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Coronavirus and outdoor events: How to plan your outdoor event effectively

14th September 2020
Outdoor event space Senate House

Outdoor events are the kinds of events everyone loves to attend. Whether they take place on breezy spring evenings, long summer days, or crimson autumn afternoons, they’re the sort of get-togethers that stay in guests' memories forever. 

Outdoor events are also becoming more popular as a result of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. After a long pause on all events worldwide, event professionals are finally starting to explore the idea of putting on physical events again. This follows the Government's announcement that they intend to suggest outdoor events go ahead where they can do so safely. This has led to an increase in demand for outdoor event venues.

But planning an outdoor event has considerations and intricacies that differ from indoor event planning. So, in this article, we’ll explain the steps you need to take when planning an outdoor event in a COVID-19 world. We’ll also highlight what safety precautions you need to take to ensure your event runs as smoothly and as safely as possible.

Choosing the right outdoor event venue 

When planning an outdoor event, finding the right event venue or space is key. There are lots of things you need to think about, including logistics, comfort, legality and, in a COVID-19 world, safety. 

Your outdoor venue logistics

Your outdoor venue needs to be accessible and easy to get to. Firstly, this is important from the point of view of your guests, who need to be able to reach your venue with ease. But  accessibility is also important when it comes to sorting out catering, entertainment or equipment hire. Having an outdoor venue that’s easy to locate and enter should be a high priority. 

Ease of parking and public transportation should also be considered, along with accessibility to power, plugs and running water. For outdoor events, these aspects can often be more complicated, so it’s important to consider this when you’re booking your venue. Ask 

Outdoor venues don’t need to be in the middle of no-where. There are lots of outdoor venues that are located in central locations, that are easy to get to and have a huge range of amenities. 

Our outdoor event venues are based in central London, making them easy to access on foot, by car and by public transport. Take a look at our outdoor spaces here. 

Malet Street garden with tables and umbrellas set up for event

Keeping guests comfortable

While rustic and charming, outdoor events aren’t as naturally comfortable as indoor events. This means you need to think proactively about your guests’ comfort in order to ensure everyone feels at ease. 

1. Regulate the temperature 

Temperature has a big impact on people’s mood and is something that is a lot easier to control when events are held indoors with air con and heating. When planning an outdoor event, it’s hard to know what the temperature will be like, even if you’re planning the event in the summer. That’s why it’s best to plan for all scenarios. 

Plan for hot weather by making sure there is ample shade available. You can also provide outdoor fan or mist cooling systems if the air is very still on the day of the event. 

For cold weather, it’s important to have things like outdoor heaters available, as well as areas that protect from the wind. Obviously, outdoor events in winter will be harder to control, so think about how you can provide warmer spaces while still adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

2. Create comfortable seating areas 

Seating needs to be available and considered for a variety of physical needs. Choose things such as high tools, rattan sofas or even giant beanbags. Each of these will appeal to different abilities, making sure everyone has the opportunity to be comfortable when seated

3. Provide refreshments

You must make sure there is enough water and other refreshments available throughout the event. Outdoor events can dehydrate guests quicker, especially when held on hot, summer days.

Be aware that in times of COVID-19, you must ensure cleanliness and sanitation is maintained throughout the event, especially when handling glassware.

4. Ensure easy access to bathrooms and hand-washing facilities 

Access to bathrooms and hand-washing facilities is always important at outdoor events, but it’s especially crucial when planning an outdoor event during the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on the outdoor venue, you may need to provide bathrooms and toilets, with porta-loos being the go-to solution where such facilities aren’t already available. 

However, with hand-washing a key precaution against the virus, you need to ensure that guests have access to soap and running water when at your event. If you need to choose porta-loos, make sure they have this option. Otherwise, you should choose an outdoor venue with bathrooms and running water available. 

At University of London Venues, we have a whole suite of hygiene facilities with our outdoor venues, such as showers, changing rooms and toilets, meaning access to running water will never be an issue.

5. Provide weather-proof areas

Outdoor events are always risky - especially ones in the UK. Even if your event is in the height of summer, you can’t always escape the rain, so it’s important you also provide a well-ventilated indoor space where guests can head to should the weather make a turn for the worst. 

At University of London Venues, our outdoor venues can be hired alongside an indoor space, meaning your guests will be able to retreat indoors. Just bear in mind that you will need to limit the amount of people indoors and ensure they adhere to strict social distancing. 

COVID-19 safety for outdoor events 

This is the most crucial aspect of event planning during the COVID-19 pandemic and it goes without saying that this should be the highest priority. 

While outdoor events are deemed safer due to the natural ventilation and extra space allowing for easier social distancing, you will also need to take extra precautions to ensure all your guests stay safe. 

1. Create distance limitations around bars or buffets 

Make sure guests stay within a safe distance from each other when queuing at bars, buffets or for the bathroom. Provide floor markings to ensure this is always at the front of their mind. 

2. Make sure your event is filled to a lower capacity to ensure extra space for social distancing 

Event venues should advise you on their social distancing capacities when you’re booking, but it’s important you ask about this if they don’t. The quantity of people allowed in any space must be significantly reduced. 

3. Highlight that the use of masks is required in order to attend your event 

The use of masks is becoming the norm and can be an important safety tool when social distancing cannot be adhered to. Suggest these are used during your event as an extra precaution to keep all guests safe. 

4. Provide gel sanitiser in throughout locations 

Make sure there are plenty of bottles available throughout your outdoor venue, especially near food or drinks and by the entrance and exit points. 

5. Ensure guests do not dance in groups or couples.

There will be another time for coupled dancing, but right now it’s off the cards. Make sure your guests understand that group or coupled dancing is off the cards. Dancing alone with social distance measures is acceptable.

Malet street garden outdoor gatherings

Making sure you understand the rules around outdoor events during the pandemic

As of 2020, events have faced a dramatic change, and they look set to stay this way for the foreseeable future. In the name of safety, many events have transitioned online in order to keep everyone safe. 

However, as lockdown measures continue to relax across the UK, there’s an opportunity to host events in the real world, especially for events that are harder to transition online.

This does come at a risk, and event organisers must be vigilant when it comes to ensuring the safety of everyone involved in the event. 

You can keep up to date with government recommendations surrounding events during the pandemic here. As changes happen quickly, you must be ready to pivot plans quickly and effectively in order to adhere to safety regulations while also making your event successful and meaningful. 

Creating a back-up plan for your event

In today’s COVID-19, world, event regulations can change overnight. This means you need to be ready for whatever is thrown your way - including cancellation or rescheduling. 

It's important that you make sure your guests understand the risks involved in attending your event, from both a safety and financial point of view. 

Be aware that guests will expect there to be opportunities to back out of events without the fear of losing out financially - so if possible, try to make attendance as flexible as possible, or provide clear guidelines on your rescheduling policies. 

You may also want to provide an online version of your event, allowing you to reach more people, or even allowing guests to choose how they would prefer to attend the event, even if the physical version does go ahead.

Outdoor Events Venue in London 

At University of London Venues, we have a huge range of outdoor event venues in the centre of London that can be used for everything from team building days and conferences to award ceremonies and evening drinks. 

Our outdoor venues include Gordon Square and Woburn Square. Both spaces include private sections away from the public that can be hired privately, and can fit up 150 and 50 guests respectively. 

All our outdoor spaces can be hired standalone or as an additional space to accompany an indoor room hire. We also offer extra facilities such as catering and other equipment hire. 

Currently, we are only filling our outdoor venue spaces to 50% capacity during the pandemic. We are also completely up to date with the government advice surrounding events and COVID-19. Our events team would be delighted to answer any questions you might have around our extra safety precautions. 

Find out more about our outdoor event venues in the heart of London today. Call our team on 020 7862 8167 and talk to our events team about how we can help you plan your outdoor event in London. 

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