The Essential Guide to Outdoor Event Planning

outdoor event

Thinking about putting on an event outside? Outdoor event planning comes with its challenges but can open up a world of possibilities for venue options.

And if you’re lucky with the weather (or not, we’ve all had fun in the mud), can result in a truly memorable, ‘back to nature’ experience for attendees.

Here we take a look at the type of events that can work well in an outdoor setting and the factors you’ll need to take into consideration when not using a standard venue.

Is the outdoors great for your event?

An outdoor venue can offer you a lot of flexibility, especially if combined with barns or marquees and can work well for a wide range of events, such as:

  • Fete or fair
  • Family fun day or barbeque
  • Musical or theatrical performance
  • Drinks reception or networking
  • Food or music festival
  • Team building or sports event
  • Charity fundraiser
  • Cinema or proms night
  • Street party or carnival

If your event involves talks, presentations and workshops (and requires reliable Wi-Fi coverage), then an indoors environment will likely prove more conducive. You could still incorporate an element of the outdoors, choosing a venue with a deck, patio or garden for your drinks reception or refreshment breaks.

When assessing the site for your outdoor event, be sure to think about the necessary amenities such as car parking and access, toilets, power supply, lighting and food preparation areas. A Plan B for inclement weather is also vital, even if it’s just providing plastic ponchos and waterproof covers for electrical equipment.

Getting the correct permissions

When you organise an event in a purpose built venue it’s not necessary to think about licences and permits, but there are greater restrictions for organising events outside, even if it’s on private land.

For events of 499 attendees or fewer, you may need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice. This applies if you will be selling or otherwise supplying alcohol at your event or if there will be any sort or entertainment or hot food provided after 11pm.

For events with 500 or more attendees you will need to obtain a premise licence. For alcohol provision, you will also need a Designated Premises Supervisor who holds a Personal Licence.

If you plan to perform or broadcast copyrighted material (such as music, films or plays), you will need a Performing Rights Society (PRS) licence and/or a Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) licence.

If you want to hold an event on public land, you will have to apply to the local council. Likewise, if your event will require street or road closures, it will be necessary to apply for a temporary traffic regulation order.

Be sure to apply to the relevant authorities in good time – some like to be contacted as much as a year in advance of your planned event date.

Meeting noise restrictions

If you are only having a very small event with no amplification it is unlikely to cause disturbance to the surrounding area. For larger events you will need to ensure you adhere to the Code of Practice on Environmental Noise Control at Concerts, which sets the acceptable levels for off-site noise.

However, noise disturbance is not necessarily restricted to just music; it can include public address systems, fireworks, the audience and equipment such as generators.

To avoid complaints, consideration must always be given to the residents living nearby. Noise control should include careful consideration of factors such as the position of entry and exit points, stage location, equipment and car parking.

As well as advising local residents of your planned activities (including start and finish times), you may want to advise the council’s Environmental Protection Team of the event. In some circumstances the council may request that you appoint an Acoustic Consultant to assist in drawing up a Noise Management Plan.

Keeping your event safe and secure

If your event is large, you will probably need to employ a professional security company to assist with crowd control, deal with any problems that arise and protect on-site equipment.

For music festivals or concerts you may also wish to operate on-door security checks to prevent alcohol, drugs or weapons being brought on site. All security personnel must be trained and registered with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). You will also need to let the police know about your event.

Drawing up a comprehensive health and safety plan for your event is imperative. Factors to consider include access for emergency services, traffic management and car parking, crowd control, emergency exits and procedures. You will need to provide adequate stewards, barriers, signage etc. and make safety announcements before any entertainment begins to tell people what to do if there is an emergency. You should also think about disabled access to your event and on-site first aid, which can be provided by St John Ambulance.

Don’t forget public liability insurance or property insurance in case someone gets hurt at your event or kit gets damaged.

Entry management and access control

Good entry management at large, outdoor events will ensure the smooth entry and exit of attendees. Factors to consider include your event’s access points, entry gates, arrival times and the process for checking in attendees.

If your licence restricts the amount of attendees your event can have, or you can only cater for a certain number of people, you will need to monitor the numbers attending. Even for free events it’s advisable to issue tickets so you can retain control.

Using Eventbrite you can issue tickets in advance and sell them on the door. Our Organiser app offers easy check-in, letting you use any mobile device to scan printed or digital tickets. The app also reports in real-time how many people are being checked in at various locations as well as live tracking of on-the-door sales. This is extremely helpful when trying to manage capacity.

Conclusion

Using an unlicensed outside venue requires preparation and planning. If you don’t have the time or the energy, but still want to add a breath of fresh air to your event, consider using an outdoor space at an established venue.

Lots of events venues offer heated marquees, pavilions, courtyards, gardens and grounds as alternative options and can help you with all the logistics. Check out these outdoor venues in London for inspiration.

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