Lessons Learned: Hosting Events in Blank Spaces
My favorite places to hold events are blank spaces, basically a blank canvas to do whatever you want. Obviously not every event has the budget to do it because it costs a pretty penny to bring everything into the space.
Over the years I’ve learned lessons along the way of what to do and what not to do. Below will give you some of my (and fellow event planners’) lessons learned and what I would do to avoid or fix the situation.
Know where water displaces. Years ago, I worked on an event held for the first time on the rooftop of a parking structure. One thing I found on event night, ice melted from the VIP bar area did not go into a drain it traveled to the built-out men’s room and puddled up in the middle of the area. SOLUTION: Water down the event space before finalizing the site layout to see where the water displaces and stays or drains somewhere so these situations can be avoided.
Building Structures on Grass. If holding an event on grass that requires flooring (aka sub-flooring) for the structures and/or to make it simple for guests to walk and not ruin the grass. Some venues may be concerned that the subflooring will kill their grass. SOLUTION: There are two ways to create the sub-floor: building a plywood floor or use a slide & lock flooring system. The slide & lock flooring system allows for aeration to the grass so it does not die underneath and allows for heavy machines to drive over it for load-in.
* Make sure the venue turns off the scheduled grass watering at least a day prior.
Planning Electricity. When you need to bring in generators to power an entire event (lights, sound, kitchen, a/c or heating, etc.), there needs to be some serious calculations of how many amps you need AND back-up generators. Multiple factors can go into a generator shutting down, so you need to have a solid plan in place. Many years ago, I produced a huge event that the generator shut down a second before the entertainment was going on stage. SOLUTION: Thankfully we had set up a switch connected to a back-up generator. Let’s just say that was a VERY fast run to the switch which left a 15 second shut down that thankfully guests forgot about by the end of evening. Nowadays the switch is automatic therefore no shut down but it’s important to check on generators throughout the event incase one shuts down and your using the back-up. At that point bring in another back-up generator until the event concludes.
*Another consideration put your kitchen on a separate generator, their equipment requires more amps and can easily shut it all down.
Audio in Large Spaces. Last year I worked on this wonderful holiday party in a 36,000 square foot space with 40-foot ceilings. The issue they had the year prior was the audio did not sound good or it wasn’t heard at all. Basically, the room is a big square with blank walls so sound bounces all over. SOLUTION: The A/V team did a site walk through to figure out the best solution and that was to hang (aka fly) the audio system to the ceiling or high up on columns. This balanced out the audio to make for a perfect sound.
Planning Electricity. See a theme here, electricity is a big deal and should not be overlooked. I planned an event in a commercial space before it had a tenant. The problem it only had electricity coming from two walls. SOLUTION: Plan the site layout around the electricity, it’s important to limit the amount of cords on the floor in the walkway of guests. These must be taped down with duct tape, but gaffer tape is the best. If you can hang (or fly) the cords and bring them down to the item that would be best.
Loading In & Out Equipment. That same holiday party last year we had the issue of bringing equipment down to the space. The main event space was down one flight of stairs but only one set of stairs wide enough for the equipment and one small passenger elevator that was not going to hold the large equipment. Additionally, there was not a huge loading dock for all the large delivery trucks. SOLUTION: We created a production schedule to figure out the best delivery times of what and when everything would be delivered. This helps to avoid a back-up of delivery trucks, waiting on the elevator for the heavy items and created an ingress and egress flow so the workers are not running into each other during the load-in/set-up process and the same with the tear down process.
Hopefully my above lessons learned and/or avoided will help you with future event predicaments. Please comment below with any issues and solutions you came across with hosting an event in a blank space.
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