Recently published in Aprils addition of Conference News, Jo Austin, Sales Director for The Venues Collection discusses the importance of outdoor events:
We have been open through lockdowns, in line with Government guidelines, to serve critical training and events for key workers so we are now well versed in the safe delivery of events. But we are also conscious that there are some who may not share our eagerness, due to concerns around Covid-safety.
Many people have been safely at home for what seems like an eternity; even the most confident of go-getters may feel hesitant about getting back on a train and heading into the city or being in a room with 100 of their colleagues. Many haven’t been on public transport or experienced a different working environment for months because we have been urged to stay home, work remotely, and to stay away from people. These ways of living and working have been ingrained in us and they won’t disappear overnight.
This summer, as the weather improves, we will see a new type of hybrid event emerge; this new definition of ‘hybrid’ will be used to describe an event that is held across a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces. Organisers will be utilising outdoor space for the softer, social side of their events – holding registration, breaks, networking and lunches in the open, whilst the educational or informative part of the event will be held indoors. Events will be held this way because delegates will feel safer and more comfortable socialising outdoors in the fresh air, whilst many companies need the privacy of holding their presentations in a well ventilated but closed room. Keeping an audience socially distanced is straightforward when everyone is seated to watch a presentation – but it becomes more of a challenge when socialising or networking is involved, so delegates may feel safer if the social part of the event is outside.
Getting to and from a venue may also be a concern for some delegates. Public transport may feel a little risky for some, so they will welcome the opportunity to travel to meetings in their own car and to easily accessible out of town venues with lots of onsite parking. By thinking of these options, and conveying them to delegates in advance, an organiser can help ease their colleagues back to ‘normality.’
We’ll also see a convergence of events – as companies, keen to bring their teams together after a year of remote working, host events that satisfy a range of business requirements. Events will be held that combine education, motivation, team building and networking elements. Staff have missed out on so many traditional staff gatherings, company events and physical touchpoints over the past year so this summer companies will embrace them all. We have teamed up with Off Limits in order to provide our clients with a whole range of team building activities in the grounds of our venues to complement indoor and outdoor meetings.
We have to consider that many employees are returning from furlough and that they will need to re-connect with their teams and feel part of the company once more. These returners may feel hesitant about mixing with large groups and prefer to only meet up with their teams or departments. Venues with lots of outdoor space will be able to offer different outdoor breakout sessions for different teams within one organisation – which will enable employees to just mingle within their own department and keep separate.
You may need multiple outdoor spaces to host different parts of an event – different educational streams for example – so consider how your venue will allow you to create different outdoor ‘rooms’. Consider too if your venue is hosting multiple events on the same day. Ask them if you can have a separate outdoors registration desk just for your event – this again will help to keep your event enclosed and reassure your delegates that you have their safety top of mind.
Events feel more relaxed when they are held outside so they’ll need a menu designed for alfresco dining. Our Executive Chef, Sam Morgan, has created specific menus for outdoor events, bringing a more relaxed and sociable vibe to events. Barbeques or hog roasts will be popular options, but also consider street food – we will be serving both Lebanese and South American dishes to bring fresh and unusual summer flavours to delegates.
The increased interest in walking through lockdown will continue. All of our venues have walking routes around the grounds to enable delegates to connect with nature, get some exercise or to take a relaxing stroll during breaks in the event. Build some time into your event for delegates to take a walk around the grounds – or even do something fun, such as incorporating a walking treasure hunt into the event to get delegates moving and enjoying the grounds.
Sustainability is also important to consider, holding an event outside will save on lighting and heating usage.
As we start to bring large scale events back, the health and wellbeing of your staff is of utmost importance. Be creative and work with a flexible venue team who will work with you to create a successful event with outdoor elements? Communicate the measures you have taken and ensure that your delegates know the lengths that you and your venue have gone to in order to keep them Covid secure.