How to Plan a Company Picnic

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Company picnics are more fun to attend than to plan, but turning down the assignment to organize one is rarely a good career move. If the task falls on your shoulders, make the process relatively painless by starting early, staying on top of the details, and having a backup plan in case the rain gods let loose with a deluge on the big day.

Read 2 Set Priorities and 3 Write an Effective To-Do List.

Determine whom to invite: employees only, spouses and significant others, children and/or clients. Dozens of subsequent decisions-- from location to menu, entertainment to favors--stem from this first one.

Select the date. Avoid days near the beginning or end of a company holiday period, as many people may be out of town. Choose a weekday so employees are not forced to give up their personal commitments to attend a work function.

Establish a budget. Take advantage of the fact that unlike most business-related meals (which are only 50 percent tax deductible), costs for food, beverages and entertainment for a companywide picnic are fully deductible.

Recruit a committee for each major component, including site selection, food and entertainment. (Remember, a task delegated is a task escaped.) Have committee members gather feedback about the pluses and minuses of previous years' picnics. Read 373 Plan an Organizational Meeting.

Research locations, taking into consideration the travel time from employees' homes or the office.

Plan the menu with the venue and attendees in mind. If at all possible, have your committee sample the fare ahead of time. Good-quality ice cream bars trump stale cupcakes. Should the proposed baked desserts taste like cardboard, you may be able to arrange for a more palatable alternative from another source. Make sure the menu offers vegetarian options. Too often picnic fare features only hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken or barbecued meats. See 331 Hire a Caterer.

Decide on the entertainment, making sure you have activities that appeal to everyone who will be attending. If you can persuade managers to take turns in a carnival dunk tank, you'll have at least one guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Order any party favors well in advance. Special logo T-shirts or baseball caps are always popular, but also consider Frisbees, water bottles, tote bags and beach balls.

Create and distribute catchy invitations. A well-planned picnic deserves finer fanfare than a companywide e-mail message. Have the invitation blown up to poster size and displayed prominently around the workplace.

Set up a Web site about the party and list its URL on the invitations. You can post updates, driving directions and answers to frequently asked questions here, saving the organizing committee a lot of effort.

Print out a schedule of events and important reminders to hand out to attendees as they arrive at the picnic site.

Keep a detailed notebook containing all contracts, menus, publicity material, favor choices, entertainment ideas and any other significant decisions and resources. This will give you an overview of planning--and it will provide an immense aid to the person who handles this job next year.

Tips & Warnings

  • When estimating the amount of food needed, err on the side of too much rather than too little. Late arrivals should not go hungry.
  • There are a number of event directories, often found in wedding guides, such as HereComesTheGuide.com. Type "event venues" into a search engine. Find out if any special insurance or permit is required for your size group. Once you've selected a venue, book your reservation as early as possible.

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