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How to host a great outdoor event

August 24, 2020

We promised ourselves we wouldn’t use the C-word… but unfortunately we can’t avoid it. COVID-19 is still disrupting the events industry. We’re simply not sure when indoor events will be given the green light, but event planners are able to run outdoor markets and other events. Here’s our advice on the best way to host a successful outdoor event…

Think logistically

Outdoor events need to be safe and spacious. For example, it’s no good hosting an outdoor market if all the stalls are situated too close together. Guests shouldn’t have to squeeze past each other. There should be enough space throughout your event site to accommodate social distancing. If you’re concerned about space, ticket your event and limit the number of attendees at any one time. Conducting a thorough risk assessment should help you to figure out where potential risks could crop up and will help you to mitigate against these.

Check your licences

Do you have the right licences and permits in place to operate an outdoor event? Are there noise restrictions, and are you allowed to sell food and alcohol outside? Speak to your local authority and make them aware of your upcoming event.

Plan arrangements in advance

How will you power your event? Is there plenty of parking available? Where are the toilets situated? And how many do you need (top tip, check out this toilet hire calculator)? How will your event staff and volunteers communicate with each other? When will you load in and load out, and how long will this take? Before going ahead and marketing your event, you should know how it will all logistically come together. Working with an existing outdoor facility could be the ideal solution, or you may want to find a blank canvas instead.

Weatherproof your event

Have plenty of covered stations such as marquees or food/drink tents to give people respite from the rain if bad weather impacts your event. You never know what the weather will be like, so it’s important to have contingencies in place. Make sure you also have adequate adverse weather insurance to protect you if you must cancel your event due to bad weather.

Avoid self-serve

This is relevant to many scenarios. Buffets, food produce for sale, welcome drinks… Don’t allow guests to help themselves. Keep any edible items covered and choose a staff member or volunteer to serve items to individual attendees. Hiring street food vans is another great option for outdoor events.

Instead of providing drinking fountains or open jugs of water, ask guests in advance to bring a refillable bottle with them. They can then request a refill from event staff.

Rent or buy: you decide

Decide early on in the planning process whether you’re going to buy or rent furniture or décor. It may be cheaper and logistically easier to rent chairs and tableware. Make a list of everything your event will need and compare the prices.

Improve accessibility

Just as with indoor events, you must make reasonable adjustments to your outdoor event to make sure a person with a disability can attend and enjoy it equally. Consider adjustments such as accessible entrances, exits and pathways. Ensure plenty of staff or volunteers are available to help, and are willing to do so. You can’t always pre-empt ways to help every individual, so the key is to be adaptable, flexible and helpful. Be welcoming and empathetic, so guests know their queries or requests will be responded to. That leads us nicely on to our next point…

Train your team

You can’t expect a team of temporary staff or event volunteers to hit the ground running. Detail what roles and responsibilities you need each person to fulfil. Explain how you’d like them to behave and give them the tools they need to carry out their tasks effectively. For example, if you need a member of staff to sell tickets, make sure they’re comfortable with the calculations and know how to work your card machine.

Here’s some more advice on recruiting great volunteers to help make your outdoor event a roaring success.

Call security

It’s important to keep your event safe and secure. Barrier off areas where people could sneak into your event without a ticket, and place security staff at entrances and exits. If there’s a one-way system in place, make sure volunteers are on-hand to guide people seamlessly around your event. Ultimately it’s your job to keep guests safe, so you should have the right level of security in place to help deal with potential disruptions or emergencies.

Consider lighting

Even summer events will experience darkness at some point! Prepare for the sun going in by hanging fairy lights or placing hurricane lanterns strategically (and safely) around your site. Make sure pathways and parking areas are particularly well lit. Be particularly vigilant about wires or extension cords – you don’t want any trips or falls!

Spread out your speakers

Place four or more speakers across your event site to ensure the music is evenly spread. Make sure the speakers are placed high and keep the volume low, so your guests can enjoy relaxing music wherever they’re sitting or standing. Top tip: choose upbeat music everyone can sing along to – don’t just choose songs you personally like.

Don’t talk rubbish

Make sure there are adequate bins placed around your event site. Outdoor events are prone to littering, as guests leave behind packaging or leftover drink cups. Guests are far more likely to keep your event tidy if you make it convenient for them to throw away and recycle their rubbish.

Be prepared

Stock up on hand sanitiser, wipes, sun cream, portable chargers, first aid kits and any other amenities you think your guests might need. It’s better to be over-vigilant than underprepared. You should also have a little black book of emergency contacts on-hand too. If something doesn’t quite go to plan, you’ll be able to call for help as soon as possible.

It’s a sign!

There’s nothing worse than attending an event and having no idea where anything is or where to go next. Make sure your signage is on point. Guests should know where entertainment is happening, where the toilets are and where to buy food or drink. You should also prep paper handouts or menus, if necessary, to minimise the number of guests wandering around when they’re looking for one specific thing. 

Do you have other top tips on how to host great outdoor events? We’d love to hear from you! Chat to us over on Instagram.

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