Mother Nature may seem like the great equalizer when it comes to outdoor event planning. No matter how good you are as a planner, a rain storm might sweep in and ruin everything, and there's nothing you can do about that, right? Wrong...thank goodness, you have options!
Event planners, who've often learned the hard way, consider a wide range of variables and solve those potential problems before they arise. This includes the weather.
Here's some good news: you don't actually have to plan for every weather situation, because there's a good chance that your event is not in an area where every type of weather is even possible. Your outdoor Arizona music festival is probably not going to be faced with a snowstorm, so you can leave the ice picks at home.
Hopefully you enjoy history, because it's going to be your friend on event day. Historical weather data can give you a solid idea of what you might need to expect. Use it to help determine what provisions will be handy or necessary.
No Matter the Data, Be Proactive
Communicate with your staff and volunteers about the weather ahead of time. Make suggestions about what to wear or bring. When weather is unpredictable, suggest that attendees and volunteers wear layers, bring a rain coat/poncho and boots, and ziploc bags to protect cell phones and cameras. In case of severe or dangerous weather conditions, use your volunteer management tool to communicate quickly and clearly about cancellations or delays. If the clouds start to gather, your staff will start to wonder, so send out that message quickly: "Yes, we're still on, but check in here regularly in case something changes. I'll keep you posted."
Even on a beautiful day, hours of sun can be too much for your guests. If there is no natural shade, provide plenty of tents or canopies. Also be sure to provide plenty of water stations for your guests to stay hydrated. Convenience is key - don't tempt anyone to not bother with water.
Tents and canopies are also useful here, and it's nice if there's a nearby indoor space. If there's a chance you'll have to move the entire event indoors, make sure you have a plan in place to make that happen. If a little drizzle makes things uncomfortable but not cancel-able, provide rain ponchos and/or umbrellas for your staff and guests.
A lot of rain can make a mess. If your parking areas on within areas where mud can be a problem, have a back-up parking lot. Also keep an emergency stash of straw or wood chips to absorb water and keep the high-traffic pedestrian areas nice and dry.
Ice and Snow
Keep a snow plow or blower on call to clear the parking area if necessary. Sand or salt can help prevent nasty falls on the sidewalks. There should also be an indoor space or heaters so people can take a break from the cold.
Don't forget that your attitude will go a long way with your staff, as well: if you can laugh about wet clothes and muddy feet, it will be easier for the staff to stay positive. We can't control the weather, but a few precautionary measures can make the difference between a show that goes on and one that doesn't.
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