Office parties need no talent

   Iíve attended my fair share of office Christmas parties. And over the last 12 years of owning my own business, Iíve given my fair share of office Christmas parties.
   And finally, I figured out how to do it right.
   Office Christmas parties are a scary proposition. "Office" and "party" just donítí seem to go together. Personalities take a beating. That wild, wise-cracking, fun-loving clerk in your purchasing department gets thrown into a different arena at the party and suddenly turns into "the dullest human being on earth."
   This year, I was determined to try something different. I wanted everyone to loosen up, and since forcing every attendee to slam down five shots of tequila before entering the party seemed inappropriate, I had to think of something else.
   First I hired a numerologist, gave her everyoneís birthdate, and had her write each employeeís fortune for 1993. Then I announced our First Annual Talent Show would be held at the office Christmas party. When that drew a collective yawn, I added there would be a $150 prize for first place, $50 for second, and $25 for third.
   Out of 45 employees, one signed up. The Talent Show was in jeopardy. Luckily, I had a thought Ė in true Christmas spirit, I ordered my managers to perform.
   "What will I do?" cried Ralph, my general manager. "I donítí have any talent."
   "Iím well aware of that," I replied.
   "Iíll just make a fool of myself."
   I gave him a good show-business pat on the back. "Exactly."
   The other managers were no different. Some steadfastly refused to do anything, claiming it would be a cold day in hell before they got up and performed.
   The night of the party, last Wednesday, was hellishly cold and bitter. We took over the back section of a local restaurant. After everyone arrived and had a few cocktails (Ralph seemed especially thirsty) we sat down to dinner.
   The group still seemed inhibited, although they seemed to put their inhibitions aside for a moment when the waiter took their order. Or is it a coincidence that 99 percent of the group chose the most expensive entrťe on the menu?
   As I made my rounds making sure everyone cleaned their plate (cost control), I tried to drum up some excitement for The Talent Show.
   Enthusiasm, shall we say, hadnít peaked at that point. I got the feeling that, given the choice, a few of our newer employees would have preferred to finish the free meal and bolt.
   Finally, dinner was consumed and it was time for the festivities to begin. And at that point I brought out the single most important contribution to the overwhelming success of the night.
   A microphone.
   Why did I wait so long? Thereís something about a microphone that brings out the beast in certain people. It also changes the atmosphere of a room. Whether there are two people listening or 200, a microphone adds a sense of importance and, in our case, a sense of absurdity.
   I was the warm-up act. My job was to read the fortunes of a select few before they were distributed. It was my pleasure to notify Maria that a careful analysis of her birthdate showed that she would find true love in 1993. She would discover someone who truly cared about her, and probably get married. Her husband, sitting next to her, was not nearly as amused as the rest of us.
   After a few more fortunes, I got The Talent Show rolling by launching into a sizzling rendition of that show-stopping song, "The First Noel." Men were jeering, women were carping, eggs and tomatoes were flying. The Talent Show was off to a rousing start.
  Ralph was next, with a slapstick routine he did with Clyde, our new marketing director, and Ms. Ferguson, my loyal office manager. And Ralph thought he had no talent. That man can take a pie in the face with the best of them.
   Other managers, realizing they could do no worse, gave it the old company try. And when the warehouse crew jumped up, grabbed the microphone and performed what they called The Warehouse Rap, I knew the party would go down as the best ever.
   When it came time for everyone to vote for their favorite act, it was clear that inhibitions were gone for good.
   Otherwise, Iím sure I would have received at least one vote.



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