Tom Chennells’ advice on making the most out of this year’s squeezed events season.
Following the government’s outline of the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s safe to say the events industry has been given a much-needed confidence boost. Having been essentially in hibernation for the last 12 months, there’s a huge appetite to make summer 2021 the mother of all summers.
As the events season is going to be squeezed this year, it’s important to remember that, despite everyone’s eagerness to return to work, there is a finite level of resources within the outdoor events industry and getting organised early will ensure your event runs without a hitch or delay. Having four or five big festivals rescheduled into the same weekend stretches everything from infrastructure and production equipment to crew and transport availability. Early communication with suppliers will be key to ensuring your event can run to the levels you (and your guests) expect.
The key to events in 2021 will most definitely be flexibility. With restrictions changing quickly and guidance being released with short notice, it’s important to communicate your plans early with suppliers this summer, while ensuring you can scale back or forward with minimal disruption and expense.
A great example of this is drive-in-cinemas. Many of our clients are pressing ahead with their drive-in style events this summer and using the 2020 guidance as a ‘worst-case’ benchmark for any Covid restrictions post 21 June. They are also, optimistically, making secondary site plans to pivot their events from drive-ins to seated style outdoor cinemas should restrictions allow. The format of this particular type of event lends itself really nicely to allow for this although it’s important to remember to discuss these options with your production company well in advance to ensure there are no last-minute surprises should you wish to flip your event from one thing to another.
Sweat your assets
There is already a huge demand on outdoor LED screens this summer with such a variety of sporting events taking place between June and September. Thinking about how to utilise your assets may increase your event income. If you’re hiring a screen for evening cinema screenings, think about providing opportunities for the community to view sports events in the day. This can provide a secondary event format at limited additional cost to your operation.
With the 2021 event landscape so unpredictable, now’s the time to scenario plan. What may seem a simple change, such as increasing visitor numbers, will impact the production equipment required to ensure your guests get the best experience, and this could impact your budget if you’ve not discussed this already with your production team.
Illuminated trails are another example of outdoor events that will be in high demand this year. 2020 showed that, even with tight Covid restrictions in place, these types of events can prove successful. The ability to control crowd flows, implement Track and Trace and visitor numbers with ease makes this event type incredibly manageable. Thankfully, the likelihood of Covid restrictions being in place this winter is low, and many event promoters, local authorities and private venues are already planning their winter walks to ensure maximum time for promotion and ticket sales.
Our advice here is two-fold. First, contact and confirm early! As with staging production, there are only so many lighting units available and we’re anticipating a record year for illuminations this winter. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to create such events either. From route planning and infrastructure to community involvement and fabrication, even a small 1km trail can take months to design, plan and implement. For new events relying on ticket sales to finance the installation, we’d suggest planning two routes; one smaller route as a minimum to contract and a second longer route to expand into if ticket sales allow.
Our second piece of advice here is to be open and transparent with your budget or cost expectations. The possibilities are endless when it comes to illumination, light art and design. Working to a set budget allows both sides to know what the expectations are and what can be achieved. There is little point spending weeks designing something that doesn’t fit the budget.
Many event production companies, YES included, will be open to discussions around contract terms and Covid risks. Having these conversations early gives you the tools to press on in your organising, whilst knowing that everyone is on the same page and understands the consequences and timeline of what might happen if things change. Flexibility and understanding on both sides of the client/contractor coin will mean no sudden surprises should things have to change.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tom Chennells is managing director of YES. With a team of 15 crew, YES offers a full spectrum of event production services covering pretty much any type of event you can think of, including staging, light, sound, power, video and rigging services. YES is the one-stop-shop for your next project or event delivering everything from concept to creation. firstname.lastname@example.org / www.yesevents.co.uk / social media @YESEventsUK