The company picnic is a beloved tradition at many firms.
It’s an opportunity for employees to mingle and “let down their hair.”
A well organized company picnic with planned activities can help integrate employees with each other. This is particularly important if the company has undergone recent reorganization. As such it functions as a “team bonding” mechanism. A company picnic can be held for an entire firm of thousands or for a single department of 30. In my role of party entertainer (and prior to that corporate employee), I have attended countless such events. Here are some observations, tips, and ideas I picked up along the way.
Like any other type of event, you need to decide what you want your picnic to be like and how much you want to spend. As with any event, it is important to keep the needs and tastes of your attendees paramount. Allow yourself sufficient time to book your venue if the picnic is offsite. Demand for some venues is at a premium during peak periods. It is not uncommon to make reservations several months or more in advance of a given date. You’ll need to plan food and beverages, and activities and entertainment and, in some cases, transportation to the picnic site. Allow enough time so you can give your employees sufficient advance notice to include the picnic into their plans. This is especially important if you’ll be inviting family members or if it is held on a weekend. Company picnics and company picnic ideas can range from the very simple to a pull-out-all-stops extravaganza. My observation is that people have a good time at both. Do you want to have a theme? A theme is fun! Plus it makes it easier to organize food and activities.
WHEN do you want to hold you company’s picnic?
Here, in the Philadelphia area, companies hold their picnics beginning in June through early October. Considerations such as your company’s workflow, availability of a desired venue, etc., will help you determine the date. Employees are less apt to be away on vacation in June or September, but they will really enjoy the chance to kick back in July or August. There are pros and cons to weekday picnics versus weekend picnics. Company picnics held during a workday will ensure a greater attendance for employees when they would normally be in the office. And, they don’t cut into precious personal time. But spouses and children are generally more available for a weekend date.
WHOM do you want to invite?
Staff only? Members of the employee’s immediate family? What about significant others, friends? Decide where to draw the line. Family picnics are a great way for employees to meet co-workers’ families. It humanizes co-workers by allowing them to relax their at-work personas. On the other hand, single or divorced employees can feel like the odd wheel at a very family oriented event. That can be overcome by planning activities suitable for people of all ages. Activities that require participants to form groups can help integrate the attendees. And it keeps your guests occupied.
WHERE do you want to have your company picnic?
While many picnics take place under a tent in the company’s parking lot, offsite venues can make people feel more relaxed. If you’re on a strict budget, one option is a nearby state park. Many have large pavilions ideally suited for such events. I’ve also been to company picnics given at the home of the firm’s CEO or owner. This kind of setting adds a homey touch to the festivities. In some instances, facilities were set up so that the guests attend to their needs without entering the host’s private home. An excellent option to consider is a venue that is set up especially for hosting the company picnic. Generally these picnic parks come complete with in-house catering and lots of games and activities for kids both big and small. Some day camps rent out their facilities on weekends when they are otherwise not in use. Amusement parks and river cruises are other options. Tip: Have a Plan B in the case of rain. Some Plan B options include: • A tent with walls or access to an on-site building
• Event insurance
• A rain date Keep in mind that if you opt for a rain date, your vendors and entertainers may require additional payment to reserve the second date. That is because they have to turn down other clients during the busy summer season to keep that time open for you.
Food and Beverages
If you choose to have the food catered, you don’t have to worry about preparation or cleanup. Many venues such as picnic parks have in-house catering. And many caterers specialize in handling company picnics. The best part of picnic fare is that it is simple and satisfying. Hot dogs and hamburgers are extremely popular at picnics. But they are not compulsory and caterers will cater to your every whim. Keep the menu flexible enough to accommodate those with special needs and preferences. These days you’ll find many meat eaters and vegans, not to mention devotees of Atkins, South Beach, and other diets. If your picnic has a theme, your menu can reflect that. Decide whether you want to permit alcoholic beverages. If so, make sure there is a way to ensure that anyone who drinks a bit too much makes it home safely.
Have age appropriate activities and games
Some venues such as picnic parks make it a point to supply many activities. Nonetheless, you may want to supplement them. Entertainers such as DJs, caricature artists, Tarot card readers, magicians, face painters, clowns are some popular additions. Door prizes are a cherished company picnic idea at many firms. Door prizes work both as employee appreciation and an incentive for the employees to linger. Examples of some prizes I’ve seen include certificate good for a dinner for two at a local restaurant, gift certificate at a local department store, a day off with pay, even a free vacation complete with round trip airline tickets. These are some company picnic ideas and planning tips to get you started. But the most important tip is the one I save for last. After you’ve worked so hard to organize and plan your event, be sure to go and enjoy the festivities yourself!