Company Culture

Tips for Planning an Office Party


Written by CaterCow Staff • October 26, 2022

Tips for Planning an Office Party

So you want to throw an office party

Office parties fall along a spectrum - a wide one. On one end of this spectrum, office parties can be wild, crazy, out of control. On the other, they can be tame, rigid, or even a little bit dull. We’re guessing that you’re going for something in between those extremes. To help you in your planning, we’re sharing five tips for throwing an amazing office party.

Find out what your team wants

The best way to throw an enjoyable and memorable office party is to first find out what your team wants out of a gathering. While you’ll likely hear a range of responses, you’ll at least have the information you need to make a good decision about what this party should look like.

There are many ways to gather this information, whether that’s through casual conversations, an agenda item at the next all-hands meeting, or through a simple online survey or Slack poll.

Here are a few questions that can help you make plans:

  • What types of parties do you like the most?
  • What’s one factor that makes you want to stay at an office party?
  • Is there anything that stresses you out when you think about an office party? If so, what is it?
  • What are you most looking forward to with the next office party?

Listening to your team and adapting towards their preferences will ensure that everyone feels like they have input - and your party might just hit the bullseye, thanks to your investigative efforts and intentional planning.

Be considerate of different situations

Offices are diverse, which means that everyone will have different wants and needs when it comes to social activities. Being considerate of everyone’s situation means that your office party has a higher chance of feeling welcoming and accessible.

A few things to keep in mind when planning your office party:

  • Time limitations: Do your colleagues need to pick their kids up from school? Are they exhausted by the end of the day because they started working at 7am? How long is their commute home? Find a time that works best for your team’s schedules. It might be difficult to find the perfect time that works for everyone, but trying to be respectful of people’s personal responsibilities can help them feel valued and heard.
  • Dietary needs Get a group of people together these days, and the chances are high that at least one person will have dietary needs. This could include needing vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or dairy-free food options. Check out the CaterCow icons that note different dietary elements, which can help you pick out what food works for everyone.
  • Drinking vs not drinking Not everyone loves to drink - and certainly not everyone loves to drink around their colleagues. Whatever type of party you throw, offer many beverage options that allow everyone to make the decision to drink alcohol for themselves. Did you know that happy hours don’t even need to include drinking? (Though, there’s also nothing wrong with kicking back with a nice glass of wine!)
  • Neurodiversities: Your company very likely has neurodiversity across its team members, which means that some people may not feel the most comfortable in large social situations or party environments. When throwing a party, make sure that everyone has the option to enjoy a quieter space when they need to. You might find a way to hold the party in multiple rooms, with one room a bit less stimulating than others.

Set a theme or cause

Throwing an office party just because? That could be fun, however some people might find it more engaging to celebrate around a theme or a cause. You can celebrate a company-wide accomplishment, such as meeting an important goal. Or you can celebrate a holiday, season, or a group of birthdays. Whatever your reason is for wanting to throw a party, make sure that your colleagues know its focal point so they feel invested in the event.

Once you have a specific, explicit reason for your office party, you can begin to plan activities that relate to this reason. Celebrating the end of the year? Do a year-in-review quiz. Wanting to highlight a major company-wide accomplishment? Offer prizes or do a giveaway.

Office parties can be more than the standard drinks-mingling-speeches routine. You can volunteer with your colleagues, learn about an interesting topic, go bowling, or visit a haunted house. Just be sure that your colleagues know the reason behind the event, which can help them feel more energized around attending and participating.

Order the right food

Food is going to be the number one motivation for your colleagues to show up to the office party. We wish it wasn’t true, yet food is a universal motivator. So, the stakes are high to get the food element right.

When determining what type of food to get for the office party, consider the party’s timing, theme, and itinerary. If the party is in the early afternoon, you can set out appetizers, snacks, or hors d'oeuvres for your colleagues to enjoy. If it’s in the evening, you’ll need to serve a full dinner. CaterCow categorizes each meal as fit for feeding large or small groups, so you’ll have a sense of how much food you’re ordering. Plus, we photograph each meal available to order, so you know exactly what the food will look like.

If the party has a theme, try to find food around that theme. Order different types of food through the CaterCow seasonal menus, where we’ve already found the local food that fits the occasion for you. For example, we’ve found the perfect scary cupcakes from a local bakery that will be exactly what you want for your Halloween office party.

CaterCow also makes it easy to pick between buffet style or individual portions. This is especially helpful for getting food that works with everyone’s dietary needs.

Lastly, match the food to the activities. Be sure that you aren’t serving something as hands-on as soup when your team is meant to be bowling - now that could be a disaster. If your party has an active element to it, try sandwiches or something easy to manage.

Picking the right food will make or break the party. Let us do the heavy lifting when it comes to catering!

Center the event around connection

To create a meaningful, memorable office party, center the event around connection. The overall purpose of the office party, as with most other types of parties, is to bring people together. The connection that people feel when they’re together will lead to their overall impression of the event. The goal is to stoke a sense of community and camaraderie within the company.

To create this feeling, make it easy for people to start talking to one another. You might consider leaving small talk prompts around the room or to give everyone conversation starters to try out ahead of the event. This could look like sending out a company-wide message an hour ahead of the party that says, “Someone here has been skydiving three times. Can you find out who it is?” You could also encourage people to share what they like to do outside of work, as it might be nice to get to know more about colleagues than their role in the company. While you may hear people audibly groan when you say the word “icebreaker,” when facilitated smoothly, these activities can bring people together in a way that feels genuine and enjoyable.

Other ways to create a sense of connection or community at your office party includes sharing gratitude for individuals’ strengths and successes. You might also emphasize how everyone’s combined efforts influence the company, highlighting how you’re all in the work together.

However you bring people together, helping them feel proud of their work and close with their colleagues is a great way to make an office party memorable.

So, with those tips in mind, it’s time for you to get planning! With the right itinerary and the right food, your office party will surely be a hit.