“I think one frequently overlooked item is shade. Whether that means sunshades, umbrellas or tents, you can’t underestimate the need for protection from the sun. People often get so excited for the spring/summer season in the Pacific Northwest that they can overlook how hot it gets in direct sunlight. On those extra-steamy days, it even can be necessary to place a couple of misters here and there for extra relief.
“The next thing that you want to make sure you have plenty of at an outdoor event is high-quality H₂O. It sounds simple, but if you rely on one water station, it will be in a constant state of refill. Multiple water stations are necessary to make sure everyone is staying hydrated and safe. You can have a lot of fun with a ‘build your own fruit water’ station that lets people infuse seasonal produce and herbs to create flavored waters.” riverplacehotel.com
- Josh Tart, director of catering for Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel in Portland, Oregon
“Signage! It seems that once attendees get outside of the restrictive confines of a building they lose any sense of direction and start to adopt a herding instinct. They just follow the group in front of them, and, in some cases, with disastrous results.
“Getting your attendees to the various areas where food, beverages, games and entertainment are located is critical, and the best way I’ve found to accomplish this is with informational and directional signage.
“In the past I’ve utilized ‘human directionals’ with informative arrow signs—generally college students that would get into the ‘spin’ of it. This has been critical when the path is not obvious, and it’s not only comforting for the attendees, but fun as well.
“I’ve also worked with the show decorator to develop sidewalk clings (typically footprints) to guide people to specific areas of interest.
“Another tool that works well is to have your graphic artist create an area map that can be given to the attendees. On the map indicate where all of the venues that need to be visited are located (don’t forget restroom locations). A cartoon-like look works. It doesn’t have to be exact, just give a general idea of how to navigate the area.” theiai.org
- Candace Murray, organizer of the International Association for Identification conference in Spokane, Washington
“Have a solid plan B in case of bad weather. Communicate to guests (especially those visiting the Northwest) about weather expectations and what to bring and dress in so that they are comfortable for the duration of the event. Do not underestimate the wind, which we see quite a bit at the beach. The best thing is to be prepared for it, so think through any décor items to be sure they will work. If you are going to have table linens, be sure to use clips to secure them to the table or tie them down (for tall cocktail tables). Also, centerpieces should be bottom heavy and sturdy. Service items (plates, glassware, silverware) should all be wrapped well in the kitchen, then remove the wrap at the last minute to avoid sandy plates, glasses, etc. If windbreaks are an option, then definitely use those too.
“Plan the menu and cooking methods that will work at the outdoor location. Wind can cause some fluctuations in temperature, so as we’re preparing food, we use tools that hold heat well (such as cast iron, stone or enamelware). Another thing is to use wood-burning grills versus gas grills, as the wood gives you more control over the temperature. And plan for more cooking time, as you would not encounter the same changes in temperature in an indoor kitchen.
“Check your cell service at the location to verify whether you will have cell phone coverage or if you will need another way to communicate with event planners, support staff, etc. Charging stations are always a great idea. And if you are giving the attendees any sort of gift, then a precharged portable cell phone charger is a wonderful idea, as well.
“Be sure to have a plan for bathrooms. If we are having a beach event here at our resort, we will generally hand out a few keys to our pool area, which is the closest bathroom to the beach. If the area is more remote, than port-a-potties would be recommended, and for any sort of corporate or incentive program, I would suggest the nicer bathrooms, as the last thing you want people to remember about the event is a horrible bathroom situation. There are multiple options at different price points available.” surfsand.com
- Sarah Bunce, director of sales for Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach , Oregon