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Checklist for Organizing Company Picnics


Checklist for Organizing Company Picnics

The most important part of organizing a company picnic is finding someone to be in charge. Unfortunately, if you’re reading this article, that person is probably you. But don’t worry.

Whether you’re the kind of person who enjoys being the ringmaster or the kind of person who tries to sit in the back of the room in a round-table meeting, your company picnic can be a big success, using our tips.

Our Best Advice is to Start Early!

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Six months (if you're lucky) before the picnic:

  • Find out where the funding is coming from!
  • Contact HR to find out how many people work for your company, division, or group and whether you can invite any contractors (sadly, inviting contractors may cause legal issues).
  • Contact management to find out whether the picnic will be chargeable on company time or not, any requirements for doing so—and whether that limits your choice of locations (and beverages).
  • Sketch out a rough plan for what kind of food and entertainment you’ll have and take it to management. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask for volunteers to help come up with ideas—if you’re not feeling adventurous, come up with the ideas yourself and present them as au fait accompli.
  • Location, location, location! You need to find a location that will hold all the participants and equipment. That may mean serving burgers in shifts (11-12, 12-1) or having the meal in one area and the entertainment in another.

The reason you want to start so far ahead is due to the difficulty of obtaining a good location for possibly hundreds of people. Honestly, you can salvage almost any other disaster—but not having a location will kill your picnic. Remember when picking a location that you’re going to have to have an enjoyable picnic come rain or shine—also come snow, 108-degree heat, high winds, and crying babies. All at the same time. Find (or create) a location with shade, protection from the wind, and bathrooms.

Three months before the picnic:

Plan the entertainment. This is a great time to take advantage of your co-workers; for example, if you have coworkers who have a talent for the world’s spiciest chili, play a mean game of chess, have a charity they need to raise money for, or have a volleyball net or tug-of-war rope, now is the time to bribe ask them to volunteer. Here are some suggestions:

  • Team sports: basketball, softball, volleyball, tug-of-war, golf, mini-golf, Frisbee golf (more Outdoor Game Sets)
  • Contests: dunk tank, eating contests, talent contests, cookoffs (or brew-offs, if allowed), card games (but watch out for the weather)
  • Fundraisers for a worthy cause: pie in the face (“Highest donation gets to put a cream pie in management’s eye!”), tournaments, feats of strength and coordination (like three-legged races while sticking a spoon to your nose), auctions
  • Miscellaneous: “best of” awards (for example, “best appetite”), board games, charades, white elephant exchanges

Remember, it doesn’t have to be normal, it just has to be enjoyable. Make sure you have a mix of activities so the extroverts and introverts don’t end up alienating each other, for once.

Plan for prizes, too. A great way to do this is decide on items people will enjoy with company logos on them for the ultimate bragging rights (we offer volume discounts). If you have a contest, consider having a trophy made and including a gift certificate. (You’d be surprised at how many businesses will offer free or discounted gift certificates just for the asking, especially for fundraisers.) Nobody will give 110% for a company t-shirt, but find a t-shirt with a clever saying on it, and all kinds of introverts will come out of the woodwork for it.

One month before the picnic:

  • Gather your volunteers and hand out their assignments. Keep a list of who will do what—including backups. Get their contact information.
  • Make sure your volunteers know how the money works—who gets the receipts and how they’ll get reimbursed.
  • Plan the main dish. Unless your company is 99% vegetarian (and even if it is), this will probably involve grilling. While grilled food is tasty, this seems to be more of a requirement to keep the grill-masters happy than anything else. You will probably not have any difficulty finding people to grill for you.
  • Plan the main dish accompaniments, including buns, condiments, veggies, etc. Note: if you’re going to use onions, use red ones, not white or yellow. Red onions aren’t as strong—either to eat or to serve in a large container.
  • Plan the side dishes. Remember, a cooler will keep things reasonably hot, or perfectly chilled. Some easy sides include potato salad, chips, green salad, sliced fruit, corn on the cob, baked beans, and giant pickles. More interesting side dishes can come from your local natural-foods or ethnic grocery store. It can be very amusing to have a side dish that you have to dare people to try.
  • Plan the beverages. Alcohol is fun but can cause a lot of trouble. Regardless of what you drink, don’t forget to assign a volunteer to handle the ice, both for chilling the beverages, and for adding to glasses. Don't forget the portable bar-ware and adult beverage sets and wine sets if you decide to partake in a drink or two, and remember they make exciting prizes everyone will compete for!
  • Plan the equipment. Keep track of who will provide the equipment, who will transport the equipment to the location, and who will set up the equipment. My advice: you’ll have enough to do; make sure it’s not you! You’ll need:

Make sure someone is responsible for getting the following supplies.

  • Plates, cups, napkins, personal utensils
  • Serving containers and serving utensils
  • Trash cans and bags (with extra cans and bags for recyclables)
  • Tablecloths, heavy-duty clips, masking tape, plastic wrap
  • Bug control supplies, if applicable
  • Cleaning supplies

Make sure these task get done:

  • Send out invitations. If possible, have someone create a colorful announcement for you and send it out as well as adding it to the company newsletter. Note: if you have a company newsletter, you may need to send out an announcement earlier. Ask the newsletter coordinator.
  • Ask for a volunteer to take pictures; if you have a newsletter, ask for a volunteer to write a short article. If possible, make sure these people have a good sense of humor. The last thing you want are serious mementos of your picnic.
  • Write down a schedule for the entertainment and send it to your entertainment volunteers.
  • If your picnic will be chargeable on company time, make sure you have someone to fulfill whatever requirements need to be met (for example, someone to read off the yearly safety presentation).
  • Consider having an MC for the picnic—someone in management who will stand up in front of the group, make announcements, make fun of your co-workers, and make sure that things happen reasonably on time.

One week before the picnic:

Panic. At least a hundred things will go wrong, be forgotten, get lost, break, or go on an unannounced vacation by this point. If there is any single item on your checklist that hasn’t gone wrong by this point, e-mail your volunteers and find out if anything has gone wrong, and they just forgot to tell you about it.

Send out reminders that the picnic is coming soon.

One day before the picnic:

Panic some more. Call your volunteers again. Send out another reminder.

And personally call the person in charge of the main dish to make sure that anything frozen is being defrosted. Call them twice.

The day of the picnic:

It’s too late to panic. Take a chill pill, get your list of volunteers, and check them off as they arrive, supplies in hand. Keep your cell phone ready to call your backup volunteers if your main volunteers fall through. Keep things loose. Yes, you’re the organizer, but you should have fun, too.

After the picnic:

Get everyone to help clean and pack up. Make sure the area is how you found it or better.

Pass out leftovers and collapse.

When you recover, send out pictures (or a link to them on a shared drive). There should be some doozies!

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