Author: Holly Welling, 20 years of story telling and content marketing
Gorgeous sunshine, oh how we’ve missed that warmth! Feeling it again on our faces has us thinking of field days and class parties and – lucky us – now that we’re all grown up, that nearest adult equivalent: the company picnic.
Like any party variety, your company picnic can be mildly enjoyable or it can be memorably, ecstatically amazing, depending on your MASTER PLAN. Yes, the whos, the whats, the hows, the ooh-yes-pleases and all of the other don’t-forget-about-these details all need to be accounted for in one great big company picnic master plan. Whether you’re already knee-deep in arranging this summer’s big shindig or haven’t even begun to think about it and are starting to feel a little panicked, allow us to offer some suggestions on putting together a killer plan.
Answer this: what’s the purpose of your picnic? Believe us when we say that your response, when filtered through your company culture, can help you crush your party plan.
Company tradition, employee appreciation, morale boost, celebrating a milestone, and team-building are all great reasons to throw a party. But throwing some potato salad on a picnic table does not say big love from the C-Suite.
A picnic themed around the year the company started can speak to tradition. Hosting your event at a stadium party room and treating employees to a Major League Baseball game cheers on great teamwork. Renting out a luxury venue says this company is celebrating success with the people who helped make it happen. Don’t bypass this opportunity to make your event truly meaningful to your attendees.
Set your limits. Your power to throw the ideal company picnic exists at the magical intersection of budget, attendees, and timing. Identifying these three constraints will help you sift down options into a perfectly optimized Master Plan.
- Know your budget. Where’s the money coming from (if it’s not yours, buddy up with whoever you’ll need to have expense approval from), and of course, how much do you have to work with?
- Know who’s invited. Is this event for employees only? Employees and families? What about contractors? If your purpose is team-building, an employees-only guest list is perfectly appropriate. You need to have a good estimate on the number – and a rough guess as to the age range and activity levels – of your guests from the start.
- Know when you want to party. Host your company picnic during a workday and you’re sure to get strong employee participation, but be sure to clear the all-hands time away with your leadership team first. Host on the weekend and you’ll run into more scheduling conflicts, but you’ll also be sending a more family-friendly/inclusive message about your event. Have a meaningful date on which you absolutely must host your picnic? Recognize that your venue options may be more limited with a rigid target date, be flexible if you can, and if you run into too many issues, use this as motivation to start planning next year’s event further out.
Pick a theme. Themes give your event personality and help spark the details that tie your event together. Seriously – hit on a theme that blends your company culture with your party purpose and your picnic will become legend. Anything that engages your group’s enthusiasm, from music festivals to carnivals to superheroes, can be your inspiration. Some other examples …
- Sports. Ideal for companies whose employees are anywhere from somewhat to extremely athletic/active/competitive. Throw your event at a community park and organize tournaments for softball games, relay races, frisbee golf, volleyball, flag football, and so on – complete with team tee shirts and trophies (to back up at least a year’s worth of bragging rights). Decorate with custom team pennants and banners and serve ballpark favorites like hot dogs, French fries and caramel corn.
- Just Cause. Ideal for companies whose employees are particularly focused on volunteering or environmental issues. Organize a group volunteer activity with a nonprofit group – something like a charity bike build-a-thon, planting a community garden, or holding a bagging session for a food bank. Use compostable flatware, plates and napkins with your meal. Decorate (yes, even if you’re holding your event in a park) with live plants that employees can take home after the event.
- Reality TV. Say what you want about reality TV, but give employees the opportunity to “speak to the camera” and bust out their competitive skills, and see if you don’t discover hidden talents galore. The competitions with this theme are key – for survivalist and ninja warrior types, obstacle courses, scavenger hunts and challenges are awesome; or give in to the drama and have departments put together group skits, songs, or dance-off routines for the chance to be your company’s next top whatever.
Make the food count. With the other elements simmering nicely, we can now talk about our favorite part of the master plan: the food. Picnics totally revolve around food. Mess this up, and it will leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. So, skip the bring-your-own-stuff-to-grill routine and save yourself major headaches. Trust the food to the chefs, restaurants and caterers who live to tantalize others’ taste buds. Talk with the restaurant’s event planner/catering manager. They can handle the food delivery and should be extremely knowledgeable about safe food handling and serving temperatures. Ask if they’re open to customizing the menu to fit your theme – and listen to them when they give you advice about quantities and what will and won’t work for your picnic location and logistics.
Bonus: Not only can catering professionals deliver deliciousness to thrill your attendees, they typically are also extremely well connected. Ask for recommendations on service providers and rental companies they usually work with – for everything from sound systems and tents to tables and chairs and portable toilets – anything that might not be already available through the venue.
Brainstorm the extras – and go for it. Don’t forget about entertainment (again – go for something that ties into your theme, whether that means a live band, deejay, emcee, fireworks or even a special “celebrity” guest). Consider arranging transportation to and from the event – particularly if it’s in a difficult area to find parking at during the workweek (think buses, not cars). Give your event a hashtag, create a logo, and take tons of pictures and video clips before, during, and after to promote it on social media (both internal and external – company picnics are a great opportunity to show off your company culture!). Recruit influencers from different departments to help get everyone excited and involved – and help each employee feel a personal connection.
There’s a lot to do, but don’t let it grind you down. Remember, the whole point of this is to throw a celebration. So go forth and execute this choose-your-own-adventure party: plan it, tweak it, do it, own it – enjoy it!
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