8 Ways to Host Safe and Successful Outdoor Corporate Events

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Like everything else during the past year, it has been a pretty challenging time for event planners! With no social gatherings taking place for most of the year and limited numbers when we have been allowed, it hasn’t been much fun for companies who are used to hosting spectacular corporate events. Yes, the virtual event became the norm and its a great way to stay in touch with colleauges and friends, but we’re all feeling a bit jaded and looking forward to the return of in-person events.

With a Government update scheduled for early next week and as the 21st of June creeps ever closer, the date we can hopefully return to a normal life or ‘normal life of sorts’, you may be thinking about hosting a summer party for your team to thank them for all their hard work, or something glam for your customers and clients to say thanks for sticking with you in very uncertain times.  With exciting times ahead,  how do you make your corporate event fabulous, fun, and safe?  Here are my 8 top tips for hosting a safe outdoor event this summer: 

1. Plan, plan, plan!

It’s crucial all events start with a plan of the what, the who and the how, and never more so than now. Things have changed since covid came on the scene, there are new procedures to be followed and risk assessments to be written and understandably anxieties are still high around holding an event. It is safe and there’s lots of fun to be had, even with the new measures in place. 

A few things to consider: 

⦁ If you are planning on holding the event at a venue, it’s advisable to arrange a site visit to meet the team and view the space. It is also a good opportunity to discuss how the event will run, talk through their covid risk assessment and learn of the processes and procedures that have been implemented in order to create a covid secure venue. 

⦁ Where possible, hold your event outside. This will give you more flexibility on numbers, create space for your guests and ultimately make them feel more comfortable, reassured, and safe. With the good old British weather like it is, you should have a Plan B in case it does rain and you may even need a Plan C should Government Guidelines change again. 

⦁ We recommend you keep up to date with the latest event information on HSE and gov.uk websites and stay in touch with your venue and suppliers should there be changes that have an impact on your event. It is also advisable to arrange event insurance and obtain a number of quotes.

Once you’ve booked the venue, received a copy of the venue’s risk assessment, have the initial logistics confirmed, you can start arranging the detail, this is the fun part!  

2. The all-important budget!

Every event needs a budget. It’s important to determine this before you start planning as it’s very easy to get lost in the details and lose track of spending. We recommend having a contingency fund in case there are any unexpected costs, things you have forgotten, or last-minute changes. 

Working with all budgets, there are many ways to create a spectacular corporate event and one that your team, customers, or clients will enjoy and be grateful for.

3. Invitations

Who will you invite? Numbers may still be restricted, so think about whether your event is purely for your employees or is it a client or customer event? Maybe you can combine the two? Will you be inviting ‘plus ones’? However you choose to run it, make sure it is clear on the invitation.   

We live and work in a digital age and I know it’s far easier and more efficient to send invitations by email nowadays. You can call me old-fashioned but there is nothing more exciting, I think than receiving a beautifully designed & personalised invitation through the post! If you do go down the printed invitation route here are some of my favourites sustainable designers Studio Anika and Merrie & Bright.

Guests love information. Give them as much detail as you can including date, time, venue, dress code, food, and drink, what to bring (remember evenings can get quite chilly even on a warm sunny day) and if a mask or visor is required. You can also include information on what guests should expect on arrival such as temperature checks, the venue team in PPE, and arranging lateral flow tests The more information you provide the easier your job will be as fewer questions will be asked! 

It is so important for your guests to feel informed and happy. Provide clear contact details for RSVP and so they can ask questions if they need to.

4. Theme Your Event

Elevate your event with a theme! A theme helps pull all the party details together and makes your event look enticing and professional. Give your guests that wow factor from the moment they walk in and your job is done!   

Unsure what theme works for the summer? Why not go for bold and vibrant colours that spark happiness and positivity. Themes such as tropical, carnival, circus, summer holiday, and quintessential English country garden are all great outdoor event themes for the summer months. They are easy to plan and can look fantastic.

5. Décor and event design

Investing in lighting, furniture, décor, signage and the other little touches, makes your event stand out from the crowd and leaves a lasting impression. If your party is an evening affair, lighting can really transform your outside space into the perfect atmosphere and it doesn’t cost the earth. Plan for all the seasons as we know how unpredictable the weather can be. Hiring a marquee or tipi will ensure your event can go ahead as planned whatever the weather. 

If budget allows, think about gifting your guests a beautiful blanket or throw to use at the temperature drops later in the evening. Alternatively, send each guests home with a fabulous goody bag. Think sweet treats, a luxury candle, personalised moleskin notebook or local bottle of wine. Its the little details the guests remember.

6. Food and drink

Food and drink are probably the most important and the most talked about part of the event. You’ve been there, we all have, where the food has been amazing and you reminisce about it for days! You may have been to an event where the food wasn’t the best, then you definitely talk about it the next day!  Spend time working with the caterer to design a delicious menu your guests will love. Get the refreshments right and you’re on to an instant win! 

With the traditional buffet and food stations and the more recent trend of grazing tables not possible at the moment, why not do things a little differently on the catering front? Depending on the style of your event, why not offer your guests individual picnic baskets, canape boxes or an afternoon tea hamper with mini bottles of fizz or local wines. Or, if space allows, invite local street food vans to serve a range of food for your guests. Work with your local vineyard, or organise a gin van and bar – one of our favourites is In Fine Spirits. Check out The Pink Drinks Van’s TukTuk bar and Prosecco wall for something fun!

I encourage you to work with local food suppliers to not only show your support but also to do your bit by reducing food miles. 

7. The entertainment

How will you keep your guests entertained so they have the time of their lives? Book a band, a jazz trio or a DJ (keep in mind sound levels if the music is amplified and in close proximity to residential areas). People love a wandering magician (especially if it goes with your theme) or give your guests a fright (and a laugh) by hiring some human statues! Musical light shows are very ‘in’ and an amazing finale to your event. I can highly recommend Light Artist, Rupert Newman, if you would like a real show stopper!  

Give your guests just enough entertainment to keep them entertained throughout the event but not too much that they don’t have the opportunity to mingle and catch up with their friends or customers.

8. Do you have something to say?

Is there a hidden message or purpose for your event? Are you looking to announce company news, inspire and motivate employees or thank them for outstanding work? Will you be celebrating a milestone with your guests? 

If you are. Think about when and how you will deliver the news. We recommend early on in the event – so you have the guests full attention!

So, there you have it, my 8 top tips to make a success of your corporate event this summer. There’s quite a lot to take in. If you do need event support, venue suggestions or ideas, I have organised events, big and small here in the UK, Europe, North America, the Far East and the Caribbean for corporate and private clients. I am now living in Oxfordshire and founded Octopus Events to bring the magic to your company events. My job is to make you look amazing! No event is too big or too small. If you would like to discuss your plans, please do get in touch with me, Sarah, at hello@octopusevents.com. I look forward to hearing all about what you have planned.

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