How to Plan a Summer PartyWritten by Paul Mar 31 2015
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How to Plan Your Company's Summer Party
Last Sunday we were rudely awoken an hour early having crossed from the dark nights of daylight savings into the light, bright world of British Summer Time. It also heralds the beginning of a new financial year when the company coffers are bolstered and hopefully increased. It’s about this time that we start to see the summer party bookings coming in. In the events world, and the economy as a whole, summer soirees can be as a good indicator of recovery. Christmas parties are our God-given right to get sloshed with colleagues, generally at the expense of the company, summer events however are a decedent luxury, allowed only when the good times are rolling. They are often the victim of the first cuts of austerity, followed by being one of the last frivolities to be reinstated.
Anyway enough rambling, you’ve been given the highly envious task of organising an event to suit everyones tastes, from the 75 year old chairman to the 19 year old social media ‘guru’. How should you go about it?
Formal vs Informal
Summer parties generally fall into two camps. Formal dos often take the lead from the standard Xmas bash, suits & dresses, drinks reception (now outside), sit down meal, more drinks outside and a bit of dancing. Alternatively an informal event offers a relaxed affair, not bound by rigid timings or dress codes.
The decision will generally lay with your staff demographic, 300 year old law firm? Dust of the dickie bows. Digital start up? Better start looking for the perfect warehouse/car park.
Family or no family?
These events can be the perfect opportunity to introduce your loving family to the menagerie of colleagues you choose to spend most of your waking hours with. Cynicism aside they can be wonderful opportunities for companies to thank both staff & their families with a great event. If you are to invite family then it’s best to hold the event at a weekend and during the day. You’ll also need to make sure you bring in enough entertainments to deal with children of all ages, ball pits for the toddlers, X-boxes for the big kids.
Picking the perfect venue will generally depend on the type of event you’re holding and the budget you are trying to work to. In almost all cases a bit of outside space is a must,however given the Great British weather a contingency indoor space should be budgeted for. The most common venues are;
The Office: The budget choice, works well for family fun days if you’re lucky enough to have some nice grounds. City centre offices can work, but often events within them can feel a bit too much like forced fun.
The Summer Party Venue: Every year we see plenty of dedicated summer party venues pop up, and run of the mill venues offering summer party packages. These can be a godsend to event planners, taking away nearly all the hassle. Some venues offer comprehensive packages including BBQs, open bars, theming and entertainments, such as steel bands and ferris wheels. It’s worth noting that these do of course come at a price, in central London expect to pay anywhere from £80-£150per head for a decent package.
The Pub/Bar: Cheap, but in most cases cheerful, pubs are often the perfect antidote for pleasing everyone. One real benefit is that they will often waive hire charges in favour of minimum spends, meaning budgets can go much further.
The Wildcard: For those that like to ‘think outside the box’ look into galleries, boats and local parks.
Food & Drink
What happens here will obviously be impacted upon decisions about event type and venue. If you’re going the formal route make sure the menu is seasonal and in keeping with the heat, i.e. it’s probably best to leave curries, casseroles etc off. If you’re heading to the pub then sharing platters are usually a good call, and for every other event the most difficult decision will be hog roast vs BBQ.
If summer parties are the last bastion of entertainment to return after a recession then the entertainment is the last factor in the last bastion, make sense? Anyway this will again depend on how much you have left and how many people you are catering for. For those lucky enough to enjoy deep pockets you can go to town with theming, music and games. A perfect summer party theme is either the Great British Summer Fete (think ice cream vans, side stalls, folk bands, etc) or a music festival (bands, beers, fire breathers etc). If you’re going the family route then once again it’s imperative that you cater for all age ranges, Coco the Clown will delight the under 6’s, but probably leave the others slightly underwhelmed.
For the more formal events then look at jazz bands, caricaturists and street performers for the drinks reception, then possible a post dinner fireworks show.
Cost saving tips
While I could of, and have , written an entire blog on saving costs, I shall just point out a few key ideas to consider
1- Tag the summer party on the end of a conference. Obviously it’s only a saving if you planned the conference in the first place, but if you have one going on in the months of June/July and the venue is right then ask for a post meeting drinks reception, maybe with some canapés.
2 - Go to the park. Certainly a great idea for younger companies, get everyone to bring a dish, buy some games (rounders, volleyball etc) and booze and get everyone to head down to the park after work. Always worth checking with the council that this is allowed first!
3 - It’s been mentioned above but many pubs will offer minimum spends which save paying venue hire. You can offer free food and drinks up to a certain level or between certain times, and in most cases the party will still continue under it’s own steam once the budget has run dry.
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