An office holiday party might feel like a daunting social obligation, but it is an important event that can help solidify your relationship with your staff.

The holiday party is a chance to let employees feel they belong and are valued, says Alison Silcoff, owner of Alison Silcoff Events in Montreal.

Here are a few ways to make your next office party a hit:

> Make it an experience
Offer staff a new experience instead of just another party.

People are busy and very selective with how they spend their time, says Sharon Bonner, president and CEO of Bright Ideas Event Coordinators Ltd. in Vancouver.

“[People] want to experience something different,” she says. “They don’t want to go to a regular party that they’ve seen a million times.”

For example, Bonner suggests renting a digital photo booth in which partygoers can take traditional and goofy photos of themselves. The photos can be printed and circulated among friends and colleagues.

> Go easy on the decorations
Keep the décor simple – you don’t have to transform the office into a pirate ship to make the evening fun.

Holiday décor can be expensive and still look cheesy if not done right. Keep it both simple and creative by setting up small vignettes in the corner of the office or the boardroom, Bonner says.

You might opt for a “taste of the world” theme, and set up a small display with the colours, food and music of a specific country or culture.

> Don’t run out of food
More anything else it’s a good bet that people will be talking about the food the next day — so make sure you get it right.

Consider hors d’oeuvres as opposed to a sit-down dinner, Bonner says.

“People want to graze,” she says, “they want to choose.” Finger foods work particularly well for people with special dietary needs or allergies because they can control what they eat.

In some cases, however, it’s still best to go with a full meal. If the party is expected to go into early the next morning, it’s better to have a sit-down dinner, Silcoff says.

“If people are going to drink, it’s just reckless not to have enough food,” she says. “Plus people will be starving.”

> Show staff your appreciation
Let staff know they’re appreciated by giving a small holiday gift.

Whether it’s tickets to a show or a hand-written note with a gift card, the gesture will mean a lot, says Bonner.

> Go out for dinner
For a smaller office, take the staff out for dinner.

Rent a room, or the entire restaurant if it’s a small one, so as not to disturb other diners with speeches and office jokes.

Ask the restaurant if you can bring in coloured tea lights, party crackers and festive tablecloths, Silcoff says, to add some zest to the décor.