Tales of a Long Lunch

events non-event spaces outdoor
Event Managers Network & Event Planners Workshop
Tales of a Long Lunch

What a glorious day we had recently for a beautiful long lunch to fundraise for a school community.  Gatherings in non-event spaces have a whole different set of challenges to conference rooms and function spaces, but they also offer (IMO) a much more dynamic and immersive experience.  Here’s my top tips for producing an exceptional outdoor extravaganza!

Expect your guests to arrive early - make sure your site is ready at least 30 minutes before the official start time - people are eager!  This event started at 11.30am and people started to arrive at 11am.  Have somewhere people can gather and start to get into the spirit, so they’re not under your feet trying to find their table, and they’re also not focused on watching you finish setting up.

Utilise professional staff for bar service - even if it's a charity or fundraising event. There's nothing better than knowing the busiest part of your event is being taken care of.  We had 4 professional F&B staff to run the bar as well as clear tables and prepare the crockery etc., for return.  Professionals not only know what needs to be done, but how.  Professionally cleared and stacked glasses and plates, vs your teenager’s version clearing and stacking, not only saves you time, but money on breakages and losses.  The other bonus to having professional F&B staff was including a supervisor so we didn’t have to worry about explaining too much about what needed to be done.  They know how to run a bar, and we let them get to it.  Double bonus, this team had done this kind of event before, so knew exactly what to expect from the event and the guests.

You can never have enough toilets, and don't expect people to use the designated male/female toilets - when you gotta go, you gotta go!  We hired an additional 4 toilets and completely separated the male/female.  The thing is, even with a nice professional set up, portable toilets are tiiiiiinnnnnnyyyyy!  In retrospect I would make the main bathrooms for the ladies and the portable toilets for the gents.  Us ladies need a little more room!  And as such, many ladies did use the ambulant bathroom, as did many men, I’m sure because of the space.

Less talking and more entertainment makes for more fun and more fun$raising!  And on the note of fundraising here’s my golden tip of the day.  Guests will buy whatever you tell them to buy, and will choose the middle option, so make sure it’s the good one!  This one had 1 for $10, 6 for $50 and 12 for $120 and 99% of the tickets I sold chose the $50 option. It’s safe, not too extravagant, less risky, and not too scrappy.  It feels like a good number, like they’ve contributed well, but not overdone it.  When pricing your raffle tickets, consider that most people will buy whatever you tell them to buy – they don’t want to make a decision.

Don't compromise patron safety for design. Everyone wants to walk where you don't want them to - do whatever it takes to stop them.  We started out by designing the space to encourage people to walk where we wanted them to.  We had a flag walkway into the space, strategically placed bins and witches hats here and there to direct the traffic, and signage letting people know where to go.  The fact remains, people want the shortest possible route and will do anything and move anything to get there.  In the end, the only choice in some spots, to keep patrons safe, was to line up the bins so they literally had a wall they had to climb over if they wanted to go that way. 

Don't expect to remember a guest by the shirt they're wearing. Every shirt looks like a floral design in a sea of 150 floral shirts!  Now here’s one I haven’t figured out how to solve yet.  You’re in a non-event space so there are bound to be questions from guests – lots of guests.  And for the sake of efficiency and guest experience, I take the question and suggest they go back to their party and I will come and find them with the answer.  Trouble is, all the men looked the same!  With no table numbers and no distinguishing feature on the table, it was impossible to find them again, and so it wasn’t until they found ME again, that I could help them.  Table numbers serve many a purpose – use table numbers.

Don't put too many rules around the MC and entertainment. Let them flow with the mood - they will connect so much better.  Giving your MC key points and being there to support them is a much better strategy than writing the notes for them word for word.  Our MC was engaging, funny, and entertaining while calling for more fundraising, spruiking the benefits of the cause and telling inspiring stories along the way.  They were a part of the organisation and the audience connected much greater with them, than they would have with a professional MC. 

Get as much help as you can on the day, so you have time to spend with your guests. They've come to see you, so do everything you can to be available to them.  This goes for any and all events.  As host it is so important to remember that while you have created this amazing environment, it’s you they have come to see, so be ready for them.  I’ll admit I’m always one for minimising staffing on the day to save money, or I think it will be easier to “just do it myself” but no longer.  I’ve realised I need to be their for my client and I need my client to be there for their guests, so I too will be increasing my event day support so I am right behind my client the minute they need me, and not running off fixing a toilet somewhere!

All in all the feedback from the community has been nothing short of raving fans.  This was the first return after 3 attempts previously and the audience was definitely ready for it. 

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