There are many reasons to invest in an annual company picnic. A much-needed day outside the office affords a change of scenery that can strengthen company morale, recharge employee’s batteries and even spark some valuable creativity. When you demonstrate your appreciation for their efforts and your commitment to the wellbeing of their families, you encourage teamwork and genuine human connection throughout the organization. This can be especially useful in larger organizations where people have minimal interactions outside their immediate work groups.
Of course, we also know the number one reason to throw a company picnic is to have fun. Still, fun doesn’t happen magically – it requires planning and a lot of work.
We’re here to help. Follow these simple suggestions to ensure a successful outing that rewards the investment.
First consider your budget. Collect all the details surrounding the event:
- What’s the location and does it involve special logistics concerns?
- Decorations and favors – is there a theme or is it simply come as you are?
- Food – burgers and dogs, or something more elaborate? Are there going to be attendees with special dietary needs (vegan, gluten allergies, nut/soy allergies, etc.)?
- What about beverages? Will there be alcohol? What kinds of drinks will you have for the kids?
- Entertainment! Is this the kind of culture that would be into games, and does your venue have the space and set-up for them? Kids love outdoor activities, and could probably use some focus for all that energy so that parents don’t have to spend their day off wrangling children.
- How about music? Is a band or a DJ appropriate (and in the budget)?
- Raffle! People love winning things, right? Remember, this event is all about showing appreciation, so whatever you give away should be something that people actually want.
Next, get a clear count of how many employees will actually attend the event. Ask them to RSVP by a set date that leaves enough time to plan, and account for spouses and children. If you don’t, you will see the number you had estimated double right before your eyes, meaning not enough food, not enough beer, bot enough of anything. Disappointing for them, embarrassing for you. Knowing how many people are coming, give or take, will help you maximize your dollars, and trust us, but this will most definitely give you enough room to play with your dollars. And trust us, a well-planned budget comes in handy when you’re working out the fine details.
It’s almost always smart ideal to have a reserved spot for your company picnic. You really don’t want to have to compete for the barbeque area, or the beach volleyball court. Most importantly, make sure to inquire about a pavilion as alternative in case of rain.
It might also be a good idea to have umbrellas or ponchos available to your guests in case of surprise showers. This keeps your guests dry while they make their way to a safe to cover, and if they’re especially hardcore they might choose to stay outside and keep on playing despite the weather.
Be sure to prepare an activities agenda for the day. It’s their day off and you’re hosting this cool event for them, which means assuring that they have to do as little as possible in the way of organizing. A great way to keep your guests interested in the proceedings of the day is by keeping them informed about what’s going on, where to be when the food is served, the exact time of the raffle, etc.
Print your schedule on a magnet and give one to each of your employees before the event so they know exactly where to be at all times. They can hang in their refrigerators to spark anticipation of the event, and after it’s all over they can use them to stick pics of their own to the fridge. Every time they open the door they’ll associate their loved ones with the great time they had at your picnic.
When you keep everyone on the same page about the schedule, you anticipate issues that arise when the members of large groups all have different ideas of what fun should be. You don’t want to stifle creativity in a social setting, but you do want there to be a clear path to follow for those who want to stick with the plan.
That said, there will be a specific timetable for the event, and you don’t want to be penalized for getting off schedule. For example, your caterer may charge extra if lunch has to be extended, and remember, most public parks have restricted hours of operations.
Raffles are an awesome way to generate anticipation during company picnics. You should consider having at least one grand prize to create excitement (like extra vacation time). Be creative, and don’t lose sight of the ways in which generosity builds lasting goodwill.
People always enjoy the chance to win something - consider home items for smaller prizes and think about ways you might partner with vendors or customers on highly desirable giveaway ideas.
Be sure to set the rules prior to beginning, and one major rule is winners must be present at the time of the raffle in order to receive their prizes. You know what they say: you snooze, you lose. There’s an important business reason for this on. Especially if yours is a larger company and this is a bigger event, people can spend the whole day without really interacting with everyone else. People will tend to spread out to wandering around the park, cycling, and maybe even swimming (if there’s a pool or a lake). The cool thing about raffles is that they bring everyone together in one spot for at least a few minutes.
You’re planning a picnic, so there should be tons of activities and things to do at all times. Here are a few ideas I think you might enjoy:
- Face painting (the kids love this)
- Paddle boats ( and maybe even a paddle boat regatta)
- Ultimate Frisbee
- Piñatas (kids love these, too)
- Sac and wheelbarrow races
Select what you think will work best for your group, and if you aren’t sure what kinds of games they like, ask. Also remember – everyone likes to be a winner. Print customized t-shirts with the date of your event, and present to the winners of these competitions as trophies for their demonstration of superior performance and skills.
Keep the mood light, and have a designated game coordinator to adjudicate the disputes that always seem to pop up in competitive environments.
Creating a festive atmosphere should be one of your top priorities – your employees are special and that should be clear to them form the time they arrive at the venue. Decorations and favors can play a big role in setting the mood of your company picnic, and will help make your guests feel welcomed. Post sings from the entrance of the park directly to the picnic location, and be sure to have a designated area where food, drinks, drinkware and cutlery are readily available throughout the day.
Party favors like personalized water bottles, hats and caps with your brand logo, printed plastic fashion sunglasses and other goodies they can use and wear during the day will make them feel part of the team during the event and after.
Don’t forget about nutrition! Your food can be catered but you can also get a little creative (especially if budget is an issue) by having a potluck featuring traditional dishes from around the world. This is particularly a good idea if your workforce is fortunate enough to have a number of international workers.
Margaritas, Mojitos, and beer (of course) are some picnic favorites you can serve, but feel free to be innovative, too. Remind everyone to stay hydrated and make sure water or sports drinks are handy. Print your brand logo on plastic cups your employees and their families can take home as a reminder of your get-together.
These are all the pieces you need for a successful company picnic. Start planning now, and make this a tradition you and your employees can look forward to every year.