Outdoor Events, Part I: Site Selection

“7th Annual Clean-tech Investor Summit” Outdoor parties, the perk of destinations with glorious weather, can be held at a patio, balcony, by a swimming pool, golf course, beach, garden or any other attractive setting. It's always a gambit, however, as guests will either delight in or be dismayed by the weather. Thus, when searching for an outdoor event location, keep the following in mind:

Try to schedule the site inspection for the same day and time that the event will occur. For evening events, know when sun sets at the time of the planned time year of the event to determine if lighting is required. Often, outdoor lighting is controlled by a timer. Arrange to have them turned on earlier or left on later than normal, if needed.

Be sure your guests will not be squinting into the sun. Sunset is later in summer and sun glare can be very annoying, forcing everyone to face in the same direction – east.  SunriseSunset shows sunrise and sunset times everywhere in the world.

Pay attention to which areas will be in the shade when you locate bars, buffets and guest seating. If you are grilling or having a barbecue, ask what direction the winds normally blow in so your guests aren’t in the path of the smoke.

Weather is the main concern. You should plan for an alternate or backup location in case of rain, high winds or extremely high heat. This can be a room in a facility; or a tent with transparent vinyl siding that can be raised or lowered, as needed; or even just an awning. When discussing outdoor events, you may want to mention when to make the call to move inside due to inclement weather, usually 4 hours prior. That allows enough time to set the backup space. The smartest thing is to plan the party part indoors and part outdoors.

It it turns cold, butane heaters can take the chill off of the air. These can be purchased or rented. Most are industrial looking, but I have recently seen some that are more decorative.  

In a hot, dry climate like Las Vegas, you can rent misting fans. Evaporative cooling is nature’s own way of cooling the air. The principle of "latent heat of evaporation" means that heat is taken from the air to convert liquid to a vapor, providing a reduction in the ambient temperature.

Be sure to ask about any potential noise. You can have a lovely outdoor event planned, but if airplanes are flying over every 5 minutes, your guests may not be pleased.

Safety precautions should be in place. If your event is near a beach or a swimming pool, be sure an accredited lifeguard is on duty. Lifeguards are required at cost to the planner; three is the minimum needed in the event of a spinal injury. Ask about pool guidelines. You may love the idea of lights strung over the pool, but glass is not allowed at pools. Ask about alternatives such as battery operated lighting.

If restroom facilities are not available, you must provide an adequate number of portable lavatories. (Attendees can get rather uncomfortable without proper facilities.) Be sure there are directional signs that make them easy to locate. A rule of thumb is to provide one portable lavatory for every 100 attendees. If alcohol is being served, add 15-20% more restrooms. Include 1 handicap restroom per 20 regular restrooms, or at least one handicap for public events. Here is a chart to determine how many you need. Handwashing stations should also be provided. You can also rent handwashing sinks with portable water tanks. If you have the budget, deluxe restrooms can be brought in.

Other tips:

  • When it is windy out, knot the corners of a square overlay or use Velcro strips to keep the wind from blowing the tablecloth up. You can also rent Spandex table coverings, which hug the table.
  • Mini aluminum tart pans can be fastened to wooden tabletops or railings with thumbtacks or pushpins, to create makeshift ashtrays that won't blow away in the wind
  • Be sure automated sprinkler systems are turned off to avoid soaking attendees. Ask the site to avoid excessive watering for a few days prior to your event so attendees do not sink into spongy ground.
  • Will you be planning transportation to the event?  Plan travel time by driving to the site on a day and time that matches that of the event. Will you be in the middle of rush hour traffic?
  • At night, you can use strategically placed spotlights, Tiki torches (that are also insect repellant) or strings of tiny Tivoli twinkle lights in trees, etc. You can enhance the site with hanging Japanese lanterns or flowers floating in the pool

Outdoor Events, Parts II and III, will cover on-site logistics and food & beverage. For examples of outdoor locations, read NYC's Versatile Venue: 3 Ways Your Group Can Enjoy the High Line and 5 Irresistible Seattle Patios.

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