Katie Holmes

First Impressions Officer

How to Throw an Office Party That Everyone Will Love

An office is a quirky family sometimes. We’ve got our weird but lovable uncle developers, our zany aunts on the MatrixMaxx team, and Mom and Dad, the CEO and COO, encouraging us as well as wagging a finger here or there when the situation calls for it. From my position, the project managers are older siblings protecting and guiding those they manage. Needless to say, when one works in an intimate yet diverse environment such as Matrix Group, it can be difficult to host an office party where everyone feels at ease. Here are my tips and tricks to hosting the best small office party without having to get HR involved:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Before planning anything, sit down and think about diets and allergies. If Patty in accounting is allergic to peanut butter, you should know that before she breaks out into hives and her throat swells shut. Be cognizant of allergies, because food allergies can create life and death situations. You also probably know who in your office is on a diet. Consider options that are tasty but also fit in within their specialized dietary requirements. Did you know French macaron’s are gluten free? I’m also pretty sure COOL-WHIP is vegan. If you don’t explicitly tell the more food conservative staff that something is vegan, gluten-free, or inherently different from a mainstream version, they’ll be more likely to eat it – just make sure you fill those with the restrictions in on what’s safe for them (See my post on Paleo cake for more information.)

2. BUDGET

We all live and die by the accounting department, so find out what your budget is and go from there. Honor your budget, and your time.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF A LITTLE BOOZE

Even the most teetotaling officemate can relax while others are enjoying a tiny cocktail. Adding St. Germane (an elderflower liquor) can turn regular lemonade into something really special for your event. The trick to having a just slightly alcoholic beverage, while also offering a non-alcoholic option that is just as special. Consider offering a fruit or herb infused water, or a sparkling water in an unusual vessel.  It’s my general rule that no one NEEDS a gin martini at 3:30 in the afternoon, so offer well balanced cocktails and mocktails for the office. The goal isn’t to get drunk, the goal is to celebrate.

4. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR GUESTS

If Sarah from IT doesn’t like to be the center of attention, don’t make her blow out the candles on her birthday cake in the front of the conference room while everyone stares at her. Just simply give her a simple, “On behalf of the company, we want to wish you a happy birthday!” Followed by an emphatic “Here! Here!” This will allow everyone to remain comfortable, yet still celebrate the motivation for the event.

5. HAVE FUN!

It is called a party after all. This goes back to being mindful of your guests. If your office needs help getting people to talk to each other, simple games can foster the conversation. If you’ve got really big personalities, utilize that! Or perphaps this celebration is a real brain break for the staff, so you’ll just want to let them mingle. They will thank you for it.

Lastly, make sure your admin staff gets to eat at these things. Sometimes the admins are too busy hosting the event to even taste the hors d’oeurves they spent hours considering.

What tips and tricks have you picked up in hosting office events?

Sarah Jedrey

Marketing Coordinator / Video Editor

Event Recap: Refresh DC Speakers Offer A Good Lesson in UX and Web Design (Part 1)

Gene Crawford (@genecrawford) speaking for Refresh DC

Gene Crawford (@genecrawford) speaking for Refresh DC

On Sept. 20, Sarah Mills and I went to the Refresh DC event held at Personal’s office in DC. There was pizza (thanks, American University SOC!).  There were laughs (thanks Gene [@genecrawford] and Giovanni [@giodif]!).  There was a heck of a lot of brainpower in one cozy space (thanks, well, everyone!).

We came back with one custom Tarot deck, one web design book, and lots of UX and conceptual design knowledge richer. The cards and book were rewards for being curious and speaking in public – let me tell you, those cards were a real incentive! – but getting to network with people in our industry and getting other professionals’ opinions on pertinent topics were really valuable.

Being as new as I am, this gave me chances I don’t often have to network and learn.  Much of what got covered was info I’ve found while researching other things here at Matrix Group; hearing it reiterated by real live people and hearing questions from fellow audience members is really helping that information stick.

Gene Crawford, editor of unmatchedstyle and organizer of ConvergeSE (good grief, look at that parallax T. Rex!) spoke mainly about conversion points.  I, being the n00b I am, found out that that was where companies ask users to provide something like personal information or money – account registration, transactions, and the like.

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Liz Norton

Programmer

Google I/O 2012

Google’s developer conference, Google I/O, happens from June 27th-29th at the Moscone Center West in San Francisco. Given all the cool things that Google comes up with — Chrome, Google+, Google Goggles, IP over Avian CarriersGoogle Search — I definitely want to be there this year. *cough* Subtle hint for Joanna Pineda *cough*

Last year’s conference covered such topics as Android Development, the Google Geo APIs, How Web Fonts Are Changing the Web, Integrating to eBooks, and much, much more. I can’t wait to see what this year’s conference will bring.

Check out the Google Code Blog for more info and get your coding skills ready for the February application challenge!

Who’s coming with me?