1. Use your organization’s style as a starting point:
Not all types of events are right for every company. When tasked with coming up with a creative appreciation event, I use our organization’s style as the foundation for type, location, and theme selections. For example, our company has a style that is modern, youthful, and sophisticated, so I try to stick to open and contemporary venues with clean and simple décor. Companies with a more playful atmosphere might have more spirited themes like a carnival or 1950’s night perhaps at a beach or a movie theater.
2. Involve the audience in planning:
Especially for our annual corporate awards banquet, I generally have a committee of coworkers who come from different facets of our company: office staff, human resources, manufacturing employees, etc. We meet frequently enough to keep everyone on the same page, but I still take the lead for final approval of ideas. There can be a fine line between your coworkers getting too involved and not involved enough, so make sure to establish a committee size and perhaps even hand-select your members who you know will be reliable.
3. Tie into the local community when you can:
A great win-win for a company is combining an appreciation event with a charitable and/or community event. For our organization, we love to partner with the American Cancer Society for a local walk/run event they put on annually. Our company covers the registration cost of employees and their family members while also matching any donations that our employees raise or submit. On the day of the event, we offer breakfast before the race begins and pre-purchase lunch tickets for any attendees. Other ideas might be working with Habitat for Humanity to assist with a home build or choosing a day to walk and play with the animals at the local Humane Society. In my opinion, these are the best types of events to do, since they are an all-around win!
4. Change up the venue:
This can be one of the most fun aspects of event planning and where your creativity can run (a bit) wild. I try to alternate years we are at a local venue (in Sheboygan, WI) versus a destination venue (e.g. Lambeau Field, Harley Davidson Museum, etc.), where the venue is a large part of the draw for attending. The destination venue then becomes the theme for the event which can make décor and setup easier. Conversely when we host events for our employees at a more local venue, I get creative with our theme! In 2017, we chose to stay at a local venue which still gave us fabulous event space, but we spiced up the lack of ‘destination’ with a Casino Royale theme for the evening. We had casino games available before and after the program and incorporated red/black into our décor and design. Many aspects of the evening were dusted with the Casino Royale theme, but we really came full-circle with the event when our grand prize was a trip to Las Vegas.
When your company allows, invite those friends and family members who support your coworkers. The grandmother who babysits every other Wednesday and the spouse who works alternating hours to accommodate the employee’s schedule deserve to be thanked by the organization as well; the employee likely wouldn’t be on your team without their support system. Try out a family picnic or discounted group sports tickets! Our company invites employees and their families and friends to an annual open house. You would be surprised at how many employees love to show off what they do to their supporters.
Regardless of which path you choose for your employee appreciation event, just remember that the key is to highlight the dedicated employees and their hard work which makes your organization successful!
Meg Kerscher-Walsh, MBA started her career in events in 2013 in Sheboygan, WI after obtaining a degree in Marketing from Marquette University. As an event coordinator, she organizes and executes a variety of events including tradeshows, sales meetings, corporate events, and educational seminars. The assortment of events she plans takes her across the globe having planned events in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, to name a few locations.