Spring is in the Air and it’s time to plan your fantastic summer outing. Whether it’s a barbeque on the corporate lawn or an all day event at a local destination, your event should foster a fun and healthy relationship with your employees and their families. Last year due to the economy, many corporate outings were eliminated or significantly cutback. However, most companies consider employees to be their most vital resource. At company events, employers have the opportunity to thank employees – and their families – and acknowledge the contributions that they make. When executed well, company events play a vital role in boosting employee morale and work productivity. They build stronger relationships and make us feel we are part of a family that is greater than ourselves. And the best events are FUN!

When was the last time you had FUN – not a “nice” time but a really FUN time? When we conjure up a fun memory, usually a smile or mischief grin appears on our face. For most adults, the answer was playing with their children. For others, it was playing games to just being silly and laughing with family and friends. However, all answers involved some form of “playing” – that is, being actively engaged in a highly enjoyable activity that includes laughter and a sense of well being. In childhood, whenever someone said “Let’s Play”, we knew that was code for “let’s have fun!” Children’s eyes light up with anticipation of what’s to come. (Mine too!) Just thinking about having fun, creates a conditioned response that makes us feel better. Try it- think of the last time you had FUN!

Today, we are asking employees to do more but with fewer resources and smaller budgets. Employee events – whether it’s a picnic, a teambuilding charity event or softball game – helps us regain perspective and reenergize. Just like the energizer bunny, we all slow down unless our batteries are recharged. And now scientists understand why play reenergizes our spirits, enhances brain development and opens imagination and creativity.

Play is also the glue in our relationships – at work as well as at home, according to Stuart Brown, MD. author of “Play”. When people are having fun they are relaxed, more creative and open to new ideas and to helping others. So if you are committed to guaranteeing a FUN company outing, here are some Best Practices to consider:

  1. Establish an advisory committee.  Invite “influencers” from different departments and age groups to serve on it. These employees are good at rallying the troops and getting the word out to their peers and gathering feedback.
  2. Remember that committee members are employees too.  They should be able to enjoy the event with their fellow employees, family and friends. They can also better evaluate the experience.
  3. Interaction is key!  Pick a venue where your employees can play together – and that includes senior management.  Does your venue provide an event planner or event specialist? If not, hire a Picnic Game Planner to run the festivities. The planner will help you establish event goals, get the most for your budget, assist with the menu options and create the dynamic flow of your event.  You will benefit from their knowledge and experience and all the events that they have previously managed.
  4. Make your event FUN and Great!  (But define “fun“ and “great” so you’ll recognize it when you see it.) You can have all the right “tools” (picnic games, attractions, rides, food, etc.) but it is how you use them that will make all the difference.  For example, your goal is to create a picnic where everyone is actively engaged in a fun and memorable event – that everyone talks about for months.  And those that didn’t attend wished they had, and plan to do so next year.
  5. As we already discussed, don’t settle for “nice” when you want “fun”.
  6. Similar to #3, designate an event emcee or “ring master”.  Like the 3 ring circus, the ring master will make sure that there are memorable moments, and will orchestrate employee and family interaction, create shared memorable experiences to talk about back at the office and plant.
  7. Have an alternate plan for bad weather. Hoping for good weather is not a good plan! If this is your annual employee family event and your company is generously spending thousands of dollars on this event – have a game plan.  Does your tent have sides? Provide a number(s) to call the morning of the event, send email blasts and inform everyone to check the company website (or venue event) site the morning of the event if the weather is of concern.
  8. Be certain your attractions are varied, popular and age appropriate. The buffet should be freshly prepared with a choice of entrees, sides and salads. Have options for your vegetarian guests. Consider a themed event.  It enhances the sensory experience with colorful decorations, music, games, food selections, etc.  Are there parking fees or is it free? Is the parking sufficient for your group size?
  9. Prepare an event itinerary and post the Activity & Game Schedules in several places.  Provide preprinted name tags with employee names in a different color than their guests so they can be easily identified. Establish committee ambassadors (identified with their name tag) so people know who they can go to with questions.  Ambassadors can facilitate introductions and help new employees get engaged in activities.  One of your goals could be that every employee tries to meet 5-10 new employees from their building or from other departments. Perhaps they’ll discover that the difficult person in accounting must be an okay guy because his wife and kids are terrific and they seem to like him.
  10. And finally, for companies that don’t have the budget for an outing, many companies have employee –run recreation clubs that plan and pay for their own outings.  Your company can still play a supportive role by helping to negotiate better rates, sell tickets on consignment and promote the event.

In summary, I believe Oliver Wendall Holmes said it best:

We don’t quit playing because we grow old, We grow old because we quite playing.

So work hard but keep on playing! And have fun this summer!


Elena Ruane is Vice President of Events & Marketing for Trails Entertainment Centers  -owners of Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Parks in Joliet and Burbank and Enchanted Castle Restaurant and Indoor Entertainment Complex in Lombard. She can be reached at 630/670-4876 or at


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