Rumor has it you’re considering running your next experiential marketing event in a… well lets just say a “nontraditional venue”. We’re talking about hosting your event in the jungle, in a basement, a private island or on a pier, or maybe just away from traditional event spaces in a park or on a rooftop. We commend you for your bold decision, but in order to get the most from your event (and make sure that everything runs smoothly!) we have some recommendations.
We’ve planned and hosted some incredible events in unique venues, and we love the surprise factor and being asked “How did you pull that off?”. So here’s our recommendations, courtesy of our production team, who never cease to amaze us with their imaginative thinking:
First things first:
1. Plan and test everything in advance.
This is a real key to success when dealing with venues that aren’t made for hosting events. Simple details (such as electricity) can be an issue. Scout your venue early and take thorough notes on what your proposed venue has in place, and what you’ll need to bring or hire vendors to handle. Walk the grounds, ask a lot of questions, and spend some time in the shoes of a potential guest, asking basic need questions.
Where are the bathrooms? What facilities exist for food and water? How are you going to serve waffles with nutella on a pier? And make sure you spend plenty of time going over problem scenarios, so that you can have a solution on hand to fix it.
2. Provide Wi-Fi/cell service.
Seems like all events need Wi-Fi these days. Whether you’re choosing to live stream your event or want your guests to post their good times on social media, some form of connection to the web will be needed. Depending on your chosen venue, here’s your options:
- Satellite truck
- Ethernet cable runs
- Mobile hotspot
- Cellular bonding/network bonding
Let’s start with the worst-case scenario: no cell service, and no wifi. Fear not, even the most remote locations can be setup to provide a signal. A satellite truck is often the last resort (it’s the most expensive), but even your most remote locations can have Internet access if you can hire a satellite truck. The Ethernet and cellular bonding/network bonding options are good for sites that aren’t as far off the grid, and are much less expensive. We usually roll with one of these options (did you know that you can run Ethernet cables for thousands of feet?).
Mobile hotspots are usually too weak for streaming, but are a good inexpensive option for social posts or if you need a backup. And we definitely recommend having a backup source of Internet access.
When you’re hosting a big crowd for an event, bandwidth is an issue. Taking the time to plan and chat with experts is so important to making sure your connection is strong. And when you’re breaking a Guiness World Record for distance travelled by a human cannonball to promote the pirate game Sea of Thieves, you need to be sure that the group can share video and pictures with their mateys, or you’ll be walking the plank!
3. Hire the right labor.
This one is often overlooked, but you need to make sure you have the necessary staff in place to cover your bases. Heavy lifting involved in setup? Make sure you hire labor that’s a good fit. Also consider post-event cleanup, and if it’s not provided by the venue, hire staff that can help you with necessary tasks (such as packing pallets for shipment). This is especially important for remote areas, where hiring an extra truck or extra hands may be an issue. It’s better to have extra hands than too few.
Hiring the right digital team to document your event is important as well. Outdoor events in particular have many details that an expert digital team will handle easily, but an inexperienced person will struggle with issues such as harsh lighting. Look for a team that has experience working in similar environments.
4. Plan for the worst.
Make sure there’s a course of action and some problem solvers on hand to cover any issues that might arise during the event. Demoing a new mobile game? Bring backup devices and chargers. Many a problem has been solved at an event by duct tape and zip ties, so make sure to bring those.
If you’re outdoors, make sure there’s a plan for inclement weather. Cameras, TVs and sensitive digital equipment should be sheltered or wrapped in case of rain. High winds can tear apart banners and showcases that aren’t properly anchored. Guests
should have a place to shelter as well. Do your due diligence so that you’re ready for anything the weather can throw at you.
5. Prep your guests
Make sure the people that are spending their time and/or money to attend your event are well prepared for the day. Invitations should contain all pertinent info that guests should know. Note all items that will not be permitted at the event. Provide details on the dress code or weather related clothing items needed, or provide them for your guests. We planned and delivered Toyota Hotel Tacoma, an action-packed weekend experience in the Pacific Northwest, and it would not have been a success if our guests weren’t prepared and taken care of every step of the way. It was quite the challenge to prepare our guests for a very cold, wet weekend where they’d be riding ATVs, specialized mountain bikes, Yamaha dirt bikes, mini bikes, paragliding, ocean fishing, fly fishing, surfing and riding wave runners, but we pulled it off.
In summary, we love the benefits of hosting events in a non-traditional venue, just make sure you’re well prepared! Your guests will appreciate the effort required to show them a good time somewhere off the beaten path. Anyone can host an event in a venue made for hosting events. Only an extremely creative team, with precise planning and tremendous attention to detail, can take your guests somewhere incredible and create brand advocates from the experience.