It’s office Christmas Party season where legends are born and heroes never die! If done right, this party can send your team on a new trajectory altogether. If done wrong, it’ll take some time to fix the damage.

The tips I’ll give you have come from both being part of awesome parties and planning my own. Whether you’ve had a great, average, or poor year, a party is necessary. It allows your team to feel valued and a space to connect outside of cube-ville. Every year I hosted a party in December, it breathed oxygen into our relationships, rekindled our chemistry, and our teams just functioned better. The tips I list below are best for teams between 8 and 50 people, but you can use a lot of these ideas for teams of virtually any size.

When you plan your party keep these six things front and center:

Host it Somewhere Nice

No one wants to have a party at Burger King, Chuck E Cheese, or Golden Corral. It communicates that you’re cheap and don’t care about them. I hosted a party one year at a bowling alley. It wasn’t just any bowling alley. In fact, it was owned by Ashton Kutcher and was the most over-the-top bowling venue I had ever seen. The venue was NICE! We had whole thing gourmet catered, sat on leather couches, and the environment was incredible!

No one wants to have a Christmas Party at Burger King, Chuck E Cheese, or Golden Corral. It communicates that you’re cheap and don’t care about them. Host it somewhere nice!

Make it an Overnight Experience

Bottom line, get a hotel – especially if adult beverages are included in your party. It’s just safer for everyone. Think nice hotels, but resorts are typically your best bet as you will have a lot of space to negotiate a great deal between food, beverages, and guest rooms. Remember, the cost is worth increasing your chemistry.

Create an Environment of Surprises and Fun

Play a game, give away prizes, and allow folks to compete. We’ve played “Dirty Santa” where someone opens a gift and the next person can open a gift or steal someone’s gift that has already been opened. What made it better is that I made a deal with my team. If they put in $20 each then I’d match it and ensure each gift was in the $40 range. Therefore, the gifts were legit! I’d also do significant giveaways at the end of dinner. I gave away things like big, flat screen tv’s and airline tickets to anywhere in the continental US.

Make it a BIG Deal

Cast big vision for it. Help people know that whatever happens, they do not want to miss the party! Our teams always knew that if there was one event they didn’t want to miss, it was the Christmas Party. We had perfect attendance most of the time. I know this is a no-brainer, but make sure your team is allowed to bring dates. The more the merrier! Also, encourage them to dress up. It’s a big night because you’re celebrating THEM and what THEY accomplished TOGETHER.

Smaller Details Mean a lot to Your Team

My wife and I would put together the center pieces for the tables and try to incorporate small gifts for everyone. We’ve done a selection of Blu-ray movies (our people started trading them around the tables during dinner. It was hilarious!), a color variety of iPod Shuffles, or some instant cameras in the middle of the table and encourage them to take pictures throughout the night. Collect them when you’re done and get the pictures loaded on a disk. Some of our best memories are of the craziest pictures we’ve ever seen!

It’s Not About You

Plan to say a few remarks about the year and call out some of the highlights. This isn’t a long speech, but it is a very important one. It’s your opportunity to thank each person for their contribution and hard work…especially in front of their significant other. Without them, you wouldn’t be there. People need to know they matter and if you do this right, they’ll never forget how it felt to be significant to someone of influence.

There’s my recipe for having the best Christmas Party ever. Make it fun, but be yourself, and maybe even let your guard down a bit. Let your team know they’re valuable and give them the gift of your heartfelt gratitude. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did and so will they!