Outdoor Events: Top 3 Things You Need to Know

We spent some time in Miami Beach last month, planning for an upcoming client event.  It’s Miami Beach, so of course, some of our functions will take advantage of beautiful outdoor spaces.  But as beautiful and lovely as those outdoor spaces are, they bring a whole host of new challenges that need to be handled during the planning process.

Back-Up Location

Yes, we are aware that we are about to state the obvious: if you are planning an outdoor event, you MUST have an indoor back-up location.  Weather is unpredictable (much to the dismay of most planners).  You never know when a rain storm will roll in, winds will kick out, or it will be unseasonably warm or cold, so you must be prepared with a Plan B.

We were very impressed with one of the venues we checked out while in Miami.  We have a large group (more than 1,000 people), and as much as the venue would have loved to book our business, they declined because they didn’t have the facilities to handle a group of our size indoors.  Huge respect for their open and honest response to us!!

Study Up On the Weather

Planning an outdoor event demands that you check out weather patterns for that time of year in your selected destination.  You should also understand what the typical patterns are for the time of day of you are planning (i.e. is your destination plagued by the 4:00 pm thunderstorms that seem almost to be the norm in many southern areas?)

While you are studying, pay particular attention to average temperatures.  We know how tempting it is to take advantage of outdoor locations when you are in a wonderfully warm destination, but if it’s too wonderfully warm, be kind to your guests and perhaps find a beautiful room with a view that allows them to enjoy the outdoor scenery from a perfectly climate-controlled indoor location.  After all, how many of us really want to be outside when it’s a humid 95 degrees?

Consider Your Budget

Just like outdoor venues bring a slew of new planning concerns, they can also bring budget concerns as well.  We could go on and on and on about this, but here are a few quick nuggets to commit to memory:

  • If you are utilizing an outdoor venue, you may need to budget for rental tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc.  Many venues do provide these basics, but if you are utilizing a unique or public space, rentals may need a budget line-item.
  • Depending on your event parameters, you may consider budgeting for duplicate décor (linens, florals, themed props, etc), if you want the flexibility of being able to make your indoor vs. outdoor decision at the last possible moment.  Many facilities will require that you make a decision regarding an afternoon outdoor event in the morning, or an evening outdoor event by noon to allow adequate time for set-up.  If the decision time requirements don’t work for your group, budget for duplicate set-ups to buy yourself additional time if this is an important consideration for you.
  • Make sure you understand your venue food and beverage minimum if you are considering hosting an outdoor event off-property.  You should know which events will be hosted on-property and off-property during the contract negotiation so that your F&B minimum accurately reflects your plans.  You should also agree on what portion (if not 100%) of a function would counts towards your minimum if your chosen venue handles the catering. Nobody wants to face the headaches that come along with hosting a major function off-site and then being faced with the possibility of not meeting your minimum. 

Remember the venue that declined our business and that we now have huge respect and will recommend from the rooftops?  If we were absolutely, 100%, positively sold on THAT being the venue, we could have made it work by contracting with an alternate indoor venue as a back-up (making sure that both facilities were fully aware of the situation).  This would have been a very expensive proposition because we would essentially be cancelling one of the functions “day of” and therefore paying for the same event twice (once for the one that happens and once for the one cancelled).  For our group of more than 1,000 people, this was not an option for us but it could be an option that smaller groups consider.

Worth the Extra Steps

Clearly outdoor events add a brand new dimension to the planning process and by nature, are more complex than indoor events.  But, the beauty and ambiance that an outdoor event can bring is more than worth the trouble … it just takes a little extra planning, creativity, and patience.  Oh, and some urgent pleas to Mother Nature too.

Your Turn

Think about the most memorable outdoor event you’ve planned or attended.  What made it stand out?  And, share some pics on our Facebook wall – we’d love to see them!

Image courtesy of chicagurl