by Erin Cook | October 11, 2018

It's time to break out those favorite cookie recipes and ugly sweaters, because the holiday event season is almost upon us. Although some organizations plan their parties up to a year in advance, the good news is that there is still time for those who are just now starting the planning process.

With that in mind, I recommend securing the event details as soon as possible order to find the best rates, have access to more in-demand dates and venues, and, most importantly, have time to customize and tailor the experience for attendees.

Below are my top tips for planning and hosting an unforgettable holiday event.
 

Time Is of the Essence
The closer we get to the holiday season, the less likely planners will be able to find flexibility in choosing an event date that works best for attendees. I've already noticed an uptick in demand over the first two weeks of December at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, where I am director of sales and marketing, so I recommend that planners book as soon as possible in order to ensure they are not forced into venues or times that are not ideal.
 
Make Time to Customize
To me, the most important reason to get the ball rolling now is to allow sufficient time for customization. I always recommend that companies poll their group on what date, time of day and location will work best before securing the details of an event. I've been surprised in the past to see the increased attendance and excitement from attendees based on asking those three simple questions.

In addition to the basics, and if timing permits, planners can also poll their group about the type of celebration they'd be most interested in, food and beverage preferences and entertainment options to further customize the experience.
 
Keep it Relaxed
Planners can make holiday parties fun and unique without overthinking it. I find the elements that matter most to guests are good food, drinks, music and company. Don't get caught up trying to make your event overly creative or distinct from years past.

In fact, I've noticed a trend of companies ditching a formal holiday party altogether and opting for more casual get-togethers. Some of my favorite examples we've hosted have been everything from simple bonfires and barbecues, to happy hours with tacky holiday sweaters and white-elephant gifts. These more relaxed functions are hugely popular and allow attendees to have a great time with their colleagues and peers.
 
Think Local When It Comes to Entertainment
Another trend I've noticed is that more groups are booking musicians or bands as entertainment instead of a DJ. Live music can completely change the dynamic of an event while also helping to support a local up-and-coming artist. Planners will not only get better sound quality with this option, but many are surprised to find that musician fees can be very reasonable compared to other options.
 
'Tis the Season for Giving
With the trend of more relaxed holiday events, casual affairs can be more cost-effective, allowing more room in the budget for a charitable component. I recommend getting attendees involved in giving back, for example, providing a silent auction that supports a local community organization, or encouraging employees to donate canned food items to a local food bank in order to be entered into a raffle or giveaway.
 
Consider Accommodations
When planning an evening party, I highly recommend that companies provide accommodation options for attendees. We work with organizations to provide room blocks with discounted rates for holiday events. This set-up is not only a safer option without the hassle of coordinating transportation, but it can help to ensure that the guests can fully enjoy the celebration.
 
Erin Cook is the director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa, set in Texas Hill Country. She has over 10 years of experience working in the hospitality and meeting industries.