5 tips for successfully organising your outdoor event

5 tips for successfully organising your outdoor event

The events indus­try is under­go­ing new restric­tions fol­low­ing the Covid-19 epi­dem­ic, which has forced the sec­tor to rein­vent itself. This presents an oppor­tu­ni­ty for event organ­is­ers to turn these con­straints into advan­tages. Hold­ing an event out­doors, for instance, makes it pos­si­ble to attract a new audi­ence thanks to the option of an attrac­tive loca­tion, an inno­v­a­tive for­mat, a friend­ly atmos­phere, and more.

We recent­ly spoke to L’Autre Canal, a SMAC (French con­tem­po­rary music venue) locat­ed in Nan­cy, France, and heard about their prepa­ra­tions for their Indi­an sum­mer al fres­co. L’Autre Canal usu­al­ly holds its end-of-sea­son event, the Bon Moment Fes­ti­val, in May, but with the con­straints relat­ed to Covid-19, this year’s event was post­poned until 2021. Far from dis­cour­aged, how­ev­er, the L’Autre Canal team is prepar­ing a new out­door for­mat for this spe­cial year to mark the end of the sum­mer hol­i­days in Sep­tem­ber. Dis­cov­er the advice and prac­ti­cal exam­ples pro­vid­ed by a sea­soned organ­is­er of out­door events.

Sum­ma­ry

  1. Make the nec­es­sary requests for autho­ri­sa­tion
  2. Devise a suit­able for­mat and pro­gramme
  3. Pay atten­tion to the dec­o­ra­tion and lay­out of your out­door space
  4. Launch your com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a broad out­look
  5. Pro­vide reas­sur­ance in terms of health issues

1. Make the necessary requests for authorisation

More than any­thing, organ­is­ing an out­door event gen­er­al­ly involves using a pub­lic space, be it a street, car park, gar­den, park, for­est, etc. For everyone’s safe­ty, any organ­is­er must there­fore ask the rel­e­vant author­i­ties for per­mis­sion to use the cho­sen space to hold their neigh­bour­hood par­ty, fes­ti­val, con­cert, and so on.

Very spe­cif­ic rules exist for each type of event: Who to ask for autho­ri­sa­tion? In what time frame? Accord­ing to which law(s)? Find all this infor­ma­tion in the best prac­tice guide for ensur­ing safe­ty at an event in a pub­lic space pro­vid­ed by the UK Local Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion.

2. Devise a suitable format and programme

The for­mat and pro­gramme of your out­door event are choic­es that will be cru­cial to its suc­cess. They will guide your entire com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy with the aim of attract­ing an audi­ence. For instance, L’Autre Canal has made 3 strong choic­es in cre­at­ing a new for­mat: Été indi­en, L’Autre Canal en plein air (Indi­an sum­mer, L’Autre Canal al fres­co). This long for­mat — from 4 Sep­tem­ber to 4 Octo­ber 2020 — replaces the annu­al Bon Moment Fes­ti­val at the con­tem­po­rary music venue in Nan­cy, which was sched­uled for late May but was can­celled due to the risks asso­ci­at­ed with the Covid-19 epi­dem­ic.

Here are the 3 deci­sions tak­en by L’Autre Canal to attract an audi­ence in the con­text of an out­door event dur­ing the Covid-19 epi­dem­ic:

  • A month-long event with mod­est capac­i­ty rather than sev­er­al large events with sig­nif­i­cant capac­i­ty;
  • Efforts to cre­ate a friend­ly atmos­phere rather than a pure­ly artis­tic work;
  • A pro­gramme of upcom­ing and local artists.

Here are some lessons that can be drawn from L’Autre Canal’s approach to prepar­ing for its Indi­an sum­mer: its pro­gramme and for­mat are in line with its broad­er aims — to devel­op cul­ture and artis­tic curios­i­ty — and they meet the tar­get audience’s expec­ta­tions — want­i­ng to get togeth­er, enjoy them­selves and escape from the gloom. It’s up to you to find the right bal­ance between your iden­ti­ty and the desires of the audi­ence you’re in a posi­tion to attract.

“L’Autre Canal isn’t spend­ing a month show­ing off the fact that it’s mak­ing a come­back — rather, it’s act­ing in the region’s inter­ests through wel­com­ing artis­tic, culi­nary and wine-grow­ing asso­ci­a­tions, among oth­ers.”

Antho­ny Gaborit, Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at L’Autre Canal

3. Pay attention to the decoration and layout of your outdoor space

The grow­ing num­ber of out­door events at the moment will require you to stand out by pay­ing close atten­tion to the dec­o­ra­tion and lay­out of your space. Com­fort­able and colour­ful fur­ni­ture, a view of a riv­er or sun­set, a shel­ter to pre­pare for bad weath­er and oth­er addi­tions will help your atten­dees feel like they’re (re)discovering a warm and cosy envi­ron­ment, where they’ll be free to come and go, to relax and enjoy them­selves togeth­er. Do every­thing you can to make sure that at the event of your event, your audi­ence leaves feel­ing hap­py to have expe­ri­enced this oppor­tu­ni­ty for shared enjoy­ment.

Focus on mak­ing your space as pho­to­genic as pos­si­ble. If you’re organ­is­ing sev­er­al events, it will be through acti­vat­ing these levers that you can cre­ate a word-of-mouth effect that will cre­ate more and more inter­est among mem­bers of the pub­lic. Don’t copy and paste what you see else­where — dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­self from oth­er venues with a per­son­al touch.

“We want to change the rela­tion­ship between the audi­ence and what they come to see. […] Let them come for a state of mind, not just for the music.”

Antho­ny Gaborit, Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at L’Autre Canal

4. Launch your communications with a broad outlook

For its out­door Indi­an sum­mer, L’Autre Canal has opt­ed for com­mu­ni­ca­tion themes that can be applied to many out­door events: a breath of fresh air, local artists, region­al cui­sine and friend­ly con­ver­sa­tion. The idea is to change the public’s per­cep­tion of the event, from a venue pure­ly for music to a space for social and cul­tur­al exchange.

Rather than lin­ing up artists’ names on a poster, it’s much more attrac­tive and uni­fy­ing for a local audi­ence to com­mu­ni­cate around an event that will enable atten­dees to see — and expe­ri­ence — less well-known artists, tour­ing artists and cul­tur­al asso­ci­a­tions from the region. And this is just one way among many to allow the audi­ence to get to know the local region again.

L’Autre Canal has decid­ed to com­mu­ni­cate via adver­tis­ing dis­plays through­out the town, on an ultra-local scope. With a mod­est capac­i­ty and a pro­gramme fea­tur­ing local artists, the aim is to tar­get accu­rate­ly and pre­cise­ly. At the same time, the organ­i­sa­tion has set a low entry price, and has even made it free for its mem­bers. The chal­lenge is there­fore to attract a new audi­ence and offer them a mem­ber­ship card in order to build loy­al­ty lat­er on with com­pe­ti­tions or spe­cial offers. This all rep­re­sents a medi­um/­long-term dynam­ic that can be set up with sim­i­lar­ly friend­ly out­door events.

5. Provide reassurance in terms of health issues

Pro­vid­ing reas­sur­ance with­out giv­ing rise to fear — this is the chal­lenge in the con­text of Covid-19. Organ­is­ers of out­door events are respon­si­ble for their audi­ence, and must imple­ment cer­tain mea­sures and com­mu­ni­cate around them with­out dis­cour­ag­ing poten­tial atten­dees. Direc­tion of traf­fic, hydroal­co­holic gel and mask dis­pensers, con­tact­less scan­ning of tick­ets… all of this must be adopt­ed in a way that doesn’t make the audi­ence feel deprived of free­dom.

For­tu­nate­ly, out­door events with mod­est capac­i­ty tend to reas­sure and even excite many peo­ple. So, it’s impor­tant to think about the for­mat of your events, which you should devote your atten­tion to cre­at­ing for tomor­row and from then onwards!

“We’ve opt­ed for out­door events to reas­sure peo­ple before­hand, and we’re doing what­ev­er is nec­es­sary to ensure that each attendee arrives think­ing, ‘OK, I’m not wor­ried.’ ”

Antho­ny Gaborit, Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at L’Autre Canal

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Organ­is­ing an out­door event

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