Holiday parties should be fun.  Hosting the party in a space that is an actual attraction will add allure. Plan games or entertainment that will get everyone up an out of the corporate routine.
  3. Say Cheese. With all the planning that goes into the party, don’t forget to document the experience.  Consider hiring a professional photographer, who can later share photos with guests.  Additionally, a photo booth with a branded hashtag and logo allows for fun interactions.  Some photo booths an even create an instant boomerang Instagram moment.
  4. Get Social. Remember those photos you took? Post them to social media for engagement with others and the company. Posting the professional photos on the company page, for example, automatically facilitates organic social movement as guests share, tag, and like photos.  If the venue can program a social wall or create an active live feed, guests will be encouraged to engage with the company on their social platforms.

    Projection technology adds allure to holiday parties.
  5. Branding is Key. While the holiday party is a time for fun, it is also a time for branding. Projection technology is a great cheap and easy way to create a design that will have a high impact.
  6. Food for Thought. Presentation of food is important, and sometimes all it takes are classics with a twist.  For example, mac n’cheese can be replaced with mac n’cheese bites, which are easier to eat while standing; and mini hot dogs can be jazzed up by wrapping them in pretzel dough. Don’t forget to create a specialty cocktail that is somehow associated with your company. These little touches can go a long way.
  7. Make Less of an Impact, on the Environment That Is. When the opportunity presents itself, always go for a sustainable option.  Stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, or reusable cups with company branding make great giveaways and also help reduce waste.  Sustainability can also translate into the F&B menu.  For example, National Geographic Encounter’s catering partners utilize local farms and purveyors, focusing on sustainable seafood, as well as seasonal fare.
  8. Keep Up with the Trends. Sustainability, small bites, and silent discos are trending right now, so be sure to incorporate them into your events.
  9. Keep Them Entertained. A live band paired with a DJ creates a great combination. Groups enjoy the chance to dance and shake things up.
  10. ‘Tis the Season for Giving While the holiday season is full of merriment, it’s also important to remember that it’s the season of giving. Employees appreciate companies that think of others. Either arrange for a donation or incorporate a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity into your event. At National Geographic Encounter, for example, CSR is already built in. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase goes to support the National Geographic Society’s nonprofit work in conservation, exploration, research, and education.

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