Outdoor events are popular especially at this time of year. It seems that most of us want to take advantage of the warmer weather and get outdoors as often as possible. And there is something about being outside; the fresh air, the awe-inspiring sky, all of which adds to the refreshing energy of being outdoors. There’s no doubt that planning outdoor events can be risky. Some meeting planners feel that the risk is too great and they will often decide on an indoor location just to play it safe. But for those risk takers that feel it’s worth it, planning outdoor events requires all of the “what ifs” to be addressed.

Planning Events Outdoors Requires a Contingency Plan

Create an event planning checklist when you start your planning. Many weddings are held outdoors. And that’s one event where it’s not that easy to change the date. Nor are most events actually. Naturally the biggest “what if” that comes to mind for an outdoor event is the weather. As I mentioned earlier, an outdoor event has its own special look and feel. But that can change dramatically if the weather becomes unpleasant. If planned poorly your event can quickly become a disaster.

Here Are Some Tips to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Event:

a screenshot of's event planning checklist

Weather. Always budget for tenting and then set a cut off date for your decision as to whether or not you will need that tenant. The rule of thumb is that when in doubt go with the tent.

Venue. Consider outside venues that also have indoor spaces that you can use as a backup (don’t forget you’ll need to budget for that contingency). Also when selecting an outdoor venue determine if there are any obstacles, or challenges, that need to be addressed for your attendees. For example if there will be elderly people attending your event, you don’t want them walking long distances to get to the main area.

Washroom Accessibility. Many outdoor venues do have indoor facilities for washrooms. It’s important to determine how far the indoor washrooms are from the event’s main area. It’s wise to have portable washrooms on hand that can be placed closer to the event. If you only have portable washrooms for your event, budget two portables for every 50 people attending.

Communication. Promoting your event is crucial for its success regardless of whether or not you’re hosting it outdoors. But if you are hosting an outdoor event it’s also wise to suggest a little bit of added attire for your attendees. There’s nothing wrong with communicating upfront what people should expect. Will they be walking on grass (an issue for certain types of women’s shoes) or will there be a floor provided? Any information that you can provide upfront will help your attendees determine what they need to do so that they will enjoy themselves.

Transportation/Parking Area. Outdoor event locations often have a large parking area to load and unload coaches (or for parking if your guests are arriving individually). If your tenting budget did not include a walkway from the transportation area, then plan to have staff on hand with umbrellas to escort your guests to the main area. Even if it doesn’t rain having escorts on hand it’s still a nice added touch. Sometimes it’s the little attention to details that make events memorable.

Post Event Surveys. Post-mortems, especially for repetitive events, are crucial as they give a meeting planner an overview of what worked and what didn’t. I recently wrote an article about post event surveys here. Whether or not it’s an outdoor event, follow-up is crucial to your next event’s success.

Outdoor events when planned properly can be quite popular. But it’s important to take the time and address all of the areas, especially the “what ifs”, in order to ensure your event’s success.

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