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Hold a holiday party while balancing a budget

By now, most of us in client-oriented businesses are just itching to have an event for our clients or do something spectacular (maybe over the top) to show our clients how much we appreciate them. We enjoy socializing with each other, our clients, and prospective clients, outside of the office setting. After all, isn’t that how we find out information?

Imagine this: A great atmosphere consisting of spectacular hors d’oeuvres, a dimly lit room, and light jazz playing in the background. It just seems as though clients are more willing to open up and share what’s coming down the pike.

There are two big conundrums about this recession:

One, your revenue is down and you have to cut back on expenses or, two, your revenue is steady (maybe even up) and you cut back to be sensitive to those less fortunate.

However, help is on the way. If you’re accustomed to lavishing your clients and employees with appreciation, fun, and gifts, here are five tips for things that you can do right away to add pizzazz to your holiday event and SAVE money in the process:

1. Party for a Purpose

There is no reason why this year’s shindig can’t have a philanthropic purpose. For example, consider partnering with a non-profit. Perhaps your company will pay for the party, as it would normally, and request donations from clients/employees who are attending. Contribution amounts could be as nominal as $1.00 or potentially as high as selling $50.00 tickets. All the money raised would go to the selected charity.

One of the events that I am just dying to plan is a Winter Wonderland for Wounded Veterans where employees or clients of the firm invite their friends, family, and/or neighbors who are wounded veterans and we spoil them rotten with fun. Any takers?

By the way, this is called good cause marketing.

2. Any Given Saturday

Save a ton of money by having your holiday event on any day other than Saturday.

Why, you ask?

Simply put, Saturday is an extremely popular day for events of all kinds. In Econ 101 we learned all about supply and demand. This year, there are only three Saturdays after Thanksgiving weekend to have an event. In addition, December is becoming an increasingly popular wedding month. Therefore, competition is not just among corporate groups for the best venues in town. As demand increases and supply decreases, the price will go up. This doesn’t just apply to venues, but also to the vendors supporting the event such as catering, floral, and entertainment. Shoot for a Wednesday or Thursday for better bargaining power; vendors are likely to cut you a price break.

3. Pass it to November, it’s WIDE open.

In a previous job, when I was working for a very large company, I remember getting a Thanksgiving card from a supplier. How interesting, I thought. A supplier saying thank you for your business during Thanksgiving.

It also got me thinking, why don’t more companies differentiate themselves and have their annual holiday parties at a less crowded time of the year? Of course we aren’t talking about a mega blow-out for Bastille Day, but why not schedule your holiday party in November before Thanksgiving and call it a Thankful event for clients or Thanks for your service event for employees. Not only is Thanksgiving religion-neutral, but there are so many great foods in season and the colors are so rich and opulent during that time of year that it can really optimize your budget.

4. Place the Bar on a Diet.

This may come as a shock to some people, but liquor is expensive and creates some unintentional side effects. In this economy, a new super star has emerged, called the signature drink. What is a signature drink? It is a mixed cocktail that is specifically created (after a number of taste tests) for a specific event. It generally complements the theme of the event or the menu.

Why do we love the signature drink? It is cost-effective on two levels. One, to host a full bar requires the purchase of many different liquors, mixes, and garnishes. Two, it requires an expert to run the bar. With a signature drink, not only can it be pre-mixed and served by a novice or even self service, but all of the ingredients are standardized.

So, my advice for saving money is to ditch the full bar and create a signature drink (with and without alcohol) and serve sodas and water as alternatives.

5. Gift This!

The holiday party, by itself, is a gift, although many firms may opt to give additional gifts or tokens of gratitude. Instead of giving every employee or client a gift which may cost thousands of dollars depending on the number of guests, instead think about raffling something like the new iPhone, a Wii, a dinner cruise, round of golf, or box seats to a Redskins game. Give each person a raffle ticket so that everyone is equally likely to win and during the night, announce the winners. Using the raffle (and fate) as a mediator, no one can make the argument of preferential treatment or that gifts weren’t given out this year.

By Andrea Lyons. Lyons is the President of All About Presentation, an event planning company headquartered in Richmond. For more information, go to www.allabout presentation.com.

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