One of the most enjoyable parts of my role as corporate sales manager at The Abbey Resort on Geneva Lake in Fontana, Wisconsin, is collaborating with groups to plan their holiday events. Through my work, I’ve learned what makes─and what can break─ corporate holiday parties.

I’ve put together a list of seven tips sure to help make holiday parties successful and full of cheer:

Keep It Moving

When planning your party room setup, opt for high-boy tables instead of rounds and chairs to encourage conversation. The limited physical space between those gathered at smaller tables promotes introductions. Additionally, consider food stations or passing heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down meal. Not only can this save some money, depending on your selections, but it encourages conversation to flow between a variety of guests rather than the few each would otherwise be assigned to sit with at a round of eight.

Location is Everything

Encourage additional movement throughout the room by setting the various food and beverage stations in different locations. As guests refresh their drinks or sample additional food, the natural movement created by this setup give holiday parties a vibrant and cheery atmosphere that guest will want to stay and enjoy.

Get Them Talking

Place festive conversation starters on tables to encourage mingling in a way that will help break the ice without feeling too forced. For example, simple questions such as “What was your favorite holiday gift received as a child?” or even “Fruit cake─love it or regift it?” will help the newly acquainted find common ground to talk about.

Encourage Holiday Cheer

Consider offering a festive activity, rather than just the typical food, drink and comments. For example, at The Abbey we offer team-building activities to help kick events off with energy and enthusiasm, such as a tree decorating contest that is always a hit around the holidays. Other fun activities might be a white elephant gift exchange, Christmas carol karaoke or a craft station where guests can decorate their own ornament.

Give Back

Many companies and organizations do some sort of philanthropic effort around the holidays, such collecting food for a local pantry, buying gifts for underprivileged children, or filling care packages for military personnel. Consider making the effort a friendly and healthy competition between departments and announce the winner at your party where everyone can celebrate the success of the joint effort.

Think Big!

Even if your holiday party budget is limited, don’t shy away from bigger venues. Larger hotels and resorts are often better equipped to accommodate small events than are smaller venues. For example, while we can accommodate groups of more than 400 guests at The Abbey, we also regularly host groups of less than 10. With a large staff, more resources and a variety of event spaces available, such as restaurants and lounge areas, large venues are able to accommodate groups of all sizes, and often on short notice.

Never Hurts to Ask

Just because you don’t see something on the event planning guides and menus, or conversely if you see a requirement such as a two-week planning notice required, don’t be afraid to contact the venue and ask if alternative arrangements can be made.

Even if you are hoping to host a holiday party for your business or group, but never found time to organize it, it’s not too late! Now is a great time to take advantage of big savings by looking at off-peak dates such as midweek or in the new year.

Janine Osborne is corporate sales manager for The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa. She collaborates with businesses of all sizes on meetings and events, ensuring objectives are met and programs are executed with ease.