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How to Throw an Office Party

Planning one can build co-worker morale and maybe earn you brownie points with the boss. Here's how to pull it off with glowing reviews.
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office party

CREATIVE

It might be your office if: the CEO just replaced all the desk chairs with ergonomic rubber balls.
The perfect theme: '80s prom
The scene: Decorate with streamers, balloons and banners -- the tackier the better. Vote for superlatives, like Most Likely to Succeed, and create a mini yearbook with the results. Play '80s tracks and crown a prom court.
The food: traditional banquet-hall dishes, such as pigs in blankets, chicken cordon bleu and chocolate mousse

 
party

CORPORATE

It might be your office if: you've got a closet full of collared shirts.
The perfect theme: spa treatment
The scene: Create a serene vibe with bottled water, battery-operated candles and potted bamboo. Use room dividers (or sheets of craft paper) to section off offices as treatment rooms, where people can sign up for massages or manicures.
The food: fruit, finger sandwiches, salads and smoothies

 
hot dog

CASUAL

It might be your office if: there's an office-wide American Idol pool.
The perfect theme: outdoor picnic
The scene: Head to a nearby park (or the office lawn) with checkered tablecloths, picnic baskets and a grill. Remind everyone to bring sneakers for volleyball and Frisbee. If your park has paddleboats or kayaks, arrange for rentals.
The food: potluck, with backyard classics like fried chicken, pasta salad, burgers, hot dogs and chips

 
office party

NON-OFFICE

It might be your office if: you spend your days running around a classroom, restaurant or hospital.
The perfect theme: carnival
The scene: Make use of a gym or cafeteria for an act-like-a-kid party. Set up activities, like a stack-of-cans ball toss (with stuffed animals for the winners!), face painting, caricatures and tarot-card reading. Or go all out and rent larger festival equipment -- dunk the principal, anyone?
The food: fairground favorites like candy apples, popcorn and snow cones

 

HOW TO PULL IT OFF

Send an Invite, Not a Memo
You want to excite people, and when were you last jazzed about a meeting? Right. Use invites (electronic or paper) and mention food, door prizes -- whatever sets the mood, says Party Planning Secrets author Charlie Scola, who provided these ideas.

Create a Festive Atmosphere
And we don?t mean "confetti" from the paper shredder. Even if you're limited to the conference room, decorate until it feels like a new space, one you'd actually want to hang out in. Don't be afraid of using a theme (see the next page) for inspiration.

Treat it Like Your Own Party
As you would at your home, greet guests at the door. (This goes double for out-of-office venues, where folks might feel more disoriented.) You?d be surprised how a simple "Welcome, drinks are in the back" can put people at ease.

Leave No Room for Shoptalk
Plan activities that everyone can participate in without feeling embarrassed, like company- or holiday-themed trivia. Award prizes to the winners to enhance competition. (Note: Pens stamped with the company logo are not prizes.)

Serve Fabulous Food
Office eating is synonymous with brownbag lunches, so turning up the culinary volume is key. If you have a theme, serve eats that suit it. For a potluck, organize who?s bringing what. And nix messy foods -- no one wants to shake the boss? hand while eating ribs.

Watch for These 5 Fouls
1. Confessing your crush on rick from IT...to Rick from IT.
2. Challenging the boss to arm wrestle.
3. Dominating conversation with photos of your kids or pets.
4. Doing shots with the interns.
5. Doing shots, period.

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