Are you planning the summer party this year but have no idea where to start the planning process? Below, we’ve gathered some advice on how to throw the ultimate office summer party to help you on your way.
A lot of companies tend to only organise a Christmas party, but having an office summer party can really help boost morale and create a mid-year incentive for staff. Denis McCourt, director of event organising company Awesome Events, says: 'Summer parties are a way of saying thank you to staff half-way through the year and they can also have an element of surprise about them as people might not expect to have one.'
So you better make it a good one – here's how to do it.
Planning a successful event is a time-consuming affair and requires a lot of organisation, so allow yourself plenty of time to get everything sorted. Four to six months ahead is not an outlandish time to allocate.
Find out what kind of party you want to have
Before you start planning and working out the budget, it’s important to set the tone for what kind of event the summer party will be. Is it intended to be a celebration for staff to reward them for all their hard work over the past six months? Or perhaps external stakeholders or clients are invited and you’re feeling more of a networking vibe? Are employees’ families invited? All of these questions need to be answered before you start planning for real.
When will you have it?
This is another important logistical detail that is good to get out of the way early on.
For instance, deciding on whether to have the party on a weekday or during the weekend can be a real deal-breaker. Some employees might not like the idea of having to use up their free time (i.e. the weekend or evenings) to spend time with colleagues, while others might see this as the perfect treat. Likewise, staff might consider it an incentive and a reward to not have to spend an afternoon in the office, making a weekday party during office hours something to consider. Ultimately, go with what you think will make the majority of the employees happy.
Once the above is figured out, set a date – and do it early. The summer is a busy time for everyone with holidays and kids off school, so to ensure that as many people as possible are able to come, get the date in the diary ASAP. This doesn’t mean you have to have everything sorted by the time you set the date – send an invite out asking people to put the event in their calendars and say there will be more info to come.
Set a budget
Yes, this is a boring one, but a crucial one. This will dictate everything relating to your party, from venue, food, booze, theming and entertainment, so get it sorted before your imagination starts running wild. A giant, inflatable bouncy castle sounds fun, but can you afford it? 'Don’t go crazy on budget as there’s some great deals out there,' recommends Denis from Awesome Events.
Cover the basics
The most important thing at any event is food and drink. Imagine this: you’ve really gone to town with this year’s entertainment; you’ve secured the most immersive theming known to man and even managed to bag an exciting live music performance. But mid-way through the event, you run out of booze and you realise that half of your guests haven’t had anything to eat yet. We can guarantee you that that’s what people will be talking about the next day. How do you avoid this? Never skimp on food and drink.
Check out our list of caterers who can supply excellent food to your office summer party to kick start your plans.
Find a theme
Establishing a theme for the office summer party is not only fun allowing you to get your creative juices flowing, but it will make planning your event much easier. Once you have a theme sorted, it will guide you in deciding stuff like food, drink, decorations, props and entertainment. Take a Mexican theme as a perfect example. Food: easy, tacos! Drink: pah, margaritas of course. Decorations: piñatas, piñatas and more piñatas. Props: where can you order 50 sombreros?
Awesome Events’ Denis says that the most important thing is to create a relaxed environment for your guests. 'Plan plenty of activities and don’t go for a seated dinner – staff don’t want to be dressed in black-tie for a three-course meal if it’s 26 degrees outside, so go for bowl food or street food stations as they encourage mingling and networking,' he says.
Think outside the box
When deciding a theme, don’t limit yourself to the obvious and try to avoid the classic summer themes such as Hawaiian pool parties, park picnics and Summer of Love. How about Arabian Nights, Millennial Pink or (dare we say it) Après Ski?
Denis from Awesome Events thinks there’s more scope for it to be a bit crazy when it comes to summer party ideas. 'We have had clients booking themes such as ‘Ibiza’, ‘Baywatch’ and ‘90s’ with lots of outdoor games and fun group activities in large areas,' he says.
Find the perfect venue
A venue can really make or break your summer party. One, you need a venue that reflects the theme you’ve decided – you can’t have a tropical-themed beach party in a dingy, dark cellar can you? Two, it needs to suit the number of people you’ve invited. Three, does it have what you need in terms of AV, lighting and technology to suit what you have planned for the do? And four, it needs to match your budget.
Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of finding the ideal venue? Our free concierge service is here to help you. Send us a brief of what you have in mind for your event and we’ll send you a list of recommended venues that matches your requirements. You also get points when booking with us, which you can use to redeem rewards.
Incorporate team building
Introducing some corporate team building activities as part of the programme for your summer party has many benefits. For starters, it’s a great way to get everyone in the office to socialise, allowing people who might not normally chat to each other strike up a conversation. Who knew that Brenda from HR and Joe from sales got on so swimmingly? Furthermore, it helps boost morale and adds a bit of fun to the party. Finally, it can work as the entertainment for the evening, meaning you can kill two birds with one stone.
Need inspiration for what sort of team building to organise? Here are 12 epic ideas for summer team building activities.
Take the weather into consideration
The only predictable thing about the British weather is its unpredictability, so prepare for anything. Do you have a party planned that is at risk of getting ruined by heavy rain? Think of alternatives and back-ups right from the start, such as retractable roofs, marquees or covered terraces. Rooftops are great for summer parties, but if your event is in the evening, have jumpers and blankets at the ready in case the temperature drop.
Take dietary requirements seriously
To ensure everyone has a good time at your office summer party this year, help keep vegans and people with dietary requirements and allergies happy by offering an exciting F&B menu for them. Go for cuisines that work well with dietary requirements such as Mexican and Japanese, stock delicious non-alcoholic drink alternatives (not just your standard soft drinks), and ultimately, don’t make dietary requirement-people feel like a burden.
In today’s Instagram-influenced, all-encompassing and activity-based day and age, heading down to the pub to get merry for the afternoon just doesn’t cut it. People expect far more from their office parties these days, so consider investing in some good entertainment for it. Alternatively, opt for an ‘immersive’ venue, where food and drink is delivered as part of a wider immersive scheme. Funicular Productions at Pedley Street Station, for instance, offers dining in a train carriage with an audience-participating show being played out during the meal.
Have someone do it all for you
Does this all sound like too much effort for you? Consider hiring an event planner, who, as an expert in the field, knows all the latest trends, what to look out for and how to organise the perfect summer party for your company.
There are also entire event agencies out there that are dedicated to throwing epic corporate summer parties, such as Awesome Events. The company has a reputation for creating show-stopping corporate events, both exclusive and shared ones, across several venues in London.
For the summer, Awesome Events has popped up the London City Beach on London’s South Bank, where food stalls, craft beer bars, VIP beach huts, palm trees and – of course – sand is there to create the ultimate summer party backdrop. It also has brand-new astroturf with plenty of seating, outdoor games and Instagrammable areas.
Got team building days to organise? Here are the team building activities that work best for corporate groups (and why).