Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to plan a party for 1000 people and not lose your mind

Disclaimer: I am currently writing this in a haze of "the party just happened and I can finally breathe," so I might be overly optimistic about this.

Disclaimer 2: Just because I'm recommending these things doesn't mean I actually did them.

My workplace has an annual party, held in mid-January, that is our Big Yearly Event. Over half the site employees attend. With their spouses added in, the total attendees comes in around 1000. This is the big party of the year. None of the other celebrations come close, and lots of people look forward to it. No pressure, just plan this event that everyone will talk about and critique for the next year!

I have a team helping me plan, but because I'm a ridiculous control freak, I kind of took over planning this year. My team helped out when I asked them to, but I did quite a bit of the work myself. Here are my tips.

1) Be prepared for the questions. I'd send an email with a link to the FAQ document, and immediately be asked 10 or 12 questions that were in the FAQ. They're Frequently Asked Questions because everyone has them... and most people don't click links to find answers. They'd much rather talk to a person. So just roll with it.

2) Dates mean nothing. Oh the registration deadline was last Friday? That's cute, I'll be coming, and bringing a guest. What do you mean hotel rooms are sold out? The party isn't for 10 days, that doesn't make any sense! Where will I sleep!?

3) Rely on the hotel/other location event planner. They're professionals! They know what they're doing. When our band was asking me questions about the location and electrical requirements, I freaked out a little. Unnecessary, let the guy who runs the place answer those questions. When I started feeling like I was running around looking for answers that weren't within my range of expertise, I tried to relax and figure out who would be better qualified to get those answers.

4) Lots of people will back out, but lots of people will register last minute, too (see #2). Plan accordingly.

5) Be prepared for complaints. Whenever something, anything, is presented to 900 people, you'll get 900 different viewpoints on it. Everyone can't be satisfied, and that's ok. It's not personal, even when it feels like it.

6) Take the criticism.  I screwed up majorly and sent an invitation email to a group that was never supposed to receive it. These folks thought they were invited and I started getting questions and quickly realized it was not a good move on my part. Oops. Don't try and backpedal, just deal with the fallout. Can't unsend it, so go with it and do damage control.

7) Take the praise. This is a hard thing for me. I tend to take compliments and volley them back. My favorite saying is "Thank you, but.." followed by something about how I could have done better. I tried to stop that this year and just take compliments. Why yes, I am doing an amazing job, thanks for noticing.

8) Let it go. I said my team didn't help me much at the top, but when there was something they could do, I tried my best to give up control of the activity and just let it happen. If it does not matter what the table decorations look like, someone else can surely do them. And that means I can sleep instead of making table decorations.

9) Enjoy the damn party. Everything is basically done by the night of the event. Then, people just have to show up, eat, and enjoy themselves. Sit, breathe, dance, EAT, and bask in the glory of what you've done. Yes, the table decorations were in fact terrible, but only my mom noticed that.

10) Look amazing. You'll be on stage. People will be coming by to thank you all the time. Put on some lipstick and Spanx (or sneakers and a fauxhawk, whatever makes you feel fabulous and happy). 

1 comment :

  1. It went really well. The food was decent and the band rocked. Considering the budget/location constraints is was awesome.