Meetings Canada

Opinion

Managing an Outdoor Event


More than a tent and a warm breeze, safety should be top-of-mind for outdoor events.

By Gale Gingrich, CAAP, CMP

When you take an event from a venue to the great outdoors, the dynamics change. Each element of the event needs to be carefully thought out, with regard to risk management, logistics, traffic control and a thousand other details. The following tips should help you deliver an outdoor event as seamlessly as an indoor event.

When you take an event from an indoor venue to the great outdoors, the dynamics change. Each element of the event needs to be carefully thought out, with regard to risk management, logistics, traffic control and a thousand other details. The following tips should help you deliver an outdoor event as seamlessly as an indoor event.

ASSESS PRIVACY
When choosing a venue, make sure you completely understand your client’s requirements. If they want a private event, you will need to negotiate a buyout. If it is within a venue where your guests will mingle with the public, find out how much control over their group the client wishes.

OBTAIN A PERMIT
Keep in mind that with many outdoor venues, it will be necessary to obtain a permit. As permits usually take time, start early. Even if you do not need a permit for the venue, you will need one for tent(s), which your supplier may be able to provide. Be sure to ask.

ASK QUESTIONS
Find out exactly what is provided at the venue. If you are installing a tent, is the ground level? Is the venue agreeable to the tent being installed the day before your event and taken down the day after? Is there a power source? Is there a water source? Are there enough washrooms for the size of your group? Is your caterer used to working under the available conditions? What elements on the property may be cause for allergic reactions (i.e. straw, animals)?

PREPARE FOR AN EMERGENCY
Hire St. John’s Ambulance. Even if he or she has absolutely nothing to do, it will provide you with peace of mind.

Make certain SUPPLIERS ARE INSURED

Once you have determined your suppliers, have them provide you with their certificate of insurance. Make sure the amount is adequate (minimum $5-million) and that the appropriate parties are added insures. Keep in touch with them, make sure they know exactly where they are going, how they are going to get there and what time they are expected.

CHOOSE MENU ACCORDINGLY
When selecting your menu, take into account that it is an outdoor event and that there will very likely be limited access to either water or power. Barbecue is ideal and your caterer should be able to make the menu as straightforward or as lavish as needed. If the weather is hot, have plenty of water and beverages available.

PLAN FOR ALLERGIES AND MOBILITY ISSUES
Let your guests know the type of venue (zoo, heritage village, farm, etc.) and location of the outdoor event. Ensure you ask for allergies and mobility issues. For example, if you have an attendee in a wheelchair or on crutches, you will need to make sure that the attendee is able to get around the venue as easily as everyone else.

COMMUNICATE WITH ATTENDEES
Provide attendees with a map to the venue and parking instructions, and make sure that there is adequate signage to your event area. Make the sign-in process as easy as possible. You may want to include the forecast and suggested attire suitable for the weather conditions.

BUILD-IN TIME FOR ATTENDEES TO EXPLORE
Choose the type of entertainment suitable for your group, with enough free time away from scheduled activities to take advantage of, and enjoy, the venue itself.

RELAX
Remember that you have no control over the weather. If you have provided shelter, asked your guests to dress for the weather and have hot drinks if the weather is cold and cold drinks if the weather is hot, there is not much else planners can do.

Gale Gingrich, CAAP, CMP, is President of The Gingrich Group Inc.



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