Holiday parties are like presents – they come in all sizes. The best presents are seldom about the expense but the personal impact and joy it gives the recipient.

If the highlight of your company’s holiday party is everyone hanging out by the punch bowl or not even bothering to attend because they have “other plans” then it’s time for a change. Is your party in need of major TLC: time sensitive, LOTS of FUN and Contagious enthusiasm? Interactive parties that raise spirits can be a great gift for both employees and their families and company morale.

Make it personal. Owners and senior management can personally thank and acknowledge their employees for the role they played in the company’s success. Hosting a family holiday party also enables senior management to acknowledge the family’s role and thank them for their support. It breaks down the assumptions and stereotypes and personalizes the relationship between management, its employees and their families.

Be appreciative. Everyone likes to be appreciated – especially in these times – when everyone is being asked to do more – and faster – with fewer resources.

Make it FUN! Holiday parties are meant to be “joyous” events! You are providing a “gift”. Ask for staff input or establish a social committee to help plan the party. If it is a family event and your budget can afford it, add presents for the children or host a raffle. If budget is an issue, barter with other companies for venue, food entertainment and prizes.

Make it memorable. Create shared experiences through games and interactive entertainment. Stage games with extroverted department heads and staff that are fun to watch and entertain. Check online for holiday party games. Consider hiring a game show host or entertainer that can help create memorable moments.

Let the Games Begin! Have fun! Play! Compete! Challenge! Team up! Move! Dance! Laugh! A simple game of “Simon Says!” with adults can become one of the funniest comedy routines ever. Check online for holiday party game ideas.

Take photos and share them. It’s a great reminder of the fun they had and it helps those who couldn’t be there, feel like they were.

Create a shared experience. Parents are comfortable playing with their children which in turn gives all adults permission to “play” and interact with their family and have fun with their co-workers. This builds camaraderie among the staff and humanizes the person behind the “title”.

I have had the honor to work with some of the finest companies over the past 15 years that have hosted family holiday parties.

Some companies have recreation committees comprised of employee volunteers that organize year-round social events for their employees and their families.

Elena Ruane is Vice President of Events & Marketing for Trails Entertainment Centers -owners of Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Parks in Joliet and Burbank and Enchanted Castle Restaurant and Indoor Entertainment Complex in Lombard. She can be reached at 630/670-4876 or at

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