How to Plan a Work Event: Tips from the Experts

Summer is nearly upon us.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself slapping on the sunblock and getting ready to bat cleanup at your company softball game. Afterward, you’ll all feast on a picnic and share stories. You’ll revel in the fact that you’re together with your co-workers in the warm sunshine and not in the confines of your office.

While planning a work event like a picnic may seem simple, there are plenty of nuances you want to keep in mind.

We reached out to workplace experts across the country for advice on how to plan a successful work event.

Never Forget the Fun

Even if you’re just hosting a picnic at a local park, you should invest some planning in events that serve no other purpose than letting everyone have fun.

Jeff Kear, owner of online event planning software Planning Pod, says fun is a catalyst for a great event, as obvious as it may sound. Summer is the season of good times and your event will be competing with epic family vacations and weekend getaways.

“Most employees and their families have a lot of activities on their plate in the summertime, and many of them involve doing something fun, like going to a ballgame, or going hiking, or a trip to an amusement park,” Kear said. “Unfortunately, your work events have to compete with these other activities, so you need to give your employees incentive to attend your event.”

Carnivals are a great way to get kids involved, Kear said, along with raffles and booze, as long as they fit within company rules.

“Just make sure that you are offering fun activities that resonate with your audience,” he said.

Nail the Creature Comforts

Planning a memorable work event is all about mastering the details, says MaryBeth Hyland, founder of consulting firm SparkVision.

You should consider everything from the temperature of where the event will be held to providing enough food and drink for everyone and making sure everyone knows where and when to go.

“These are the most basic yet most important aspects of any environment,” Hyland said. “Believe it or not, they are often overlooked, which is why they are the very first thing to take care of. Creature comforts are the things that we need to stay physically comfortable.”

Make the Food Free or Do a Potluck

As great as the actual event may be, every employee hopes that food and drink will be on the house. When that actually happens, there’s a sense of relief that enhances the enjoyment of the event.

Laura Handrick, a workplace analyst at, says companies should make every effort to provide a free meal.

“The best way to get employees engaged in after-work events is to provide food and drink,” Handrick said. “If it’s in the budget, have the event catered by a popular restaurant nearby. There’s nothing like ‘prime rib sandwiches’ or craft beer to entice employees to show up at your summer offsite work-sponsored event.”

Sophia Borghese, an SEO and content specialist with NOLA-based Online Optimism, says renting food trucks is also a great way to build excitement about an event.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the company to pay for the cost of food and drink, then consider doing a potluck.

Handrick pointed out that if the event is a sporting event, a potluck is a great way to tailgate. Also, getting people to sign up to bring a dish is a good way to get commitment.

“Once employees agree to ‘bring something’, it’s more likely they’ll attend, as they won’t want to let their peers down,” Handrick said.

If You Can, Keep Everything Free

There’s nothing that says “employee appreciation” like an event that will cost your employees nothing, says Bill Fish, co-founder of sleep site

As a Cincinnati-based business, Fish says a common work event is going to a Cincinnati Reds game. And, when the events are planned, he makes sure his employees don’t have to pay for tickets, parking or food and drink.

“I believe the key is to not ask the employee to spend a dime once they make it to the event.  Thus, we always find tickets in a hospitality area that includes food and beverages,” Fish said. “The goal should be to have everyone in a relaxed fun state and get to know the team on a personal level.”