The Company Christmas Party


Today we had our annual company Christmas party. Eleven years ago, when I attended my first one, it was six couples in Craig Janssen's living room. Now, the party encompasses 25 families with children of all ages.

It's become quite an event.

The thing about the Christmas party is that it is the one time all year that we have our whole team in the same place at the same time. The point is to let each of them know how much we appreciate them. (A pretty big task for a four hour event.)

For the past six years, we've had the event at the Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound. The party usually follows the same flow. We meet for lunch, have a small presentation, have activities in the afternoon, then meet back for the "wild and crazy" gift exchange.

The magic happens by all of the things people do to put it together. Kathy Smith does an amazing job of selecting gifts that are perfect for each of the children. (She even comes equipped with batteries, box cutters, screwdrivers and scissors so that it is easy to get them all opened and assembled.) Brian Elwell--the most amazing "Santa" I know--creates these beautiful moments interacting with the kids, even charming the adults and making them laugh out loud.

For some reason, at my first party at AD (before it became my job to plan it), I created Barbie and Ken dolls that looked like each of the people with special packaging that featured something about each of them. There was "Travel Fun Craig" and "Audio Angie." For Stu--who I barely knew at that point--his was "The New Guy."

This has now become an annual challenge to celebrate the individuals on our team. To catalog some of the gifts, there's been: the National Enquirer (AD Version), The AD Book of Quotes, business cards with people's REAL titles, movie posters, comics, a storybook, and this year's--a parody of the Bud Lite Real Men of Genius commercials. Erin came up with the idea, and together we wrote scripts for all of the different disciplines: audio, acoustics, video, lighting...there were 12 in all. There was a lot of laughter, which is the thing you wait for when you do something like this. Because really, you never know.

In fact, it almost didn't come off. Thursday night, we hit a snag. Erin's dad had created the music bed, but his computer crashed and he was unable to do the voice over. Jim Burdette--the best impersonation artist on our team--saved the day. He got us some studio time at Prestonwood, and did the VO with me singing backup. Erin directed from behind the glass and thanks to the magic worked by mix engineer, Larry Cassidy, the spots turned out amazing.

As always at the end of these events, I'm exhausted. Mostly it is an emotional thing. It takes energy to watch the group dynamics and manage the flow of the party. It's a bit of an art, and anything that doesn't work gets tweaked for the next year.

For me, the the party isn't successful because people laugh, or because the Guitar Hero competition rocked, or because many rode horses though it was bitterly cold--or even that I was told they enjoyed it. For me the party is successful if people come away knowing they belonged there...that they are part of something special. And maybe that is the real art.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall