How to organise the perfect party (to promote yourself and woo clients)

Richard Barnett, producer at Trunk Animation, explains why hosting parties for colleagues, clients and potential clients is still essential, even in an 'age of austerity' – and how to do it right.

Organising a party is like a dangerously strong cocktail – but one that is preceded by a fortnight of worry before you even set eyes on it. Will anybody come? If they do come will they have a good time? If they do come will they have TOO good a time and somehow end up trashing something?

The answer to most of these questions is probably. When you mix alcohol, music and then add a whole host of your clients and colleagues to the fray, things just get that little bit tenser. It’s like flying through a personality meteor shower: you know at some point two people are going to crash into one another, and it’s either going to be a blast, or you may as well pack up your Wacom tablet, turn the lights off, and go home, as your intern’s just insulted your biggest client.

This summer, after having a few years off from this wonderful anguish, we decided to have another party in the Trunk HQ courtyard. From a business point of view, you want to get all the guys and girls that you’ve worked with over the past year down for a drink and a catch up, say thanks to those who pulled a late nighter, as well as getting to have a proper debrief from clients, and find out what projects they have coming up in the hope that they may call you to pitch on the latest one.

We learnt early on that if you’re having a party, you have to write off the cost before you even start, and forget the idea that the party will in some way win you a job or repay you at some stage, that can only ever be a bonus.

The true success of a studio party – such as the promotion that comes from it – can quite often being incalculable, but as long as you invite lots of people personally, have fun and do a little blog post and tweet afterwards, then it shows that you’re up for it. If some of your clients make it down, then it gives you a wonderful chance to build your relationship and – as we all know – we’d rather work with people that we like and get on with, rather than those humourless grouches that turn every meeting into a living hell.

Some things that we’ve learnt along the way are:

• Always have a reason for your party. This year we’d got a load of personal films that we’d finished, and some lovely little treats from the past years projects that we were really proud of.

• Make sure you set your date and time right. A Thursday is always a good night as it doesn’t interfere with people's 'big Friday', and if they are slightly hungover come Friday morning, then at least they’ve only got one more day at work to quietly crawl through!

Taking a hint from gallery openings and private views, we run out party from 6-9pm, and managed to get everyone down to the local bar by 10pm for those who wanted to carry on. After 9pm – and a good dousing of free booze – people’s eyes start glazing over nicely. This is your last chance before they turn feral, so let them do that in the safety of a nice bar well away from your prize plant pot and your framed photo of Rolf Harris (now sadly turned face-down).

This year we screened about 15 minutes worth of stuff, once at 7pm, and again at 8.15pm to make sure everyone got to see stuff. We felt anything longer and people begin to start looking for their next free drink and generally causing a ruckus.

If you want to build relationships with people, then email them directly and personally. This works, like a chest of drawers, on a number of different levels.

Firstly you have the perfect excuse to get in touch, inviting them to the party. Secondly they feel special because you haven’t just done some anonymous blanket email, so they’re more likely to get back to you. If they can come to the party, then great, but if they can’t come, you’ve still reminded them that you’re about and you can send them a link to the work that you’ll be screening anyway.

My final words of party wisdom would have to be: sign up for the local cash-&-carry. You need your booze levels to be just right. This year we hired a vintage ice cream van (above), pre-mixed 36 litres of cocktails a couple of hours before the party, and had about 500 various bottled lagers and ales – along with a shed-load of kettle crisps. This kept about 120 people inebriated for the evening, and everyone seemed to have a really wonderful time.

This year’s icing on the cake was that luckily a job did come about after the party. Some guys who we’d worked with on a very small job and who have an agency locally, turned up en-masse. They were all lovely and we had a great night together, and luckily they were really amazed at some of the work we’d been doing, and hadn’t considered all the ways that you can use animation as part of a campaign.

On the following Monday the call came in; ‘Do you want to come and chat through a secret project that we’re doing?’. That project turned out to be the launch of Jaguar's new C-X17 concept car (below). And after dancing the waltz with Rumple the studio dog, we went and had a great meeting, collectively put a great concept and pitch together, and won the job.

A final thank you to our friend Mr Moscow Mule, and thanks to the dainty but rocket-fuelled Miss Cosmopolitan, we had a summer blast.


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