10 Sep 2010

Saving Christmas: Ten Tips for Winning over a 21st Century Scrooge


For many businesses, Bovingdons especially, September marks the finale of summer and the start of the Christmas countdown.

But whilst most of our clients made their party plans weeks ago, we know that for others an unpredictable year means that the imminent decision is not one of “when” but rather of “if”. Tight times and tough decisions are responsible for transforming some of our superiors into 21st Century Scrooges.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer all of you hard working Bob Crachits these ten tips inspired by Dicken’s classic tale of redemption.

I hope they help you to save money, save stress and save your Christmas party.

1. Focus on Fabulous Food

“Heaped up upon the floor… were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam…”

I am biased of course, but admit it; you’re hungry just from reading that aren’t you? The act of sitting and eating together is in itself a festivity older than Christmas. Even with a savvy budget, you should give the food the biggest slice of the proverbial pie. An utterly irresistible menu (see my favourite examples here and here) is guaranteed to whet Scrooge’s appetite.

2. Woo them with Tradition

"Bah.” said Scrooge “Humbug!”

Nothing says “Christmas” like mobsters, Moulin Rouge, gokarts and Elvis. No? Me neither. Say “humbug” to pointless flamboyance, instead concentrate on simple festive pleasures. I believe that “tradition” is as important in 2010 as “green” was in 2005. Roaring fires, a flaming pudding, Carol singers, greenery, charitable giving… bring the real spirit alive.

3. Make it You Own

“Keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine." …

Avoid the ubiquitous package. Instead, work with a caterer or event planner to come up with an idea that brings your company’s brand and values to life. No matter how amazing an “all in one” seems, it will inevitably involve compromise that Scrooge will be quick to spot.

4. Don’t Risk Your Reputation

"I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body!... Whoop! Hallo!"…

Thanks to social media, what goes on at the party, no longer stays at the party. Scrooges will measure the cost beyond pounds and pence. A free bar, a bucking bronco, kareoke or a terrible venue are guaranteed to ensure your night is remembered for the wrong reasons.

5. Emphasise What it Means for the Team

"A merry Christmas, Bob!" said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back…

The best performing companies know that the annual event remains the best opportunity to thank, to praise and to inspire. Why do your team deserve the party? What have you done to warrant a reward? What have you gone without? How will this help you perform in 2011?

6. Appeal to their Sense of Nostalgia

At sight of an old gentleman, Scrooge cried in great excitement: “Why, it's old Fezziwig. Bless his heart; it's Fezziwig alive again.”…

Scrooge was reminded how wonderful it felt to have a generous employer at this special time of year. Ask your Scrooge to recall their favourite Christmas past, why was it so special? Invoke powerful memories by asking for a favourite “must have” dish to include on the menu.

7. Make the Budget Count

"A poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every twenty-fifth of December…"

Scrooge’s (and my) nightmare is wasting money on one forgettable occasion. HMRC allows companies an annual tax free ‘gift’ of £150 per head for staff parties. Talk to your HR, Marketing and CSR Directors and incorporate their ideas to make it count for every penny.

8. Time Your Pitch Carefully

"Every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding..."

Christmas can be an emotive, almost controversial, subject. If you are presenting your case to your superiors do it at a time when they are relaxed, some say the earlier in the week the better. Ask your caterer for the facts and figures in a quick to read, easy to digest summary.

9. Predict What is Yet to Come

"Ghost of the Future!" he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen…”

Sadly, some Scrooges will be more motivated by the fear the consequences of not having a party than the benefits of having one. When will be the next opportunity for team to get together? Summer is a whole six months away, can you afford to wait that long?

10. Save Celebrations for Later

"It's Christmas Day!" said Scrooge to himself. "I haven't missed it!”…

If all else fails over the next twelve weeks (yes, only twelve weeks!) then carry the date over until the New Year. We thoroughly recommend Burns Nights an alternative for festive entertaining, it can be even more cost effective and even more fun. A venue decked in tartan, heather floral displays on every table and guests wowed with a Chieftain Haggis ceremony, lots of whisky tots and (of course) a piper.

God bless us everyone!

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