From the August 2000 issue of Startups

It's a rite of passage: Sometime, usually not long after launch, a business holds a party and invites not only employees (of course), but also customers, prospects, vendors, business associates, and pretty much everybody else who has ever had the slightest contact with the company. And the invitations are rarely humble. Most tout the pending event as "the party of the year." Do they deliver? Rarely. The overwhelming majority of start-up parties range from boring to deadly, and smart guests who have been around this block before make plans to go, make one swoop around the room-and promptly rush for the exit.

Yikes, that turns parties into a huge waste of money-and sometimes, a major embarrassment. What's gone wrong? For starters, young entrepreneurs know their bashes shouldn't duplicate the hedonistic excesses of the grain parties they loved in college, but they don't know what else to do. So they do boring. But it doesn't have to be that way. Read on for plenty of tips about business-party to-do's.

Plan It

Good parties require lots of planning, and the Web is loaded with resources to get you started.

  • The Party Search. This site is loaded with links to everything from professional party planners (organized by state) to bands and caterers. It's a good place to start noodling on what you really need.

Hunting for Ideas

The Web has plenty of sites where professional planners offer tips and suggested themes.

  • Event Logistics. What about putting on a Wacky Olympics (with human bowling and a velcro wall) or an event presided over by a faux celebrity such as a Barney Fife look-alike? Find plenty of these ideas at the Event Logistics site, and the company will help you stage a themed night.

How Much?

None of this is free (even renting a premium party hall can set you back four to five figures), so here's a good worksheet for calculating your expenses: www.party411.com/budget.html. Print out a few copies, because you'll likely need them as the budget grows. Party411.com also offers a useful "Party Checklist" to help you mull over what you'll really need.

Free News

Killjoys?

Here's the bad news: If a guest gets drunk and drives into a lake, you're in big legal trouble. Protect yourself by reading the Department of Labor's tip sheet. Sure, it's a bummer to be reminded about the dangers of substance abuse, but it's a bigger bummer to lose your whole business.