How to Plan an Office Party on a Budget

Corporate events are one thing — generally speaking, a bigwig hires a professional to get those off the ground — but what if you’re ‘just’ a department manager or office head trying to get your people to come together for a shindig that isn’t a budget-buster? Don’t panic — Display Group is here to help with this step-by-step list of to-dos that can make an inexpensive office party kick butt.

Step 1: Decide on your head count.
The number of people that will be attending your party decides several things about your party, including

  • the venue (‘the office breakroom’ is the budget standard, but there are other options),
  • the minimum budget ($5/person minimum, $15/person is much more reasonable), and
  • the duration (the smaller the group, the shorter the party, in general).

Step 2: Decide on your budget.
The biggest limiting factor to any office party is going to be your budget, which breaks down into two basic parts: the budget-per-person and the budget for one-time goodies.

  • Per Person: If all you have is $5/person, it’s going to be lemon water and Costco snack platters and that’s about it. On the other hand, smaller informal parties can ramp up pretty quickly as the budget increases; if you can hit about the $15/person mark, you can include some high-quality food and drink. If you intend to serve any form of alcohol, you can count on needing at least double that. If you intend to play games with prizes, count on a decent amount per person for prizes as well.
  • One-Time: It’s totally possible to throw an office party with no one-off budget just by leveraging the assets your office already has. Crank up Winamp on whichever computer has the highest-quality speakers, play some group games that don’t need anything except paper and office supplies, and so on. But if you can scrape together a few hundred dollars, you can completely change the ambiance inside your office with a few clever rentals — it’s amazing what adding a small bar, a decent stereo system, and some color-washing uplights can do to change an ordinary breakroom into Party Central!

Step 3: Decide your concept.
No party with the theme of ‘let’s all sit around and eat Costco snack platters and talk about ourselves’ ever went over well. You’ve got to have flavor! Look at the calendar: what’s coming up? What initiatives are going on at work? What popular media is most of the office buzzing about? What can you decorate for without exceeding your budget? If you chose a venue, what kinds of modifications can they make to work with your concept?

Step 4: Fix the Essentials
Every party needs, at the minimum, somewhere to sit, something to eat, something to eat on, something to drink, something to drink out of, and some form of entertainment. At this point, you’ve probably fixed most of those details in your mind, but this is where you decide on the rest of the details. This is largely a matter of brainstorming ideas, researching costs, and matching the costs to your budget.

Once you’ve got your complete list of what your party is going to consist of, where it’s going to take place, and who is going to be invited, all you have to do is execute — which is a lot easier once you have the plan in detail. Have fun with it!

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