Post it and they will come! If that’s how your company promotes its’ summer picnic or holiday party –- then you might want to reboot your approach this year. Too often the date and location are set and posted with reservations accepted until the deadline. The process is in place, implemented and completed. But if you’re experiencing low turnouts or staff grumbling that they “have to go” on their day off, you might have a morale problem but it’s probably just a contagious case of “Ho Hum – doesn’t sound like fun!” reaction.

The “facts” may be posted but according to author Jonah Leher of “How We Decide”, human beings make decisions based on their emotions and support those decisions with facts. So this year focus on your event’s “sizzle” – persuasive promotions that will build your attendance and event’s appeal.

First, determine how you will define a successful event, such as:

  • 80% attendance
  • Favorable post-event survey results
  • Majority of attendees staying for entire event
  • Group interaction and building sense of camaraderie
  • Raved about the food
  • All of the above

Getting there is half the fun!  Have fun building a buzz about your event, one that has people talking about it and looking forward to “experiencing” it.  Here are some ways to build your buzz:

Get Skin in the Game:  People are more likely to support an idea or event when they have invested their ideas or time.  Organize an employee picnic advisory committee or assign each department a pre-event responsibility – but keep it simple. They can research venues and make recommendations, another group could purchase – or barter for – raffle prizes, recommend entertainment and games that are fun to watch and great photo opps. Most importantly, engage everyone to be event promoter selling a day of fun and excitement.

Know Your Audience:  Conduct pre and post-event surveys to learn what is important to your guests.  Have you included activities that will appeal to the variety of ages and interests?

Diversify to Multiply:  To ensure a good turnout, make sure your advisory group has good representation from each department and age group. You want cheerleaders and peers who can rally the group and have them looking forward to attending the event.

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words:  Post photos – and quotes – of employees having fun at last year’s event. This serves to remind them and inform others that this is a FUN event! If it’s a new venue, ask the venue for photos showing other guests having a high spirited good time!  If your group likes themed events – pick a new theme – include decorations, a themed menu, games, and entertainment. Set up an event web page with photos, video and employee raves and quotes. Post event teasers, announcements and updates.  Looped videos can also be played on TV monitors in your cafeteria, employee break rooms and lobby monitors and posters in the hallways.

Get Social:  Set up a special Facebook or event web page so you can post and send email or text updates to keep your guests engaged. Post and distribute a fun-packed agenda and timeline.  Announce the entertainment that has been added, the delicious BBQ and dessert menu and photos and showcase your best raffle prizes (and the fantastic odds of winning one!)

Photos of your group having fun, smiling and laughing, playing games and enjoying great food on a beautiful day can be the emotional connection that has your group really looking forward to the event.

So this year add the “sizzle” that turns your annual picnic into a greatly anticipated special event – and then, deliver the promise and bask in the fun.


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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