You have the facility, the food and the drinks, and lots of people coming for fun. How can you make the holiday party more interesting, fun and memorable—without having to spend a lot of your time getting ideas and materials together? Whether it is for family or for your company, here are some quick, easy ideas to get the party going…
- What’s My Hobby? Give each person a 3” x 5” index card, a pen and tape or a straight pin. Each person will write their name at the top and list their hobbies on the card –and pin or tape it on their shirt. This is a great way to break the ice and give people something to talk about during a cocktail party.
- Lego party—put a bunch of Legos or other building blocks on a large table. Ask people to help build a replica of your company logo.
- Theme/costume—it’s always fun to dress up, and costumes always make mingling more fun and spirited. Announce the theme when you send out the invitations. Ideas for themes: Middle Earth Holiday; Victorian Holiday; Scrooge; Ugly Christmas Sweater; Holiday Characters (Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown, Elf, etc.)
- Cocktail Concoction- Have a contest for making an original Holiday Cocktail or Mocktail.
- “White Elephant” Gift Exchange- Have each person bring a wrapped “gift” they have never used and don’t need. The value of these should not be more than $25. Everyone draw a number from a hat. When a person’s number is called, they may pick a wrapped gift from the pile or “steal” a gift from someone who has already picked and unwrapped a gift. An item may only be taken 3 times, and you may not directly steal a gift back from someone who has just taken it.
- Toy Drive- Have people bring a new, unwrapped toy. Ask a representative from a local charity to come and give a short speech about how the toys will be distributed.
- Prizes for oddball things: “Most unusual earrings.” “Hat contest” “Most unique tie.” “Hairdo- both men’s and women’s” “Shoes-both men’s and women’s” “Best Holiday Manicure.” You should announce that there will be prizes for these categories BEFORE the party, so people will come dressed appropriately. Give everyone a ballot to determine the winners—or have a small committee who decides the winners.
- If you have a small group of about 20 or less, you can have a Bunko Tournament after dinner, or consider playing one of these fun team games: CatchPhrase, Outburst, Cranium, Pictionary. Make up your own Minute-to-Win-It challenges.
Everyone gets excited when planning a fun team building event, but here are a few pitfalls we have noticed over the years. Paying attention to these can help to insure a successful event…
1. When selecting a venue, will the participants be comfortable? If people are too cold or too hot, they are not going to be happy and in a participative mood. You might like the idea of a beach, but if that venue is typically windy and cold, avoid it. Conversely, if holding an outdoor event in summer, check to make sure there is plenty of shade. Make sure restroom facilities are adequate and not too far away.
2. Make sure the activity is suitable for the venue and the group. You have to trust your team building provider to know. Don’t try and make them fit something that really doesn’t work well in the venue you have selected, or simply want to do an activity because it is appealing to a few members of your group. Rely on your vendor to know what would work best.
3. Communication. If you have a person or team planning your offsite meeting and/or team building event, that person should be at the event. They have all the details. If that person(s) cannot be there, insure that all the details are given to someone who is going to be there. And that on-site person should have communications with the team building provider before the day of the event. There are too many surprises and things that get “fall through the cracks” when this does not happen.
4. Be responsive and timely with your communications. Don’t be silent. A team building provider asks questions in order to give you the best possible event. When they don’t hear from you or get answers, it’s like being kept in the dark— and then expected to provide a stellar event. Stay in touch. If you don’t have the answer, let them know and when to expect an answer. Please don’t “guess” and provide the wrong information. Double check all important facts a day or two before your event.
5. Attitude is everything. On rare occasion, we have seen people stress out so much over an event that they actually are causing failure. When you are positive and confident, that is seen by the participants and it carries over to their attitude about the activity. If you have planned and communicated well, there is very little to worry about. Don’t nitpick during the event. It doesn’t make you look good, it doesn’t help, and it is way too late at that point. You should have covered those details earlier. Relax. Even in the face of change and problems, keep moving forward calmly and with confidence.
We have all encountered the “problem team member.” This is the person that interrupts the meeting with questions and opinions and has a combative attitude. It appears that they really want to argue and bulldoze under anyone with a different opinion. It takes time and energy to listen to them and it can be very deflating for a team. This person actually prevents progress. What can you do to make him or her a better team player?
- Agree with them when you can. “That is an excellent point, we can certainly bring it to the group’s attention at our next meeting.” Something like this will stop the person from prolonged rhetoric to make their case.
- Have a very strong facilitator or leader. The problem team member may want to high jack the discussion and just continue to rant and rave about their opinion. The meeting leader needs to intervene, summarize and move on: “Excuse me, Julian, as I understand your issue, you want to change the rules of our certification process because of safety reasons. The person who can institute those changes is not present today, so let’s put that on a list of items for him to consider at our next meeting. Thank you for making an excellent point.” IF the person will not be silenced, (“please don’t interrupt and let me finish…”), the team leader should say, “I’m sorry, but please be brief with you comments. I’ll give you 30 seconds to wrap this up.”
- Coaching. A good team leader needs to step up and coach a “problem team member” if you are really going to improve the situation in the long run. Rather than just doing nothing and waiting for attrition to remove the person, coaching will be valuable for the leader as well as for the team member. It makes both people stronger team members. It is a one-on-one conversation that can happen in as little as 15 minutes—or longer if you want to put a person at ease and take him or her to lunch and discuss it (which is often very effective for a number of reasons). Here is a brief example of how to start: “You know, Lynn, I have been meaning to talk to you about some of the ideas and issues that you bring up during our meetings. You make some really good points; thanks for your contributions. I have noticed, though, that the other members seem to be shutting your ideas out before truly giving them much thought. And- I believe you could be much more effective and persuasive if you just tweak a few things. For example, try a softer, friendlier tone and assume that people are “with” you. We all want the same things and want to work together effectively. Someone that mentored me told me something really powerful—think about what outcome you are trying to achieve first, then consider how to communicate your ideas so that people come to agree with you. An argumentative or overly authoritative tone does anything but get people to listen. I’ve seen you present things in a much more positive and engaging way, so I’m just telling you to that if you use that skill a bit more, you’ll notice the members being a lot more receptive to your ideas….etc., etc.”
You can see that the ideas listed here are all couched in very positive terms. Telling a team member how negative and ineffective they are does nothing to encourage them to change. Focus on what they can do (even if they aren’t that good at it). Positive psychic income goes a long way toward changing one’s behavior.