The ultimate guide to a flawless outdoor event season
Hosting outdoor events with live production elements can be a thrilling experience for both organizers and attendees. However, ensuring that everything runs smoothly amidst the unpredictable outdoor environment requires meticulous planning and execution. In this guide, we'll explore key strategies and considerations to host successful outdoor events with a focus on live production elements.
Why are Special Planning Efforts Necessary for Outdoor Events?
Planning events and live productions outdoors creates a world of opportunity for planners and attendees, but it also creates a lot of variables one wouldn't face when hosting inside a venue.
Venue selection is one of the key first steps to planning an event. These days planners and organizers around the globe have no shortage of choice when it comes to venue selection. And, while indoor venues are getting better and better at predicting the needs for a wide array events, there's still something special about the ambiance and experience created when one decides to host an event outdoors.
That said, choosing an outdoor venue often means you must go without the many certainties and amenities that come with hosting indoors. It also means that planners must subject their event to variables that are totally out of organizers' control. The good news is, planners and producers have been perfecting the art predictably successful outdoor events despite of the challenges for decades. So, whether you're interested in hosting an outdoor event out of necessity (such as size of event, type of event, etc.), or because of experiential/aesthetic benefits, this guide will serve as your guide to success! While we will focus on live production elements, there are a multitude of non-technical aspects that must be handled appropriately to ensure proper execution of the live production elements. You'll find them all described below!
Your Guide to Outdoor Event Planning and Live Production Management
What Every Event Planner Should Know Before Deciding to Move Their Live Production Outdoors
Choosing the Right Location
Selecting the perfect outdoor venue sets the stage for a successful event. Consider factors such as accessibility, size, amenities, and local regulations. Ensure the venue can accommodate your production needs, including space for staging, sound equipment, lighting, and audience seating. Every venue has different rules and regulations for their outdoor space. It's important to have a thorough understanding of those parameters to ensure you can execute all desired elements of your production.
Many outdoor events take place on public, city or state-owned, parks, streets, and other community-driven venues. There are city ordinances and required permitting processes for nearly all aspects of events including resources needed for live event production. In addition, many cities requires a minimum of 90, or even 120 days, notice by submission of application, so timeliness and advance planning is of the essence! Refer to your city's special events department for guidelines specific to your area.
Weather is one of few variable elements that planners and event organizers have no control over, and as a result, the primary reason outdoor events are riskier than utilizing indoor venues. Have a comprehensive weather contingency plan in place to mitigate risks associated with rain, wind, extreme temperatures, and other weather conditions. This may include having tents, umbrellas, heaters, or fans on standby, as well as alternative indoor locations if necessary.
You may also need additional tents, fans, or other equipment that serve to protect the electronics and technical equipment at your event. Your chosen production company should specify what is necessary and if they expect it to be provided for them.
Get familiar with seasonal weather patterns in your area and work closely with your venue and contracted vendors to ensure you have a plan in place that keeps everyone on the premises, event staff included, safe in the event of a major weather event. You should know where to send attendees to seek shelter, how you will mitigate the risks of extreme temperatures, rain, lightning, and high winds.
Weather contingency plans often require additional investments to hold an alternate venue and/or weather contingency related rentals (fans, heaters, tents, etc.), so be sure you prepare for those elements during the budgeting process.
Ultimately, outdoor events are at the mercy of mother nature, and in some cases events must be moved to an alternate location, postponed, or all together canceled. It's crucial the venue and all vendors are consulted as your planning team determines what solution is best for your event. If you secure an alternate venue, make sure your vendors are familiar with the backup venue and know their plan of action should it end up being the location the event is hosted. It may require them to be prepared with different equipment and rentals to produce the same show you were promised in your outdoor space. It's also an opportunity to ensure your vendors can set any expectations about how the production will vary should you have to change venues. Lastly, it's important to establish with all vendors at what point they need you to make the call to switch venues in order to ensure they can be ready at the alternate site when doors open. In some cases this requires you to change venues at the possibility of bad weather as opposed to waiting for it to arrive.
Outdoor events are at the mercy of Mother Nature and require a certain level of flexibility from everyone involved to minimize stress, unexpected expenses, and potential accidents.
Technical Setup and Equipment
Invest in high-quality audio, lighting, and video equipment suitable for outdoor use. Work with experienced technicians to set up and test equipment well in advance to avoid last-minute glitches. Consider factors like ambient noise, natural lighting changes, and power sources when planning your technical setup.
Your contracted production company should advise on what equipment best suits your event. They will consider factors such as, brightness of screens, quality of sound equipment and number of speakers to distribute sound across event space, additional power needs from generators, length of cable needed, just to name a few.
Stage Design and Layout
Designing an effective stage layout is crucial for maximizing audience engagement and ensuring clear sightlines. Consider factors such as stage size, placement, and accessibility for performers and crew. Create designated areas for VIP seating, sponsor booths, and amenities like food and beverage vendors.
A well appointed event space can make or break your event, and whether the live production is the main attraction of your occasion or supplementary to another main attraction, getting the stage placement, screens, audio, cable runs, generators, etc. correct is extremely important for the event as a whole.
In addition to the other elements of the event, consider direction of the sun (and its placement for the duration of your entire event), built-in structures, ground conditions (flatness, softness, accessibility of sidewalks, etc.), and restroom access when designing your event layout.
Again, it's always wise to consult your contracted vendors, including production company, to advise on optimal conditions, so you're able to weigh what you must prioritize to achieve your event goals.
Crowd Management and Safety
Safety should always be the top priority at any events. Implement crowd management strategies to ensure smooth ingress and egress, as well as to prevent overcrowding and maintain social distancing if applicable. This can include perimeters and barriers around the event as whole, protecting the stage, back of house spaces, and front of house. Have trained staff or security personnel on-site to address any emergencies or disturbances. Depending on event size and anticipated attendance, many cities will advise on how many uniformed officers or other security staff they will require for your event.
Always have a first-aid station on site that is easy to find with clear and visible signage. Make sure you have trained staff or even professional EMS to work your event. Reach out to an EMS provider in your city to get a recommendation specific to your event. They typically have a department dedicated to providing services for special events in their city.
Arguably, the most critical component of an effective crowd management and safety plan is communication. That said, it's wise to consider requesting wireless communication devices as part of your rental package from your production vendor. Consider everyone you might possibly need to reach quickly or notify in mass should there be an emergency, establish different radio channels for each facet of your event and make sure the event lead has the ability to radio all channels at the same time. Rely on local emergency and safety officials for advice on the most efficient safety plan for your event.
Talent and Entertainment
Curate a diverse lineup of performers and entertainment acts that appeal to your target audience. Whether it's live music, theatrical performances, or interactive experiences, choose talent that enhances the overall ambiance and theme of your event. Coordinate rehearsals and soundchecks to ensure seamless performances on the day of the event.
It's wise to hire a professional emcee to help transition between different elements of your live production if it has several components. On that note, if you have a multitude of things that will happen on one stage, rely on the help of your hired production company to help coordinate getting instruments, props, and people on and off the stage in a timely fashion.
In addition to talent accommodations and green room spaces, it's important to offer sheltered break space with food and water for your vendors and event staff. Many are often the first to arrive and last to leave and are spending more time subjected to the elements than anyone else at your event. They're also the people you're trusting to execute your vision, so you need them on their A-game!
Engaging Visuals and Branding
Keep your event goals in mind and take into account the technology and resources you will need to achieve those goals.
Create visually appealing signage, banners, and branding elements to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your event. Incorporate thematic elements and cohesive branding across all aspects of the event, from stage backdrops to promotional materials. Consider incorporating interactive installations or photo opportunities to encourage attendee engagement and social sharing. In addition to print signage, digital boards create dynamic and unique opportunities for this aspect of your event. Your production company should be able to offer a variety of options and configurations should you opt to incorporate digital boards for branding into your event.
Again, rely on or consult with your production vendor to ensure all branding materials for stages and other production structures are comprised of the appropriate materials, hanging apparatuses and are sized properly for the structures. Consider if branding materials should be double-sided. Outdoor venues often have fewer walls or other structures to hide the side of signage you wouldn't typically want your attendees to see.
Time to Take the First Step to Planning Your Live Event Outdoor Production!
Hosting outdoor events with live production elements can be a rewarding endeavor, offering unique opportunities for creativity and community engagement. By carefully considering factors such as venue selection, weather contingencies, technical setup, crowd management, talent curation, and branding, you can create memorable experiences that leave a lasting impression on attendees. With thorough planning and attention to detail, you can ensure that your outdoor event is a resounding success from start to finish.
The most important takeaway from this guide may be that you're never alone in your planning journey! Your vendors are eager to help and provide recommendations based on their unique areas of expertise, so involve them as early as possible and consider them a resource. They are there to provide aid in logistics, safety, and creativity. Step one: Find the right vendor and give them a call! Use this guide along the way to ensure you're asking the right questions!
Need more information on any of the recommendations provided in this guide? Contact us! We're here to help!