How to Celebrate and Motivate Your Team at an End of Year Event

You wat celebrate and motivate your team during an end of year event? You want to do it up right? This is a great example to follow.

Do you want to celebrate and motivate your team at an end-of-year celebration, a new year kickoff, or both? These events can be tricky. However, if you plan it right, your team can be encouraged by results and excited for new challenges.


My (much) better half and I recently attended the I Am Academy Black Gala Masquerade. This served as an end-of-year celebration, non-profit fundraiser, and new year kickoff. They did everything right. Here is what you can take from their example, when planning your own event.


Set Goals

Before you do anything else, determine the goals for your event.

  1. Engagement: If the event is mostly about employee engagement, how will you measure their engagement? Will there be surveys after the event and if so, what scores would make it a success?
  2. Fundraising: If this is a fundraising event, how much do you plan to raise at the event? How many new leads or contacts do you plan to acquire during the event?



Yes, it must be entertaining. No, this does not mean another bad office trivia game.

Be original and memorable. The gala we attended was a masquerade that began with a powerful dance. The choreography and music (“Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar by Beyoncé) connected with the theme and got the audience excited for the coming program. For your event, consider…

  1. Have a Theme: Masquerades bring an air of elegance. Other popular themes include casino nights, luaus, and murder mysteries. Try to connect the theme with your message. For example, if you’re launching a new product, consider a NASA or space theme.

  2. Hire Performers: You could hire professional dancers. Other popular performers include magicians, visual artists, musicians, celebrity impersonators, karaoke DJs, and more.  For a more memorable experience, consider something edgier like circus acts or a roast of executives.

  3. Leverage Local Nonprofits: Is there a local youth chorus, dance team, or other program which you can support financially while inviting them to perform for your company? This could be a great way to give back while energizing attendees.

  4. Immerse Attendees: Whatever your entertainment, be sure to immerse attendees. One-off activities feel disjointed and poorly planned. Carry your theme throughout and don’t be afraid to take risks.

End of Year Celebration

When it comes to celebrating your accomplishments, be sure to name people. Everyone appreciates being seen and heard.


  1. Connect to Principles: Whatever your leadership model, mission, vision ,or values, use them in your description of those you recognize. Consider having a separate award to recognize those who exemplify each principle.

  2. Thank Your Team: Name your partners, sponsors, and employees. Yes, by name.

  3. Awards: Everyone should feel appreciated. Not everyone should get an award. Yet now is the time for creative, authentic recognition of those who went above and beyond for your organization.

  4. Break it Up: This portion of the program can drag on too long. If you have a lot of recognition to offer, consider breaking it up throughout the evening.

  5. Make it Unique: Funny awards like duct tape for the person who fixes everything or a giant collection for the programmer who fixed the most bugs.

New Year Motivation

Motivate your team to something new. At our gala, one of the co-founders ended the evening with a powerful message. He asked attendees to change our terminology. Instead of saying, “at risk youth” think, “at promise youth” because we owe them a promise to not leave the behind. Instead of saying, “marginalized groups”, think “more than groups” because they can be more than they are today.

How can you motivate your team and inspire them to change?

  1. New Thinking: Like the example above, can you call on the team to flip the script in their head?
  2. Empower: Is there a new resource, tool, funding, or capability you can announce that will make their work easier, faster, or stronger?
  3. Lofty Goal: Can you announce a new, lofty – but realistic – goal? Make sure the reward is great and the team believes it possible.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Content

Servant Leadership Library

A list of companies that value servant leadership. This list includes big names like Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and YUM Brands as well as many, often less-known organizations.

Scroll to Top
We Value Your Privacy

This site uses cookies to enhance your experience. We do not share, sell, or lease your information for any other purpose.