When it comes to planning your company’s next event or outing, there is a lot to think about. You want to plan something that will promote team building and boost the office morale, while also allowing coworkers to mingle in a fun, stress-free environment. You’re in charge of creating an event that people will actually want to attend and is good for business, will boost productivity and will address common workplace issues in a neutral environment at the same time.
Easy, right? If you’re struggling with the who, what, when where and why’s of the perfect company outing, check out this comprehensive guide to an after-work function that is professional, productive and fun.
1. The Who
Before you can pick a location, a theme, or a schedule of events, you need to know who you’re inviting. This doesn’t mean that you should tell the Accounting team that they can come but inform everyone in Marketing they didn’t make the cut. Obviously, everyone in the workplace is invited to the event, but who else? Is it going to be a “bring your spouse” kind of event? Can kids come? Or is it just an intimate gathering of coworkers? Deciding on who is coming will help you narrow down the other decisions. This will help you decide on a place and time, depending on how many people are coming, and the formality of the event,
2. The When
Once you have your guest list, you can look at your calendar and determine the best day and time for the event. If it’s an employee only event, hosting something right after work might be the most convenient. If spouses are invited, an evening time slot may work better. And if it’s a family function, the weekend will probably be your best bet.
3. The Where
Again, where you host your event will depend on how many people are coming, their ages, and the formality of the event. You could do something outdoors if the weather is nice, such as a picnic or beach day. An employee golf game is one outdoorsy way to encourage team building, while local parks, outdoor venues, or even a private yacht can bring coworkers together. If you’re looking for something inside, call around to local restaurant to see if they have a private room you could use. Many venues rent their space out for reasons just like this, so do some research to see what makes the most sense for the type of event you’re trying to plan.
If this is more of a hangout than a structured event, your options are endless. From a simple dinner together to something more exciting like attempting an escape room, enjoying dueling pianos, mini golf, bowling, or an art or cooking class can be enjoyable for the whole team. Many places offer corporate and group discounts, so you don’t have to spend all of the company money on one event. Some other creative company outing ideas include:
- Volunteering together
- Karaoke nights
- Laser tag
- Put together a sports game, such as softball or kickball
- Visit a food truck rally and/or enjoy an outdoor movie
If you’re just planning an event to get everyone together, you can be a little more flexible on the venue and theme of the event. If you’re planning a schedule of activities at the event, make sure the location you choose is equipped to handle what it is you’re trying to do.
4. The What
Here’s where it gets tricky. Think about your last corporate event or outing you attended. What did you love about it? What made you wish you were at home instead? The activities you plan need to be appropriate, fun and relevant. Consider the age and ability levels of the people attending. Is a high energy game going to be a good choice for the majority of your office? Can Stan from HR participate in a obstacle course or fast-paced game? You don’t want anyone to feel excluded, embarrassed or uncomfortable, but you also want everyone to have fun and maybe even step out of their comfort levels just a little. If this is an event where kids are invited, plan some kid-friendly things for them to enjoy so they’re not bored out of their minds and begging their parents to go home.
If your event is more casual and you don’t have any activities planned, make sure the attendees are aware of this. Just the same, if there is an agenda, provide guests with this ahead of time, so they know when they need to be where.
Hiring an entertainer or guest speaker is another way to liven up your event. Even hiring a DJ to play music during the event can set the mood for a fun and upbeat event.
You don't have to go crazy with a particular theme, but it can be fun if you do. You could have a party themed after The Wild West, The Roaring 20’s, the beach, the circus, tacky tourist themed, or something based off of a favorite TV show or movie. The theme will help you narrow down what type of food and decorations to get, and will set the tone for how formal (or informal) the feel of the party is. You can also pick a venue based off of your theme. For instance, a Mexican restaurant would be a great place for a company fiesta, while there’s no better place for a beach themed event at the pool or beach. Even a simple theme will help bring the whole event together.
Again, the food you serve depends on who’s in attendance. If it’s in the budget, hiring a caterer may take a lot of stress off of your plate (see what we did there?) You can research different menus and restaurants to make sure they have something for everyone at the event. If you’re doing something on a smaller scale, asking everyone to bring a dish, like a potluck, is an easy way to get a lot of variety in one place. Be aware of allergies and dietary restrictions so the gluten-free people, the vegetarians and those allergic to peanuts can enjoy the food too.
5. The Why
Knowing your “why” is the first step in organizing a successful company event. Do you want to focus on team building? Do you have certain talking points about the business that you want to discuss? Do you want to avoid “work-talk” altogether and just have fun? Are you planning this event or outing to acknowledge a certain team member or celebrate a milestone? When your “why” is clear, you have a solid foundation to build your plans upon.
You’ve been left in charge of planning this outing because you’re capable, able to multitask and seen as a rockstar project manager. Or maybe nobody else offered to do it. Either way, starting with your “why” and moving from there will help you create a corporate event or outing that your team will be excited about, and will leave them looking forward to the next one. Ask for help if you need it, give yourself plenty of time to plan, expect the unexpected and more importantly, have fun with it!