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outdoor event

The Great Outdoors

Lizzy Eaton, founder of Oddity Events, shares her top tips on creating a memorable outdoor summer event

I goes without saying that the events industry is excited to meet face-to-face at the earliest possible opportunity, but myself and the team at Oddity Events & Marketing have been wondering if the same enthusiasm would be felt across other sectors. 

Our team polled 115 people with a view to better understanding attendee confidence with regards to the return to in-person events, and aligned the results to the roadmap out of lockdown, with some possible activities at each milestone. The polling revealed a significant appetite to attend events this summer, with 53% of participants saying they would be interested in attending events from 21 June or earlier, if the appropriate measures were in place. 

While these individuals may be just as keen as we are to attend in-person events, we have to ensure we don’t exacerbate Covid-19 anxiety with busy inside spaces with poor ventilation. With this in mind, what better excuse is there to make the most of the fair-weather days of summer than with an awesome outdoor event? 

Here are some of our tips for braving the great outdoors for events in 2021.

Location, location, location

With many still working from home, accessibility and convenience will be key incentives for attendance. 

Consider access to transport links, cycling routes and parking facilities; can people get to the venue and return home safely themselves? If not, look into hiring private transport to collect and return guests at more convenient stop-off points. 

Similar to an indoor event, your location needs to have enough space to accommodate everyone safely for the attendee journey around the event to make sense, and to account for different areas of usage. For example, the main event area needs to be away from the toilets, which in turn need to be away from the catering area, and all of which need to have access to electricity. 

Take all of your delivery partners on a site visit where they will help you map out the area into appropriately sized zones based on what they need, their location in relation to each other and the available power points.

Permits, notices and safety 

When holding an event in an unlicensed public space it’s important to carry out due diligence and obtain permission from your local authority. The Government’s guidance on temporary event permits reads: “If you do not have a Temporary Events Notice and carry out an activity that you should have a licence for (or allow your premises to be used for one), you can be fined, sent to prison for up to six months, or both.” So, don’t get caught out.

If the landowner has an existing premises licence, check the terms and licence period, and ensure the activity you wish to carry out is included within those terms.

If your event is for fewer than 500 guests and a premises licence is not in place, you may need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice, which will allow you to serve alcohol and hot food and provide entertainment. 

An organiser should also check for noise restrictions and curfews; these will apply at established venues with outdoor space too. 

Work in collaboration with your suppliers to ensure safety is a priority at your event, for everyone involved, and don’t forget to organise insurance. You may wish to appoint a health and safety specialist to help you cover all the bases.

Have a plan, whatever the weather

It would be wishful thinking to believe the not-so-famous Great British sunshine will hold out every single day over the summer period. 

If the event is fully outdoors, include structures such as a sailcloth marquee or stretch tent, which provide shelter from the elements but can look great, too. 

If your event is being held outdoors but at a venue, check that a wet weather option is included in your contract and always run through the process for what will happen if it starts raining during your event. If your budget allows, offer branded umbrellas as a take-away gift. This shows good humour, and your guests get useful swag that won’t go straight in the bin.

If you are unfortunate enough to have a wash-out on your event day, you should have a contingency plan in place. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and ensure you are in close contact with your suppliers and venue in the run-up to ensure all partners are aligned and in agreement with the wet-weather plan. 

Food, glorious food

Sometimes, one of the most memorable elements of an event is the food, and selecting the right menu is one of our favourite parts of event planning. 

Make sure to work with a catering partner who has experience with outdoor events and that they can consult with you on the best menu options that are suitable al fresco. 

This could be a great opportunity to use food trucks or independent street food vendors. This will ensure all food is prepared to order and will be memorable for your guests, as well as supporting small businesses who may have suffered during the pandemic. 

Waste not, want not

It’s important to understand where the waste from your event will end up. At Oddity, we try to ensure the events we run for our clients are aligned with the overarching values and policies of their organisation.

If your client or organisation has a strong sustainability policy, reinforce this in the events you deliver, particularly where there is a significant amount of waste involved.

Select suppliers that have zero waste to landfill policies, and which prioritise sustainability in the delivery of their services. Work with your suppliers and venue or landowner to understand where your event waste will end up, and ask whether they work with any social enterprises to recycle or reuse materials.

Place waste receptacles in as many places as you can to make sure no litter gets left behind. Be clever and creative with signage to make sure people put the right things in the right bins.

The Covid-19 legacy

Despite the success of the vaccination rollout to date, there will be a lot of Covid-19-related considerations to add to your list while you are planning.

Even though you are hosting outdoors, some delegates may still be anxious about attending, while some groups may not have been vaccinated. We recommend engaging with your attendees ahead of the event to establish their fears or concerns, and how you can best put them at ease. This could mean implementing some hybrid features such as live-streaming the entertainment, adding gamification via an app or virtual platform, or sending goody boxes with treats to those who would prefer to join remotely.

Sadly, the pandemic has seen many event businesses close, and the road to recovery will be long. We recommend supporting independent and local businesses wherever possible to help them get back on their feet. 

With the reduced number of suppliers operating at full capacity, you will need to allow ample contingency time in your project tracker to make sure each supplier is able to work with your time frame. You may need to factor in some extra time for further research and supplier or contractor sourcing, and make sure your suppliers have insurance too. 

This is by no means an exhaustive checklist for planning outdoor events in summer 2021. But rather, this is what we at Oddity will be doing to make sure we respond to our clients’ evolving needs, enabling them to deliver impactful but safe events for their audiences. Though it may take a while for the industry to fully recover, we know it’s only a matter of time before our calendars are full of events, both outdoor and indoor, once more, and we can’t wait.