A corporate summer party is the perfect way to entertain clients and reward staff. As we usher in long, light evenings, people feel relaxed and ready to celebrate outdoors with a glass of something sparkling. Whether it’s a drinks party, summer ball, BBQ, posh picnic, cocktail evening or mini festival, make sure you dial up the feel-good factor and add a few memorable flourishes to your event.
Your guests will always remember the first five, and last five, minutes of any event so welcome them in and see them out in spectacular style to leave a lasting impression. In between, think of the mood you want to create – style, theme, lighting and sound all add up to an overall impression that makes your guests feel a certain way – ideally excited, delighted and part of something special.
At Octopus Events we plan and deliver corporate summer parties in Oxfordshire, the Cotswolds, London and beyond. The beautiful southern English countryside where we are based is home to an abundance of stunning venues with gorgeous grounds, so we’ve got plenty of ideas and suggestions up our sleeves.
If you’ve left your planning a little late this year, we can work with a short lead time. Sarah once pulled off a mini Olympics and summer BBQ for around 200 people in a matter of weeks! When it comes to guest (and venue) availability at short notice, holding your party on a Monday or Tuesday evening can work well. This often avoids clashes with people’s prior social engagements or with highlights of the summer sporting calendar, like Henley, Wimbledon, Goodwood or Cowes.
Here are our tried and tested top 5 tips for creating an unforgettable corporate summer party.
1. Planning and Brainstorming
Resist the urge to dive in feet first and take the time to plan and brainstorm the style and feel of your corporate summer party, bearing in mind the goal of the event. Think about why you’re hosting it, who will be coming and what will appeal to their specific tastes. If it’s a client event, focus on the wow factor, exclusive elements, and fabulous entertainment and catering. If you’re rewarding staff, incorporating elements of fun and personalisation can create a feeling of togetherness and loyalty.
Having a theme gives an appealing narrative thread to your event and provides a link between different elements like catering, décor and entertainment. At Octopus, we’ve organised summer parties with themes that have varied from English country garden, circus, Arabian nights and chilled Ibiza to Alice in Wonderland and Caribbean beach party. One of Sarah’s favourites was an evening summer drinks arranged for a client on a luxury river cruiser on the Thames. Sailing through central London at dusk against a backdrop of iconic buildings and bridges lit up, while live jazz and soul music played, was magical.
Lastly, don’t forget to set a budget and stick to it. This is something we can help you with, particularly when it comes to factoring in all your areas of spend and which areas to prioritise.
2. The Invitation
The magic ingredients at any event are enthusiastic guests so make sure your invitations are irresistible to elicit a flurry of excited RSVPs. Your invitations set the tone and play an important role in your event’s success. Using a local designer to create something quirky and unique is a good investment to build excitement about your corporate summer party. Just remember to use eco-friendly materials if you’re printing anything.
Choose a special venue that draws people in – somewhere that guests aspire to be. Everyone wants to tell their friends that they’re visited an exclusive hotel or be able to share pictures of themselves in front of a spectacular, iconic view. The more excited your guests are, the more positively they will engage with your business whether they’re internal stakeholders or external clients.
Think about whether your chosen venue has gorgeous outdoor and indoor spaces. Summer parties conjure up appealing images of champagne on immaculate lawns but if your event is in the UK, a wet weather backup is essential and shouldn’t be a disappointment compared to the outdoor space.
Consider whether you will have exclusive use of the venue and, if not, how private will it feel. Bear in mind the logistics of parking and accessibility as well as how your event will flow – where will the caterers be based, is there a good space for the DJ and will guests be able to find the washroom facilities? It can help to visualise and map out all of the different elements and how guests will move between areas at different times, always prioritising ease, comfort and atmosphere.
A few of our favourite venues locally for corporate summer parties are Blenheim Palace, Newington House, the grounds of the Wormsley Estate, Combe Manor Barn and Barton House and we have close relationships with them all. If you’re looking for a rooftop bar for late summer/early autumn drinks, the new Store Hotel in central Oxford, opening later this summer, could be a fantastic option.
For more venue inspiration, take a look at our blog post on the Top 10 most exciting venues in the south-east
It’s crucial to get the entertainment right as it’s such a major part of your guests’ experience. There are many different options available from live bands, DJs and string quartets to singing waiters, immersive actors and entertainers. Experiential food stations are proving popular at the moment and are a great talking point as guests mingle. If it’s an all-day event, consider building in some outdoor activities like tennis, archery, Sunseeker excursions or luxury spa visits. Don’t forget to include photography, whether it’s a creative photo booth, prop station or professional photographer.
Whether it’s a drinks and canapes reception, an informal BBQ or a sit-down dinner, your guests will always remember the food! Catering is one of the key ingredients (pun intended) of a successful event and any theme for your party should be incorporated into the menu. We recommend working with a catering team who use seasonal, local produce and can cater for guests’ dietary requirements as well as your budget. Consider partnering with a British vineyard, wine merchant or local distillery to create a bespoke cocktail or drinks menu, especially for your corporate summer events. Recently for a joint 60th birthday party that Octopus Events organised, guests were offered one of three specially designed cocktails (or mocktails) on arrival. The cocktails were based on the client’s favourite flavours and drinks ingredients. The name of each cocktail had a personal connection to the couple.
These are just a few of our top tips for summer parties. At Octopus Events we’re bursting with ideas, advice and recommendations, so get in touch today to talk about your upcoming corporate summer party.
There’s no obligation, a discovery call with Octopus Events is a chance to talk about your goals and how we can use our extensive event management experience to help you achieve them.