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The Best Holiday Party Idea EVER

You've been to some great company holiday parties. You've also been to some less-than-great ones. One thing that can kill a party is low attendance. So as the planner, what can you do to encourage people to attend? Even though you do need to have the party outside work hours, you do not want to make it mandatory.

So what do you do? How do you get people to show up when there are so many other things that time of year vying for their attention?

You bribe them.

Okay, it is a little more subtle than that, but I performed at a corporate party recently where I discovered a fun way to encourage your employees to attend the party and stay to the end. It is an intriguing game with lucrative prizes.

The TWISTED Reverse Raffle

Also called a “draw down raffle”, the reverse raffle works by eliminating tickets until the final winner is determined. Now this may sound tedious, but with a couple of twists, it can be a blast. Here are the key pieces:

  • Big Cash Prize - The final prize must be cash and big enough to excite people

  • Limited # of participants - This is probably best for no more than 200 people, otherwise it takes too long. For large groups, call the numbers in sets to keep it moving. For example call 10 numbers at a time.

  • 2-3 Administrators There should be at least 2-3 people running the raffle in order to keep track of the tickets and called numbers and keep the game moving quickly

  • Last Activity - This works best if it is the last planned activity of the evening. You can still keep the party going afterwards, but this will encourage people to stay through anything else you have planned for the evening (awards, speeches, entertainment, etc.)

Twist #1 - Prize Intervals

To keep it interesting along the way, give out smaller (but nice) prizes at various intervals. For example, every 10th or 20th draw wins a $50 gift card.

Twist #2 - The End Game

This is the fun part and is called the “stop and split” option. When the drawing is down to a small number of tickets, have those participants come to the front. This could be the final 5 or even 10, but the more you have the longer it will take.

Before the next ticket is drawn, give the remaining contestants a chance to split the pot. If EVERY contestant agrees, then the raffle ends and they each get an equal share of the prize.

But if even one of the contestants does NOT agree to split the pot, then the next ticket is drawn and the person drawn must sit down. Then the process is repeated after each ticket until they either decide to split the pot, or there is only one ticket remaining – the winning ticket.

This is most fun when the some contestants are adamant about wanting to split the pot and the others want to go for the whole shebang.

Additional Details

  • Be sure that EVERYONE has a ticket and be very careful that all people are represented in the pot, either with names on a slip or with matching raffle tickets. I recommend only allowing employees to participate and not their guests. This ensures spreading out the winnings and keeps the probabilities during the "end game" portion the same for each person/family. In other words, if a husband and wife were among the final five, that could make them more likely not to split the pot because they have better odds of being the final winner.

  • Double check that every employee present has a ticket. Give them one at the check-in table, and ask again before dinner or before the raffle starts.

  • Keep a list of all ticket numbers (or names) and have someone mark each one as its corresponding ticket is drawn. Someone in the crowd might not hear their name and think they are still in it.

  • The raffle must be kept moving at a fairly brisk pace so that people that have been eliminated don’t mind staying to see who does win.

  • At the end game have the participants come to the front (or on stage if there is one) so everyone can see them. Then encourage deliberation during the “stop and split” decision time. Sometimes only one person will want to proceed and the others will try to talk them out of it.


Of course, the only way this will work as a way to ensure attendance is if the entire office knows about it before the party. Every mention of the party – emails, mailings, posters – should all highlight the big cash prize and that you MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN!

Give the reverse raffle a shot and make this one of your best holiday parties ever!

Happy holiday planning!

- Steve Haffner


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