Rain, Drain and Mud Stains

 

It is possible to remain happy if your event experiences downpour. But it requires mindful planning.

 

 

With the rainy weather being a predominant fixture lately in New England, what should you do if your planned outdoor event gets hit with scattered showers or worse? Most would advise you to have a Plan B – move it inside. But sometimes that’s not always a feasible solution.

Almost a decade ago, I graduated from a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania. For the past 200 years, tradition dictated that the grand glass doors of an iconic building on campus open only twice a year – for incoming freshmen to pass through those doors at the signing in ceremony and for triumphant seniors to receive their diplomas at graduation where they stepped out of the limestone building and entered adulthood. But apparently, it had never rained on either of those days in the past 200 years and so there was no Plan B—at all. We sat in torrential downpour as the staff and administration pretended everything was normal while they gave us life advice on how to succeed in the world. Needless to say, parents and guests were not amused and the President of the college dealt with the blowback for years. Many had suggested that the situation could have been prevented and tradition maintained had the college set up waterproof tents. But waterproof tents alone aren’t the sole solution.

Venues often assure clients that their event will be fine under a waterproof tent, but our experience has shown otherwise. Remarkably, these types of situations happen more than they should and we encounter them without fail a handful of times each year when the promise of sunshine inspires outdoor events.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you hold your event outside under a waterproof tent:

Spaces that allow for necessary drainage

  • Ensure that your tent is set up on a flat space that allows for necessary drainage. Recently we were providing audio services at a tented event in rainy conditions. While the tent sat on flat space, there was virtually no where the water could drain so it rose creating ankle-deep mud puddles for the guests. We helped lay plywood for attendees to navigate through but the rain was too quick and the planks sank into the mud.

Slight slopes will wreak havoc

  • At another tented event, which was again constructed on a flat space, not only lacked the necessary drainage capabilities but it was adjacent to a construction site located on a slight slope. Once it started pouring, all the rainwater from site washed down onto the tent location creating a giant mess. Assess the space surrounding your tent to locate where even the most minor of barriers may be hiding. Check for slight slopes and even extended bumps (including sidewalks) to see where water could possibly be stopped from draining.  If you identify anything, best to avoid placing your tent there.

You probably don’t want a scene like this at your annual outdoor event.

Invest in an “battery backup” sump pump

  • Inquire if the venue already has a sump pump, and if not, make the investment. Don’t just hope for the best or that “their guys” will know what to do. For under $400 at your local hardware store, you can avoid having your event flooded and muddied! Ensure you buy one that doesn’t require a/c power, which may not be readily available and instead opt for one that you can operate with a battery (often times these batteries are sold separately and are less than $200). Just make sure you purchase the battery so that you can actually use it. Sump pumps can pump thousands of gallons for several hours and save you a million headaches. This is particularly important if your tent is place near a slope or where there’s no pathway for rainwater to drain.

It’s entirely possible to have a great time under inclement weather if you plan, prepare and take action. For all the examples we’ve witnessed of event planners and venues handling rain poorly, we also know plenty of successful events that went off without a hitch.

How to Make Your Event Interactive

Audience participation is key to any successful event

Springtime is typically our busiest season. Outdoor concerts, graduations, corporate events and we even take on the occasional wedding if our schedule allows it. As one of the largest event providers for New Hampshire we’re constantly looking for ways to make each event a success. Time and time again, we’ve found that the key to a successful event is an engaged audience. Below are some tips to add spark to your event.

Social Media
Set up your event’s hashtags well in advance of the event to promote the event, generate excitement and more importantly make sure that it’s not already in use. For example, while #hpevent might be the go-to choice if your company’s name is Holiday Pictures, you might be aghast to learn that the hashtag is associated with Harry Potter, Hewlitt Packard and even dance competitions. With some quick research and a little creativity, you can generate a hashtag that guests will enjoy using and you can track the specific hashtag in real-time using free resources like Tagboard.

Remember: even the largest corporations with boundless access to consultants and experts aren’t spared from major PR gaffes. Look no further than the latest controversies surrounding Pepsi and Nivea that angered enough consumers to blast the brands on social media. Your event producers or live event production company should be well aware of your hashtag to advise on anything you may have overlooked and they may even offer insights into keeping the hashtag alive post-event.

Technology
While Audience Response Systems (ARS) and Text/App Polls can be fun to integrate into your event, don’t rely on your guests’ smartphones to give your event a sense of participation. If your budget allows, consider renting an interactive touchscreen or several of them. Not only can it serve as digital signage for you and your sponsors, but touchscreens have limitless potential: surveys, registration, pictures, schedule, trivia, information and beyond.

Just be careful that the touchscreens don’t detract from your speakers and message. Your event professionals can work with you on its placement to ensure the technology serves as an enhancement. Should technology like a touchscreen not be possible for your event, consult with your event professionals on alternative ways to promote guest involvement. For example, they can help you set up a text number for crowd polling to gauge levels of understanding or opinion polls.

Face time
No, not the smartphone type of Facetime. Real face-to-face interaction. After all, what’s the point of organizing an event if people aren’t going to talk and listen with one another? Simple solutions: discussion table sessions, breakout groups with facilitators or even the old-fashioned practice of passing a microphone around for audience questions. If for whatever reason, your event cannot accommodate any of these experiences, then carve out time for lunch or dinner.

Remember: No successful event has ever taken place where guests just sit back and listen for 4 hours straight. In working with your event professionals, they’ll help you find the perfect audience engagement solutions that are tailored to your needs.

Top Four Event Planning Questions We Get Asked

New Hampshire Institute of Art, Annual Gala

  1. What can we do to make our event unique with a moderate budget?

Think of your event as an experience.  In other words, how do you want your audience to walk away feeling—inspired, energized, patriotic, loyal, entertained? Once you and the event production company you’ve hired (read question #2 on why you should avoid approaching this solo) narrow down the type of experience you’d like your guests to have, then the creative planning can start. Perhaps it’s a new take on the stage draping or maybe you want the event filmed because you want to capture the highlights for the company’s website. Maybe you’d like to follow the latest event technology trends and make your event interactive. The possibilities are limitless and with the right professionals, it’ll also be easy.

 

  1. Can’t we just do it ourselves without hiring an event production company?

Even if all you really need is a small PA system for a few hours or several wireless lavaliers for an in-house tech person to manage, you’ll be amazed at all that can go wrong. We don’t say that to scare you, just to alert you to the potential issues that can arise when you eliminate professional consultation. Since rental and staging companies lend out their gear, they can provide you with instruction on how to handle their equipment properly. The best rental companies have a solutions-oriented approach because they know the right questions to ask to ensure you have everything you need ahead of time. The more they’re involved, the less guesswork you’ll have. Above all with their guidance, you can ensure that your event prioritizes safety.

 

With that said, if your event’s scope is more involved, an event production company needs to be considered. Not only will they handle the logistics, planning, setup, production and breakdown, but from the perspective of your coworkers, management and guests, you’ve pulled off a fantastic event!

 

  1. What should we look for in an event production company?

Chances are that if they’re well established, they’ll boast rave reviews on their social media, website or their reputation will precede them via the grapevine. Also look for how well they brand themselves online. Does their website look up to date? Are blog posts and social media activity recent? If your event is meant to further your company’s brand or includes high profile people in your industry, you want to choose an event production company that understands the importance of promotion and visibility because they do it well for themselves.

 

  1. How do I know whether our budget is reasonable?

When discussing your vision, present them with your budget. If your vision is grander than your budget, they’ll let you know. A good event production company can gently educate their clients on why their $20,000 vision can’t work within a $5,000 range. But more importantly, they’ll advise you on how to scale up or down based on what aspects of the production you value most. Maybe one giant projection screen will suffice instead of two because you don’t want to forgo all lighting options on the stage? Or maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised and your budget is actually more than enough to afford those line array speakers and the rigging required for it!