August 22, 2010

Planning a Company Outing Sure to Wow Your Crowd

Do your job duties involve planning the annual company picnic or outing? With the downturn in the economy, many firms are scaling back and looking for ways to trim expenses while still providing a fun time for their employees and families. If you’re in charge of this year’s company picnic, here are some tips to ensure a good time will be had by all:

· Think outside the box- If you are tasked with planning an event with less money and can’t afford an all inclusive corporate picnic facility or ranch, consider a state or local park to hold your outing. Your local parks and recreation department can provide a list of facilities, as can the local convention and visitors bureau. If you really have no money to rent an outside facility, consider holding the event on the grounds of your facility and rent tents for shade and shelter.

· Select Your Site Wisely- You’ll want to look for a space with ample room, diverse amenities such as ball fields, playscapes, ponds, etc. and adequate parking for attendees as well as a building or covered pavilion in case of inclement weather. Make sure there is electricity for the caterer, inflatables, music or sound amplification, and plenty of shade, trashcans, bathrooms and hydration stations or make arrangements to rent portable toilets, water fountains and hand sanitation stations. Having a rain date and method for communicating a change in plans to attendees is always a good idea. Make sure you make arrangements for first aid as well.

· Theme your event to provide a sense of cohesion- Whether it’s patriotic, county fair, traditional picnic, luau, western, Mexican fiesta, beach fun or Mardi Gras select a theme and match your invitations, decorations, games, craft activities, prizes, giveaways and meal choice to that theme. For decorations, crafts and paper goods, check out or your local dollar store, as I’ve recently seen all of those themes in both locations.

· Keep them well fed and they’ll be happy- When it comes to meal planning, determine how long your event will last and what meal times your event will span. Consider having your event start in mid afternoon and provide lemonade, tea, water, popcorn, watermelon, and snow cones to tide people over until the meal is served around dinner time. When planning the menu, take into account any dietary restrictions your guests may have and make arrangements for that. Remember, people will be at your mercy when it comes to food and beverage, so make sure you have a clear understanding of any special needs they may have and plan accordingly.

· Plan Plenty of Activities- Again, linking your theme with planned activities is important, so look for ways to personalize crafts and activities to match. If money is tight, consider paying a local youth group from a school or church to run crafts and games, paint faces, babysit toddlers, lead team building activities, etc. I’ve attended picnics where a local high school dance team ran all the games and provided child care as a fundraiser, and my local high school has a Peer Assistance Class which is experienced in leading team building activities; many schools have these same programs in place. If you want to try something current and topical, check out the site for NBC’s Minute to Win It game show where you can learn how to recreate the challenges. You can also go online and search for “Team Building Activities” where you’ll find sites to check out with plenty of games and activities that can be easily adapted to your theme. Don’t forget to bring bingo, Frisbees, volleyballs, nets, croquet sets, lawn darts, hula hoops, badminton sets, bats, balls and gloves as well as other yard games for your more active attendees.

· Look for Deals on the Internet- I find Craigslist a great resource for low cost rental of inflatables such as moonwalks and water slides, as well as pop-up tents, tables and chairs, snow cone, cotton candy and popcorn machine rentals. It’s also a great place to hire a DJ, face painter, balloon artist, clown or any other type of entertainment; just make sure to check references.

· Ask your Vendors for Sponsorship- If your company policy allows, consider approaching your vendors for assistance in sponsoring big ticket items, or even donations of smaller items for door prizes. From the company that provides your coffee and stocks your vending machines, to your printer or janitorial company, many would be willing to provide assistance or a donation of an item.

The key to a successful employee event is getting buy in from your group on timing, location, activities, theme, food and beverage. So make sure you involve co-workers from a cross section of the company so they can help with the planning as well as help build excitement and interest in the event. If you keep these tips in mind, you can have a fun, safe and uneventful company outing that people will remember fondly. Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids and keep applying the sun block!

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