The party continues despite bad economy

Over the past few years, corporates have scaled down year-end celebrations due to tighter budgets. As the end of 2017 draws close and tough economic conditions still prevail, it begs the question: should the end-of-year bash offer an experience for staff to let loose after a year of hard work or should it take the form of an encouraging staff interaction that creates a harmonious vibe for the coming year? Liesl Venter spoke to some industry experts.

Corporates might very well be contending with the harshest of economic conditions by slashing budgets but this is by no means an indication that the end of the year-end bash is nigh.

“Budgets are being cut, but not the events,” says George Sutherland, owner of Event Wizards. “End-of-year functions are still a priority to show appreciation to staff and clients alike.”

Professional conference organiser and ceo of event’s company, CVLC, Catherine Larkin, could not agree more. “The budgets are much tighter, yet clients are still looking for innovative ways to connect with their staff and customers.”

She says most corporates are still intent on hosting the year-end event but the focus is on ‘more bang for their buck.’ “Overall, though, most are prepared to pay for events that offer quality and excellence,” she says.

According to Beatrix Lourens, owner of event organising company, Beatrix Events, most corporates have a clear understanding of the importance of the year-end event as a reward for staff and the focus, whether it is delivering an experience or opting for a more staid interaction, should always be fun. “The event must include engagement, be innovative and offer an overall experience. These types of events create a synergy that leave staff invigorated,” she says.

Sutherland says that while experiences have been all the rave in the past few years, interaction is trending at the moment. “Even the most fun events include some degree of activity from selfie booths to who delivered the best tweet,” he says.

Most organisers say corporates do not have to choose between an experience or an interaction. “It is best in the current economic environment to bring aspects of both into the year-end function,” says Elouise Cloete, owner and md of Shift Ideas. “We tend to suggest that our clients ensure their employees are not just having a good time but leave the event feeling motivated and excited for the year to come. We also try to bring in new information about the company and its expectation for the New Year,” she says.

But, says Cloete, it must be done in a fun way, meaning most employees don’t want to attend a year-end function that feels like a serious strategy session.

“It has to be fun and inspirational,” Larkin agrees. “Another idea is to include an element of ‘giving back’. Staff are far more likely to participate in a function where there is a strong social responsibility or charity element involved.”

Megan McIlrath, co-founder of Event Affairs, says lower-key events seem to be the the most popular at present. “One can create an experience that is interactive that says thank you, but also encourages and motivates the team for the year to come,” she says.

According to McIlrath, one of the biggest values of a year-end function is allowing staff to get to know one another on a more personal level. “It is extremely difficult at present for many corporates to justify spending on a year-end event, but in tough times more than any other, it is important to keep staff feeling motivated and appreciated,” she says.

“Arranging a function, on whatever level, will be beneficial in the long run to the company and the staff morale,” says McIlrath.


Bigger is not necessarily better

Whether one is delivering an experience or opting for an interactive get-together or including both, most organisers agree it does not have to be expensive.

Use what you have, says Sutherland. “Warehouses and factories are great spaces and extremely fashionable these days. Pallets and crates can make for interesting tables and seating, and it suits a theme where the food comes in a picnic style toolbox perfectly,” Sutherland says.

According to Sutherland, opting for a picnic rather than a cocktail evening is one way to keep costs lower.  But it is crucial to take all the elements into consideration and be careful not to be too price focused as that in itself could often incur unexpected costs. “It might make sense to cater yourself, but venues that allow this are scarce,” he says.

Cloete believes it is important to have trusted and negotiable suppliers that give the best value for money without lowering their standards. “Creative planning on a budget is possible and the most obvious way to cut costs is to host the event at the office premises,” Cloete says.

She explains that by choosing a theme, a mundane office can be transformed into a completely new world, allowing the staff to escape even though they are still at work. “Choose a simple and cost-effective theme that can be used again in different ways at other company events,” she suggests. “You can also choose canapés rather than serving full meals. Finding cost-effective entertainment is another option,” Cloete adds.
For McIlrath, it is important for a corporate to set a realistic budget and understand what can be achieved with this. “A concept we love at the moment is creating interactive experiences at the office. Anything from cocktail making followed by snacks to a cook-off can be done. All the equipment is brought in and the corporate saves on venue, staff, gratuity and the likes but delivers a great time for its staff.”

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