Do you ever feel like your events need a change of scenery? You’re not alone. More event planners are closing the door on typical locations like a hotel ballroom and opting for more unique locations, like airport hangars or—believe it or not—parking lots. Demand for non-traditional meeting facilities rose 3.8 percent in 2018.
If you’re planning an event and want to make it stand out, consider heading outdoors. Getting under the sun or stars can add a fun element to your next event. Fresh air also boosts receptiveness and creativity during important business meetings.
In our latest Blue Papers® edition, we give you tips to run a successful outdoor event. With a little creativity—and outdoor giveaways—you can create an event to remember.
First things first
Before you begin planning the finer details of your outdoor event, set your goals. Know your target audience and what you—and they—expect from the event. By focusing on your goals and your attendees’ needs, you’ll stay within the project scope.
From there, you’ll be able to select the appropriate:
- Games and contests
Choose a location…and a backup location
Once you’ve committed to hosting an event, it’s time to choose a location. No matter the season, weather can create issues for outdoor gatherings. As you select your location, consider choosing a venue that has a convenient indoor option as a backup.
Use your location and decoration to create a unique celebration
A large field and food trucks might suit an employee picnic perfectly. But if you’re bringing together several businesses for networking or sales purposes, you’re better off putting up a tent that’s surrounded by gardens or other eye-catching landscape.
While you might already have a resort, country club or park in mind, when it comes to outdoor events, the sky is truly the limit. Consider choosing an uncommon location, such as…
In larger cities, the top level of a parking garage is usually open-air and has a great view of the surrounding city. As a bonus, being in a garage takes care of any parking concerns.
A location like this likely won’t have much in the way of shade. Providing a large tent or smaller canopies, like the Standard Event Tent, can give people a place to get out of the heat. Fans, whether they’re made of cardboard or are battery-operated, can also help visitors beat the heat.
Airport tarmacs or hangars
Many smaller airports close in the evening, making these wide-open spaces ideal for nighttime gatherings. You can even help the evening “take off” with drone or model-airplane flyovers. Lighting provides a number of fun decorating ideas. Lanterns, LED lights, and flashlights can create a cozy atmosphere and double as promotional items for outdoor events.
Parking lots are like a blank canvas and can be set up in a variety of ways to build your ideal space.
Put up event tents, ropes or another barrier to define your party area. Or set up food trucks on three sides and put a large screen or stage on the fourth.
Practical planning for outdoor parties
Once you’ve selected your location and setup, it’s time make sure you’ve planned the fun and functional parts of your gathering:
If you need more parking spaces than the location offers, check with local businesses or schools to see if you can use their parking lots. If the event is in an out-of-the-way location, think about providing a shuttle or other transportation. Shuttles don’t have to be complicated, either. Consider using rented golf carts operated by volunteers.
Does your venue have power available for food vendors, sound systems and anything else that needs electricity? If not, consider renting or borrowing portable generators.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check if your location has, or can get, Wi-Fi to ensure all guests have online access. Sixty percent of smartphone users use their devices at events in many ways:
- Attendees at a business meeting will likely be using their laptops or other devices to access files online.
- Guests may upload pictures or talk about your event online to spread the word about your company or brand.
- If you’re using an app to send push notifications or schedule updates via email throughout the day, attendees will need online access to view them.
Make sure there are easily available, clean restrooms at your venue or be prepared to bring them in.
Keep the day running smoothly
On the day of your event, a little extra planning can help you handle minor challenges with ease.
Make a master plan and an org chart
When you arrive on site on the day of the event, provide copies of any contact information people might need. A complete list of vendors, volunteers and phone numbers allows people to reach the correct person if questions or emergencies arise.
Having a schedule of events can also keep your gathering on task and on time, providing an easy reference point for workers and attendees.
Provide practical products
Promotional items for outdoor events can help keep your attendees comfortable and having fun. For example, Spray Sunscreen with Insect Repellent and Summer Island Sunglasses help protect them from insects and the sun.
Martine Trusz, the assistant head of school at the French American School of Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, Calif., found the perfect outdoor giveaway to help her event run smoothly. For the last two years, they’ve held an end-of-year “Olympics” for the preschoolers, pre-K and kindergarteners.
They held the event at a park within walking distance, which simplified some of the preparation. “Taking children this age on a field trip is a challenge, as we have to have one chaperone for every two students,” Trusz said. “Happily, parents love this event, too, so we didn’t have any trouble finding volunteers.”
With so many chaperones and children in the mix, keeping the right team members and the right adults together was a bit of a challenge. To help the chaperones keep track of their teams, the school gave every child an UltraClub Classic Cut Cotton Twill 5 Panel Cap. Each team received a different color cap. Not only did this simplify team sorting, but it also kept the kids’ faces shaded.
The Olympics were a big win for kids and adults alike.
Keep fast fixes on hand
Along with your org chart, keeping a few simple items easily accessible can help prevent minor issues from raining on your parade.
- Fill a box or tub with things like duct tape, batteries, flashlights, first-aid kits and other emergency supplies.
- Provide walkie-talkies so everyone working the event can get in touch with emergency contacts as quickly as possible.
- Make sure water is available everywhere. Dehydration can happen to anyone. Giving everyone an outdoor promotional item, like the Clear Impact Halcyon Water Bottle with Flip Straw, will help ensure they stay hydrated.
Send them away with a fun reminder
Once the event is over, you’ll need to determine if you achieved your goals. While you might look at connections or sales made, 84 percent of event marketers consider attendee satisfaction as the primary measure of event success.
Consider offering attendees promotional items for outdoor events as a fun reminder, a thank-you for offering their thoughts on the event, or both.
Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., holds three major picnics every year, along with various other fun student events, like archery, tag or scavenger hunts. At every picnic, they hand out 500 Gildan(R) Ultra Cotton T-shirts.
“We use them to entice students to come and spread school spirit,” said Craig Gullett, the assistant director of student life – student activities. “Many of them are tied to the themes for our first day, homecoming and spring picnic events.” The shirts also serve as a memory of a fun event while building anticipation for the next one.
Sun (or moon) and fun
While outdoor events might take more planning than those held indoors, the rewards make it all worth it. And with a little extra preparation and some outdoor giveaways, your event is sure to get talked about for some time to come.