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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