The setting was beautiful — Marco Island, Florida. Our team took one look at the resort’s beach front and we were sold. If the sparkling ocean, white sand, and breathtaking sunsets didn’t hook us on the spot, I don’t know what would.
Now, let’s not forget that planning an outdoor event can be tricky. This Florida event was an exciting one to plan, but that is not to say it did not come without complications. Here are some ins and outs, tips and tricks for planning a successful event on the beach!
Planning & Executing
Work with the outdoor event experience, not against it. Our property had Tiki huts, gorgeous sunsets and a very relaxed vibe, so we wanted to highlight these elements.
We opted not to provide a big entertainer or interactive games because who needs to compete with the natural landscape? The beach is a place to relax and, during a four-day conference, we knew that was exactly what guests would want to do. We used our environment to entertain instead by providing background music performed by a live steel drummer and fantastic food.
Know your outdoor event foot print and find a way to mark it
- A popular and very “in” option is to hang string lights to frame your outdoor event space. This not only indicates your event space, but makes for a beautiful setting as well.
- The framed “lit” area also minimizes public spectators or hotel guests from wandering into your event.
- Know what time the sun sets and use it to your advantage. We knew that, in October, the sun set in Marco Island between 6:50 and 7:15.
- We set the stage and additional décor in areas that did not block the water view and sunset.
- Bars were moved into a formation that allowed for optimal sunset viewing and for guests to photograph it.
- We decided on fire dancers to help close out the night so we scheduled them for when the sun went down and the mood was set.
- Have contingency plans and communicate them to suppliers in advance. What is your rain venue? What is the setup for your rain venue? Do all suppliers know what time you are making the weather call and not to setup prior?
- We had a Plan A: Beach Party … Plan B: Beach Party in a pavilion … and Plan C: Beach Party in the indoor ballroom.
- Know the property’s weather protocol and weather resources– i.e. When do they typically make a weather call? How do they get their weather info? How often do they receive updates? Incorporate this information into your daily run-sheet so that calls can be made at the appropriate time and your team, the venue, and all suppliers can work together accordingly.
- Set an in-person meeting for the final weather call between vendors and the hotel:
- Ensure the call is made to provide everyone enough time to set up.
- In-person meetings allow for last-minute planning/ adjustments to be communicated to all parties the second the weather call is made.
Worth the risk
- Outdoor events are always worth the risk. Attendees want to be outdoors so they can experience some of the local atmosphere at a conference –- don’t keep them “trapped” indoors if you have the means to accommodate!
- We had just about the riskiest situation possible occurring during the week of our event … a hurricane! We knew the party on the beach was just about off the table a few days before the event was set to take place so we brainstormed our back-up plans further.
- As a result, we ended up hosting the event in the pavilion space, which turned out to be just as amazing as it would have been outdoors! Our “Plan B” worked, because of the energy and cohesive planning that was done ahead of time. The pavilion was set the exact same way the beach would have been, resulting in a very successful “outdoor” beach event.
In conclusion: Don’t shy away from outdoor events, embrace them. Especially when it means your guests get to experience the beach!