Incredible summer weather is finally here (for some it took longer than others) and it sucks to have to watch it go by through the windows in your office or work vehicle (or even worse, through a maze of cubicles and all your workmates think you are staring weirdly at them when all you want to see is a bird or a ray of freakin’ sunshine).
Though to some they might seem quaint or a practice of a bygone era, company picnics are a great way for everyone to take a breath of fresh air and step away from the stress for a day (Edgar in HR needs to relax under a tree, he’s one complaint away from losing his mind).
Now if you are tasked with the all-important company party planning, you might not be exactly sure how to go about this: Do you need to get 100 checkered picnic blankets? Exactly how many hot dogs can you legally buy at one time? Should you notify the parade of ants when you’ll be there? Valid questions though tinged with a hint of panic and perhaps naivete about what a company picnic is. Let us walk you through the 10 steps you’ll need to make this company picnic a smashing success.
1. Create your budget.
Just like any other company function you might plan, find out how much you have to work with and use it as a jumping off point. Sky’s the limit? Lucky ducks. We’ll talk about how you can throw around all that dough a little later. Can hardly afford napkins and solo cups? We’ll help you out there, too.
2. Who get the all-important invites?
Some companies like to use their picnics as a time for various departments to mingle and get to know one another. Some like to make it a family affair and allow employees to bring kids, spouses, parents, and friends.
When considering who will be invited, your budget (and venue type—we’ll get to that) should come into play. If you have tons of funds and the resources to do it, you can let the invitation be open to just about anyone employees know (though you might risk having some weird neighbors or Uber pool acquaintances attend). If the budget is tighter, you’ll need to pick a number it can handle and let the invitations reflect who can attend
3. Roll the dice and select a date.
Yea, because we all know that summer weather can be a risky crap shoot. There’s no way to predict how the weather will be that far in advance, but there are some ways you can cover yourself.
Are you able to schedule multiple days or a range of days (say if the venue is a public area like a park)? Can you have a rain date? You might also want to keep in mind not scheduling it on or around important business events like meetings and employee reviews or around holidays when many employees are taking vacation time.
4. Choosing the right venue.
You might be eyeing up that beautiful little botanical garden across town or know of an awesome spot next to a river that you found while backpacking into the wilderness last spring, but let’s make sure there’s some reasonableness when choosing the venue. It’s more than just picking a pretty spot, there are several things to consider.
Do your research—many parks, gardens, amusement parks, or other outdoor spaces require permits, scheduling, and may even limit the number of people who can attend. This takes some good advanced planning—no last-minute Sallies here. Venues or permits can cost money (even public parks) so make sure to take your budget into consideration (Is a fancy expensive park more important or more money for signature cocktails? We know which one we’d choose).
5. Equipment and rentals.
While you were thinking about signature cocktails, this might have slipped your mind as an important planning detail. Depending on your venue—Are there grills or buffet tables to display food? Tables and chairs for eating? A gazebo at the venue or should you rent a tent? Are toilets already there and available or do you need to rent portable ones (Brenda in accounting does not want the full wilderness experience at the company picnic)? If you are having a full-service caterer, they might be able to help you out with these things, if not, get to emailing.
6. Food—possibly the most important thing.
There is no picnic without food, then it’s just a bunch of people milling around on the grass—or eating the grass if the hunger situation becomes desperate.
If the budget allows and you’d rather play ultimate frisbee than man the grill, catered barbeque is not the wrong move. In fact, it’s a great stress-free way to get food for the party. If the budget is smaller, there’s no shame in the pot luck game—ask people to bring their favorite picnic side dish to share and leave room in the budget for picnic meats (burgers, sausages, hot dogs, etc.—you know what we mean). You’ll still have time to join the frisbee team after the grilling is done.
Food restrictions and choices are becoming more common, so if practical, have some allergen free (gluten, dairy, soy) and vegetarian choices for those who need it. They will definitely thank you. Throw in some kid-friendly stuff (if they will be there) and parents and little ones alike will be appreciative as well.
7. Drinks—nope, this is probably the most important.
In the heat of summer, hydration is important. No one needs the sales team fainting of dehydration and ruining a perfectly good game of volleyball (that your team was totally crushing, by the way). Obviously, you’ll need coolers full of water and other hydrating drinks, but what about the fun stuff?
Depending on how your company and the venue feels about alcoholic beverages, can you add a few signature cocktails or mocktails to the list? And of course, there’s plenty of ways to get fancy with iced tea and lemonade by adding fruits, mint, or other garnishes to steep flavor into the drinks.
8. And for our final course, of course…dessert.
It doesn’t take an astrophysicist or a degree in ice cream-ology to know that summer heat and frozen desserts don’t marry well (even in a cooler they can be on borrowed time). A popcorn/kettle corn, cotton candy, or pretzel cart is sure to be a hit as are baked goods that will hold up under the temperature (sugar cookies for example). If there’s room for something extra special, rent that ice cream truck so everyone can cool off in sweet, sweet style.
9. Themes, decorations, and banners.
Um, isn’t “company picnic” the theme of this event? Or maybe barbeque? Well, that’s what it is, not necessarily the theme. At minimum, it’s nice to have balloons and/or a banner that marks the location/gathering spot and the event (Smith’s Kickin’ Company Picnic 2019).
Some companies like to have an actual theme to their party, anything from Kentucky Derby to the Zombie Apocalypse. You know your company and your people, so make it something the majority can appreciate (Doubt your 85-year-old receptionist will like being chased by an undead with blood dripping from its fangs? Maybe they will because they are awesomely hip or equally scary. But if you’re in doubt, tone it down for the general population).
Isn’t sitting around listening to each other crunch potato chips and looking at the office crazy cat lady’s 800 kitty pics on her phone entertaining? Uh, right. Shouldn’t adults be able to entertain themselves? Seriously, look on YouTube if you want to see what happens when a bunch of bored grown-ass people put their heads together to entertain themselves. Do you want that lawsuit and/or criminal record? At the very least, you’ll go down in company history as the most boring party planner that ever was.
If the venue is not already at a place that’s inherently fun like an amusement park or waterpark (saves you some entertainment planning), it’s not hard to provide for entertainment. Sports like frisbee, volleyball, badminton, or even softball can be entertaining to play and watch. What about lawn games like corn hole and horseshoes—classic picnic favorites.
A face painter, balloon artist, or craft table for the kiddos can keep them engaged. Live music, especially an enthusiastic band, say one that does second line parades, can be something enjoyed by all ages and abilities.
Hey, relax, this is supposed to be fun. OK, maybe you’ll relax more after all the hard planning is done, but you’ll be glad you put in the effort and so will everyone else. They’ll be thankful to get out of the office and enjoy the sweet, precious summertime for a day—a special treat if everyone is stuck inside all the time. You might even get voted “Most Likely to Plan the Best Company Picnic Ever” because you created one for the record books.