A ten-step checklist for planning any outdoor event – from wedding parties to corporate meets.
Event planning is no casual matter, especially when you’re holding an outdoor event. As relaxing as all that natural scenery may be, it presents event organizers with a bazillion challenges – bugs, the weather, equipment, accessibility, food preservation, seating, bathroom facilities and myriad other things to worry about.
Amid all this hullabaloo, it is all too easy to forget certain essentials while spending so much time agonizing over inconsequential details. In this article, we show you how to get over this common pitfall with the help of our very own, peer-reviewed, scientifically verified, ten-step checklist.
Feel free to use this as a check-off list for planning your outdoor event. We promise it’ll ease your event-planner headache.
1. The Venue
Where exactly are you hosting the event? Is the location well suited to outdoor gatherings, or are you headed for a venue without any infrastructure whatsoever?
Whatever the case may be, the choice of location will have a significant impact on your event and the amount of logistical planning it may require. You may have to transform an untamed natural landscape to a makeshift event center – and figure out how to deconstruct it afterwards.
So ensure you tour the venue well in advance. Do your due diligence, and note any perks or quirks. How’s the weather? Are there bugs? What’s the terrain like? Will it get water logged if it rains? Carefully note everything you discover during your tour.
2. Rules and Permits
Most city authorities require you to have a license or permit to hold events with live music, movie screenings, or fireworks. You may also need a permit for serving food or beverages at your event.
Besides these, zoning permits, gathering permits, equipment permits and several other licenses are often required for outdoor events. Ensure you do your research and obtain all relevant permits beforehand. Presumption can be a grievous error.
Another of the rules that applies to outdoor events nationwide is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Essentially, your event should be as accessible as possible for everyone present, including the disabled. It’s a lot easier to meet this requirement by ‘inclusive’ event planning.
Exactly what accessibility means depends on the nature of your event, and the number of expected attendees. Generally, you should try to provide:
- Adequate room around parking spaces for the extra maneuvering required by wheelchairs.
- Easily accessible pathways for people with mobility issues.
- Clear lighting and signage with letters in san-serif font for easy wayfinding by those with limited vision.
- ADA-compliant portable restrooms with ramps, wide entrances, roomy interiors and toilet paper dispensers within reach.
- Well-trained support staff wearing easily identifiable uniforms
If you want your event to be as inclusive as possible, consider from the outset how you can help attendees with disabilities to navigate any issues that might arise.
4. Weather – Plan for your Outdoor Event rain or shine
Inclement weather is always a possibility. A heavy downpour or a scorching heat wave can render your event venue completely unsuitable. And although subtle changes in weather will not totally ruin a venue, they can drastically affect your attendees’ experience.
A good precaution is to have a building close to the event venue, and spacious enough to accommodate all the guests in case the weather becomes extreme. You should think of other contingencies as well.
Keep your communication channels active to inform your guests of any changes if the weather goes south just before your event. If it rains, for instance, and you think the grounds may be muddy, you might have to change the dress code and ask attendees to bring a change of shoes.
Of course power is an issue you’ll have to consider. For a typical virgin landscape with no pre-installed infrastructure for event hosting, you will have to arrange for power supply, wiring, and lights.
Even if your electricity needs are extremely modest where you need only one microphone or rely solely on natural lighting, an off-grid environment will need quite some work to generate enough power for your needs.
Again, think of the weather – your generator, if you’re using one, should be safely under cover and away from muddy ground. This way, you effectively weatherproof your power supply and avoid the inexplicable confusion of a power outage when your event is in full swing.
What kind of equipment is needed for your event? While any event could probably get by with a power generator and some lighting, outdoor gatherings may require additional machinery such as acoustics, fans, heaters, audio/visuals, a stage, or dance floor.
You’ll also need kitchen facilities for cooking, heating, food storage and preservation. It’s best you choose vendors with experience supplying for outdoor events. This way, you can rest assured that all the equipment needs of your event will be met. Keeping a centralized list of purchases will help prevent any overlap.
One of the highlights of an outdoor event is the food – think hot spicy dishes, hog roasts, barbecues and street food. But it can be a massive event planning headache to put together the needed infrastructure for caterers to work their magic.
Hire good caterers, and listen to their needs. If they say they need a full kitchen to deliver what you’re asking, try to see how you can adapt your plans, or make reasonable adjustments to the menu. Be realistic about what facilities are required to produce great food, and what you are ready to provide.
Yet another thing to consider is where to place the food stands. You don’t want a line of hungry people obstructing an essential thoroughfare, nor do you want your guests’ food running cold.
8. Breakdown and Clean up
You should also arrange for how to deconstruct the event setup, including the control unit and other key components.Virtually every outdoor venue will require you to leave the place exactly as you found it, for ecological reasons. This means you will need to think about the clean up during the event planning stage. Providing recycle bins and a system for emptying them will make this much easier.
Ensure you ask in advance about what your specific venue is requesting. Will you need to provide additional staff to help the cleaning up process?
9. The Backup Plan
Pretty much every kind of event can have things go south, but it’s even more likely with outdoor events. To bask in the natural scenery does not come without challenges. So when you think you’re just about done planning, it’s time to ask, earnestly, “What can possibly go wrong?”
A lot! There are several potential party hazards you should prepare for including: Inclement weather, equipment failure, delayed deliveries, power outages, and anything else you can think of. Now you don’t need to develop full blown paranoia about all these things, but have a backup plan.
- Think of the weather. The safest bet is to prepare a backup location indoors, just in case the venue is no longer usable. Also consider having umbrellas, tents and furniture covers on standby.
- Consider possible equipment failure. Have a plan in place for what to do if the acoustics suddenly fail, or the power goes out. You can arrange for a standby generator from your equipment vendor.
- Delays in deliveries cannot be helped, but you can try to foresee such things by placing orders well in advance of the event. Also keep communication channels open so your guests are kept in the loop about any unforeseen changes.
10. Don’t forget Portable Restrooms!
Seriously, don’t. It’s very important that your attendees have a convenient place to relieve themselves whenever they need to. At outdoor venues where no bathroom facilities are readily available, your best option is to rent portable restrooms.
The exact number of toilets you need to have depends on the size of your event. To prevent long bathroom queues try to acquire one restroom for every 50 guests.
Also, check your guest list. Will you have more males than females? Kids? The elderly?
The theme and style of your event will determine the type of portable restrooms you need to acquire. For a corporate event, gala, or outdoor wedding, a standard porta potty may not suffice.
You certainly don’t want the glamour of your event to be ruined by a poor bathroom experience. So be careful when choosing a porta potty rental company. You want one that consistently delivers clean portable toilets on time, with great customer service.
At Doodie Calls, we have a tradition of excellence. For your special outdoor event, we can deliver clean, sanitary portable restrooms to take care of your guests’ bathroom needs. View our offerings on our website.