One of my favorite responsibilities as CEO (Creative Enforcement Officer) of Gallery on the Go, is surprising our Party Headquarters Staff to the annual mandatory meeting in December a.k.a Surprise Christmas Party! 3 years later, of course, the cat is out of the bag that this “annual mandatory meeting” no longer is a surprise but it’s still an exciting day with fun-filled plans!
We have a smaller staff so some of the logistics work better for smaller companies but I know some you can pull off no matter the size of your staff!
Here are 10 affordable, creative, fun and amazing ideas I’ve pulled off over the years. You are more than welcome to steal them so you can surprise your fabulous co-workers.
- An element of surprise: Plan your event during the day, skip a workday – that’s a gift in itself! Plan a big scary mandatory staff meeting then execute your amazing surprise!
- Pick them up in style! I had a friend who owned a car service, I rented a simple town car, but to my surprise, he showed up in a fancy charger limo! I had mimosas and Santa hats ready to go!
- Pick your favorite place for lunch – it’s the perks of being the planner! Share your favorite eateries. Thrifty is totally cool too, base your food outing on the rest of the day’s surprises and the gifts. Remember if it is breakfast or lunch you won’t have to do steak & lobster!
- Creative Gift Giving:
- I skip on cash gifts for these outings. Because you know they’re just going to go buy something for someone else or pay a bill or something boring like that!
- Have the server bring out the gifts – I generally call the restaurant ahead of time, or excuse myself to arrange the server to play Santa. This catches them way off guard and as long as you include a gift for yourself you can act like you didn’t know a thing!
- Matching Gifts – I know seems a little cliquey…which is just the way I like it! We work in an all-female office so maybe it’s a little easier. I wait for a great sale, and buy my favorite brands – Vera Bradley Bags, Alex & Ani bracelets, Fossil Watches. I keep it to about $50-$100 per person.
- Handmade gifts – I’m a little crafty and I love to crochet so one year I made them all a crochet hat. What’s your talent? Share it with your team, you can do baked treats, paintings, an ornament anything goes!
- Drop in at the bookstore – go to the bookstore and tell them to pick out any book they want! I love how you get to know a person’s interest when they can buy anything in the store! (Confession: we haven’t actually done this yet, because when I planned to go, I forgot to check the store hours and it was closed when we showed up…boo.)
- What’s new in your town? Take your team to be among the first to try it. We are near Denver and we finally got an awesome train that went from the airport to downtown. Not one of us yet had ridden it. So I created a Holiday Party on-the-go. We rode the train from one end to the other. It was perfect because the airport had a FREE ice skating rink. We did that for a while then rode the train to downtown and had a late night dessert at the Cheesecake Factory!
- Exchanging gifts: Since our event is always a surprise my team doesn’t know to bring a gift to exchange. One year, we stopped off at the mall – I gave them all $30 and 30 minutes and I told them that we were buying gifts for a woman who “needed some encouragement and reminder to take care of herself this holiday season” with the $30 they had buy a gift, wrap it and write an encouraging note to this woman. Later at lunch, I pulled out all the gifts and we did a white elephant style exchange and read each card with the encouraging words. It was beautiful.
- Random Acts of Kindness: Add an element of generosity in your outing. One year I gave each person an envelope of cash – we went downtown and tried to hand it all out in about an hour. We paid for people riding the carousel, parking, gave out scratch tickets, and handed out snacks. Another time we went and served at a food pantry – it truly sets our hearts straight for the season!
- Pampering: Of course this is a given – getting those holiday pedicures and manicures is always a sure winner! What a great way to support your local Spa & Salon!
- Photoshoot: We were in updating our website so what a perfect fun activity for all of us to play CoverGirl for an hour. I prearranged fun poses and glitter photoshop embellishments from our photographer. This is a guaranteed great time!
- Get Creative – Affordable. Creative. Fun. We kind of have an advantage here, we are a creative company so we art all the time. Shameless plug I may as well tell you that it’s a sure thing if you plan a creative activity like a paint party, art bar, power project, pottery, group cooking class, escape rooms etc. Watch the video below.
Don’t get overwhelmed – just pick a few things and make a day out of it. As for my plan for this year??? …I’m still planning. Share your ideas with me!