Food: You don't need fancy food. Parties with filet mignon are no better than parties with casseroles. On the other hand, you shouldn't skimp on dessert. A party with good cake and pie is better than a party with dry cookies.
Music: A live band is nice, but a good DJ is better than a lame band. Whether a band or a DJ, the musical entertainment should stick to good sets of music. No lame comedy or embarrassing people.
Alcohol: This is an absolute must. Not many people are much fun at the office, but they can't possibly be that boring in real life. Lubricate them with some spirits and you can see their real personalities come out.
Foolishness: Unless someone is ashamed to show up at work the next day, it wasn't a great party. Somebody should have hit or puked on the wrong person. Somebody should have turned the band into their own personal karaoke machine. Somebody should have said something stupid about their boss or someone's spouse.
I judge all company holiday parties by the way my first company did them. GRC had two parties. One was a black tie affair at a fancy hotel with a band or DJ and a nice sit-down dinner. It was very swank. The other party was hosted by my division and happened in the halls of the office. The drawing for the Super Bowl pool was one of the highlights of this informal party that featured a potluck and a couple kegs. Most of my favorite holiday party memories come from these parties:
- Sipping Canadian Mist and smoking great stogies in our security guy's office.
- Office chair races in the halls.
- Rhythmically impaired drunk people doing the Electric Slide.
- Floating kegs and beer runs six hours into the party.