Posted 10/15/2012 12:00 am
Think back for a moment to your last company outing or retreat. The sound of a squeaky golf cart tire fills your ears. Your fingers grope for the clammy inside of a bowling ball.
While golfing and bowling are fun activities in their own right, if either of these memories ring true for your last company outing, it may be time to step it up a notch and host a memorable and valuable event that benefits your company and employees long after it’s over.
Make it fun.
Jeanie Reed, owner of Little Rock-based Special Project Services, plans events and retreats for companies throughout the state. She said the event she remembers best is a carnival-themed appreciation day for a local bank’s employees and their families.
“The event included carnival games with prizes, rides, food and a full day of fun,” she said.
Instead of the usual company picnic, raise the fun factor by adding a unique theme or location. Making it family-friendly will let everyone mingle and get to know each other, breaking down the walls of titles and ranks and helping build more meaningful relationships.
“The employees appeared very grateful for such a fun event,” Reed said. “It was a great time to be together outside of the work environment.”
Make it worthwhile.
Beyond the fun and engaging activities should be a goal that benefits everyone. Think about different challenges an outing can help address.
If much of your staff telecommutes or works in offices separated geographically, a little face time can go a long way toward promoting unity and a lasting sense of teamwork. If you’re in a high-stress environment, integrate a relaxation element to keep outlooks bright and productivity high.
The bottom line? Attendees should leave with something they didn’t have before.
“People don’t care what entrée they eat or what the meeting room looks like,” said Krista Debuhr, owner of Fayetteville-based event planning service Snerq Productions. “They remember what they learned and how it impacts their life.”
Make it memorable.
While the company round of golf is an old standard, it isn’t necessarily exciting to everyone.
Choosing a creative theme or set of activities will help make the outing valuable and memorable for its participants. Branch out with activities that teach lessons everyone can take home. Debuhr recommended a cultural experience in which employees can learn a phrase in another culture’s language, receive CDs or playlists of that culture’s music and enjoy its food.
“These team-building activities are less traditional, but more engaging and encourage growth inside and outside the office,” she said.
Perhaps not everyone plays golf, but it is possible to hold an active outing for all.
Alan Sims, vice president of sales and services at the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, suggested trying zip lining, a group Segway tour or bike ride built around a company picnic as ways to promote attendee interaction and team unity.
Don’t expect to have a successful outing with only two weeks of notice. Bookings and arrangements have to be made and employees have to be notified.
The more time you can give yourself and attendees, the better the chance of everyone getting what they want — participants have time to make arrangements, and logistical details are more likely to work out in your favor.
Sims emphasized the need to lock in the venue first, especially for larger outings.
“The best events are a result of careful planning and organization,” said Kathy Findley, meeting and events manager at Heifer International. “Pay attention to the details. Create a checklist of items needed, people to contact and reservations to be made, deadlines for deposits, contracts and guarantees.”
Finally, why should employees come to your event? If you can’t think of anything better than making it mandatory, it’s time for a different approach.
If big prizes aren’t in the budget, simply making staff feel appreciated can go a long way. But most important is keeping your event interesting. Findley says Heifer International attracts attendees by making the outings fun and full of surprises.
Integrate a meaningful theme, a rewarding sense of camaraderie and fun-filled activities and you’re sure to have an event people will be talking about until next year.