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16 Tips to Plan a Successful Outdoor Event

Imagine RIT 2011 Festival

Imagine RIT is an annual spring festival that showcases innovative and creative work of students, faculty, and staff. The campus-wide festival attracts over 30,000 people in one day. May 7, 2011.

As warm weather comes around, more outdoor events are planned. These can be lovely, but be forewarned — outdoor events are sometimes much more difficult to organize than indoor events.

Here are some tips on how to plan an outdoor event and to minimize stress:

1. Get a permit

Do this as soon as you’ve finalized where and when you'll have your outdoor event. Do this first. The fastest way to shut down an event is to hold it without a permit.

2. Check up on all ordinances

What are the noise ordinances? Every town has them. Is noise prohibited after a certain time? You should also look into fire and safety codes. The latter may have restrictions on overselling tickets, advertisements and seating. Talk to the state and local authorities, the local fire department and the police about these.

3. Some outdoor events need more work than others

Is your event being held in an already existing outdoor facility? Great! That cuts your work in half. Otherwise, are you targeting a raw, uncommon area? Then advance planning and coordination is critical. You can expect to be in charge of everything — power, toilets, communications, equipment and food, among others. Make arrangements to bring everything to the venue, and taking everything out of the venue after the event is done.

4. Load in, load out

Think beyond the event schedule itself, and factor in "loading in" and "loading out" time for everything, including arrangements for power, security, sanitation and other elements of the outdoor event.

5. Logistics and layout

Take photos of the venue, include a sketch and use markers to denote where you want your vendors, et. al. to be set up. How will the equipment be loaded in? The crew and guests? Have a meeting at the venue in advance, with all of your suppliers, so that you can all coordinate the downloading of equipment, parking of trucks, parking space for guests, and other possible needs.

6. Power

Foodway stations, DJ, and areas that will need lights all will need power stations. If there are not enough, tell your vendors to bring extension cords, and check the power load per plug. Coffee makers and crock pots should not share extension cords with sound equipment. Also, have a back-up power system on standby.

7. Ensure the comfort of guests

Have a steady supply of drinking water and drinking fountains. Make sure they're spread all around the venue. Some events, like concerts, provide hosing for crowds. Consider renting portable air conditioners, too.

8. Sanitation

You don’t want any mistakes made here. A lack of restroom facilities, or poor toilet facilities, can ruin your event. Make sure you have enough sanitation equipment not just for the guests but also for the crew.

9. Pest control

Have an exterminator spray the area. Take note of how long it will take after extermination for the food to be safely set up in the area. Keep cans of light scent (such as aloe) repellant handy, and incorporate decorative citronella candles. Decorative plate covers can keep the food protected and also make the table setting look attractive.

Keep a few electric fans running. It keeps the guests comfortable, and blows the mosquitoes away. Another strategy: Place a plate full of sugar water around the perimeter area to keep the bugs busy and out of your party.

10. Amenities

Keep hand wipes, light blankets, sunblock, bug spray, wraps and any other things available that you think will make your guests more comfortable.

11. Lighting

An evening event will require lights even for exit paths, walkways and parking areas for convenience and safety.

12. Health precautions

Have medical professionals on standby, especially if your event is in a remote area. Or at least keep a first-aid kit handy. Prepare a list of the nearest hospitals with directions on how to get to there.

13. Communication

This is especially important for events at remote sites. If the land is hilly, make sure your walkie-talkies have enough power to get through.

14. Monitor the weather

The most common reason to cancel outdoor events is inclement weather. Buy weather insurance, and start monitoring the weather as far in advance as possible. You can get forecasts at weather.com. Also, keep the wind in mind. You don’t want things to blow over, so make sure that everything is anchored securely.

15. Plan for the rain

Have a “plan B” in case of rain. Bring a tent, and know in advance where the DJs can go, the desks, and the food. Portable pavilions can double to provide shade for guests and protection in case of rain. Some of these pavilions even have lovely sidings that can be rolled down in case of rain, and intake vents to accommodate portable air conditioners.

16. Clean up

The event may be over, but your work is not. Make sure that you have made arrangements with the local sanitation department for cleaning up afterwards. Otherwise, have a hauling firm on hand for clearing the area, once the event is over.

Do you have any additional tips to add? Share with your peers in the comment section, and get a link back to your blog.

Photo by Viktor Nagornyy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Mona Sabalones Gonzalez is a veteran writer, editor and columnist in her country, the Philippines. She has also contributed articles to regional and some international publications. She and her husband Ed do publicity and advertising writing for select clients and media coverage for events. Mona has written for several online publications and she and Ed have a personal blog, The Euthymic Dog, which is about their shared passion for animals and the environment.


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