Updated April 2010

Outdoor Event Tips

The spring and summer seasons are the busiest times of the year for us, and hopefully for you too. Warm weather blankets the entire country and everyone wants to be outdoors in the sun and fresh air.

This makes a perfect setting for an outdoor event. But, be forewarned, an outdoor event can easily be twice as difficult to organize as an indoor one. And, don't assume an outdoor event will cost less to produce than an indoor one. That is rarely the case.

Based on our experience and the feedback we get from clients, here are our top tips to help assure a successful outdoor event:

1. Plan ahead, plan way ahead.

The first step once you have decided on a date and location is to obtain a permit. Make sure you're legal. Nothing will shut you down quicker, and at the worst possible moment, than omitting this step.

Contemplate logistic issues. you may be faced with the challenge of a remote location or a long-distance load-in of equipment, crew and potentially guests, so it's wise to negotiate the event's accessibility issues ahead of time. We strongly advise clients to have a meeting on site, in advance of the event date, with all the suppliers, so the space can be experienced from a number of different perspectives; and all can benefit from communal brainstorming. See how the equipment will be brought in, specifically, where the trucks will park, and how they'll load in. Then, determine where the guests will park, and how they will get to the event site itself.

If the site seems less accessible than planned, consider that the outdoors are more flexible than an indoor venue, and you may be able to alter the terrain to suit your needs.

Investigate the noise restrictions, fire safety codes and any other city and state ordinances that may have the potential to shut down your event. Some cities have safety ordinances which regulate outdoor event safety issues, including festival seating, the overselling of tickets, and public advisement of events. Check with the local and state authorities near your proposed outdoor event and/or the local police and fire departments for this information.

Have a backup plan. always have a backup shelter in mind in case of bad weather, power interruption, or other outdoor hazards. It can be an on-site building like a covered pavilion or even a tent. Some of our more cautious clients even put a tentative hold on nearby indoor event space; you'll pay for it, but it could be an event-saver.

2. It can be like one big camping trip.

Outdoor events are like one big camping trip. Unless you are utilizing an existing outdoor facility, you'll be bringing in everything. Power, food, communications, equipment, toilets, everything. And when it's over, you be taking everything out with you. Advance planning and coordination is crucial.

Sanitation. Don't skimp on the toilets during an outdoor event. There is nothing that can ruin the impact of your event faster than sub-par, or too few, restroom facilities. Remember to think beyond the event dates in regards to hospitality facilities. The 'loading in' and 'loading out' days of an outdoor event require sanitation (and such other things as power, security, etc.). Don't forget your crew needs proper facilities to get the job done.

Back up power. When arranging for generator power, ask about having standby generators on site in case of a breakdown. You can usually negotiate this contingency for no, or very little, additional cost.

Communication. The more remote the site, the more important communications becomes. If your event will be located in hilly terrain, make sure your walkie-talkies are powerful enough to compensate.

Lighting. If your event will go into the night, plan not only to light the event area but walkways, exit paths and parking areas as well.

Clean up. Everything that you bring in, must be taken out. Hire a hauling firm to do the dirty work of cleaning up after the event. Or you may be able to arrange trash hauling with the local sanitation department.

3. Other things you may not have thought about.

Don't forget the pests. Count on having them, and prepare to exterminate them ahead of time. Pests, especially bees, can become both a nuisance and a liability. Make certain that the time of spraying does not conflict with what other vendors are doing and find out whether or not people can be around when the spraying takes place. You should also ask the exterminator how much time must elapse before food can be safely put out, whether linens can be on the tables during the spraying, and what the side effects of the various sprays are.

Heat. Body water is lost very quickly in hot weather. An adequate water supply is extremely important. Drinking fountains should be spread throughout the venue. For all day festival concerts, a hosing of the crowd, especially in the packed area front of stage, may be needed.

Safety precautions are particularly important when an event is in a remote outdoor location. Have at the very least a first-aid kit on hand and keep a list of local hospitals and directions to them from the event site handy. We like to see medical services professionals on hand and depending on the event, a full medical treatment center staffed by an M.D.

Monitor weather forecasts. Obvious, right? But surprisingly, more outdoor events are cancelled due to bad weather than for any other cause. When planning an outdoor event, give the weather the respect it deserves. Start monitoring forecasts as far in advance of your event as the weather services offer. Ten day forecasts are easily obtainable from weather.com, and others. Buy weather insurance.

Mind the wind. Wind is a frequent outdoor hazard. Assume everything can blow over and anchor them accordingly. We see almost as many "hit by blown object" claims as we do "slip and fall" ones.