Tips for Speaking at Office Holiday Parties (When You're the Boss)

If you’re the boss hosting an office holiday party and have to offer remarks, don’t wing it. Follow these tips and spend time preparing so you can have the impact you want.

  • Focus on the one message you want to convey – for example, “It’s been a tough year, but we’ve come through it ok – thank you.” Or, “We’ve experienced tremendous growth this year and you’ve helped make that possible.” Or “Thanks for coming and looking forward to a fun evening together.” Only include details/stories/points that relate to that message and support it.
  • Respect the diversity of religious traditions. Don’t assume everyone in the audience celebrates Christmas or Hanukah. While you can refer to your own observance (for example, mentioning what you love about the holidays is your family attending Midnight Mass, or lighting the menorah together), also acknowledge that others have different traditions that are meaningful to them.
  • If you’re going to thank any individuals or department by name, write it down so you don’t inadvertently leave someone out.
  • Remember that this can be an especially difficult time of year for those mourning the loss of a loved one, estranged from their families or dealing with addiction. You may choose to acknowledge this generally if you know it’s relevant to your audience, or just quietly understand those who choose to opt out of the holiday party.
  • Shorter is better. Be concise, be sincere and don’t worry about trying to be funny.
  • Prepare for the event context and the logistics of the room. Will you have a microphone or a drink in your hand? When will you speak? Where will the audience be – seated/standing? Are you just offering remarks or making a toast? Are you the only speaker?
  • Practice, especially your opening and closing. What will be your first few sentences? How will you end? You want to start and end strongly and with confidence instead of using lots of ums and ahs.  
  • For your delivery, harness the power of your voice to communicate effectively. Speak loudly enough and slowly enough (use pauses) so everyone can hear. Vary your pitch, tone and volume to convey meaning and keep people engaged.
  • Other delivery tips: make eye contact, be aware of your non-verbal communication, like gestures; movement (no pacing) and your facial expressions (a sincere smile is great). Be sure your non-verbal communications match your words.
  • Express sincere optimism and hope for the new year. End on a high note.