6 minutes read

10 Things to Know When Planning an Outdoor Festival

People at festival

Planning an outdoor festival is a grueling and extremely detailed process. If you’re currently using screenshots in PowerPoint or designing your event site on the back of a napkin, it’s likely that something is going to fall through the cracks. With fencing, barriers, crowd control, parking, toilets, water points, tents, staging, staffing and so much more, festival planners need a sophisticated toolbox to ensure that their event is a success. Luckily, OnePlan gives you control over every aspect of your festival plan. Before you get started, here are 10 things to know when planning an outdoor festival. 

1. Permits First

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to delay applying for necessary permits for your outdoor festival. In most cases, the first thing you need to do when planning any public event is to provide your local government with a detailed event plan, risk assessments, and proof of public liability insurance. Allow plenty of time for these to be processed (we recommend submitting them several months before the event). Connect with your venue and local government to make sure all the boxes are ticked.

You may need certain permits and licenses to hold your event, so make sure to check with your local government to find out. Common ones include council/venue approval, road closure applications, and temporary structure approval. You’ll find a full permit and licensing checklist in the free OnePlan Event Management Form.

Event Management Form

2. Collaboration is Key

If you’re still relying on PowerPoint or a similar tool to map your festival site, you know how difficult collaboration can be. The ability to share your work with other members of your team and vice versa is a powerful tool. Site mapping should be a team sport! 

Using OnePlan’s festival planning tool, you can communicate your plan visually and collaborate with all key team members and stakeholders. Maintain an overview of the entire operational site plan and share it with local authorities and emergency services so they can provide the permits and support you need.

3. Use Perimeters and Barriers to Keep People Safe

It’s an unfortunate truth that large events like outdoor festivals present several risks to attendees and workers. Festivals have been the target for violence in the past and large gatherings may lead to overcrowding and trampling. Recent examples like the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 and the Astroworld crowd surge incident in 2021 serve as a sad reminder of the risks that come with major events. 

Thankfully, event planners can take action to limit the risks of large group gatherings. Keeping visitors safe requires accurate siting of perimeter fences, crowd barriers and rope dividers. OnePlan’s dynamic platform enables you to accurately plot the type and size of crowd control system directly on to your festival site. You can then view these in different modes including satellite and aerial maps.

4. Be Clear with Staff

It’s an unfortunate truth that large events like outdoor festivals present several risks to attendees and workers. Festivals have been the target for violence in the past and large gatherings may lead to overcrowding and trampling. Recent examples like the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 and the Astroworld crowd surge incident in 2021 serve as a sad reminder of the risks that come with major events.

Event security

It’s an unfortunate truth that large events like outdoor festivals present several risks to attendees and workers. Festivals have been the target for violence in the past and large gatherings may lead to overcrowding and trampling. Recent examples like the Manchester Arena attack in 2017 and the Astroworld crowd surge incident in 2021 serve as a sad reminder of the risks that come with major events. 

For most large events, you’ll have a team of people involved. Key stakeholders may include an event manager, production manager, volunteer coordinator, steward coordinator, health and safety officer, waste management, ticketing, or a media spokesperson. You will also be working with several contractors, such as food and beverage concession, vendors, temporary electricity and heating suppliers, temporary infrastructure installation teams, and animators.

A safe and successful festival relies on event staff understanding their roles and responsibilities and knowing where they should be and at what time. With OnePlan’s easy-to-use planning tool, you can create a detailed plan and delegate by role, location, day and shift time – meeting your safety and risk management requirements without the need for multiple documents.

Make sure that you’ve identified all the important stakeholders early in the planning process, and that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Keep a running list of every stakeholder with their contact information close. You’ll need it handy throughout the planning process and during the event itself.

5. Have a Precise and Detailed Map of the Site

food festival eventplan

When planning an event, you need to know your venue inside and out. Do this early in the planning process to identify any challenges before it’s too late to address them. A precise and detailed map of your outdoor festival site will be your best friend throughout the planning process, allowing you to determine what items your event requires and where everything should be placed at the site. 

When planning an event, you need to know your venue inside and out. Do this early in the planning process to identify any challenges before it’s too late to address them. A precise and detailed map of your outdoor festival site will be your best friend throughout the planning process, allowing you to determine what items your event requires and where everything should be placed at the site. 

6. Avoid Overcrowding

In addition to the risks of overcrowding that have always existed, we now live in a world that has been forced to be extremely conscious of personal space. OnePlan’s Social Distancing Toolkit can help ensure the health and safety of attendees, including showing how long queues may be and if exit gates are sufficient to safely egress crowds. Our predictive modelling and measuring tools automatically calculate optimum visitor numbers to help you comply with health and safety regulations. It also maps access and exit routes in the event of an emergency.

7. Don’t Skimp on Bathrooms

Nothing ruins a great musical performance quite like having to wander far away to find a bathroom, losing your friends and your place in the crowd. Then, when you get to the bathroom, you’re faced with an extremely long line. Festival planners, please don’t skimp on bathrooms! Your guests will thank you, and it will help with crowd control to make sure there are plenty of bathrooms throughout the festival site. 

Event Management Form

For help with getting to know your venue, check out section two of the OnePlan Event Management Form.

8. Garbage Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought

Just like with bathrooms, waste disposal shouldn’t be an afterthought. You need to create a waste management and recycling plan. No matter how wonderful most elements of your event are, no one will have a good time if they can’t find a garbage bin or if they see (and smell) large piles of trash overflowing from the garbage bin they do find. You can plot out where toilets and bins will go in OnePlan.

9. Every Inch Counts

It is not good enough to have a general idea of where all your elements (tents, bathrooms, stage, fencing) will be placed around the festival site. Miscalculating by even a few inches can mean blocking an exit or overcrowding. Every inch counts! In OnePlan, you can be precise. Enter exact measurements (imperial or metric) for all event elements in the OnePlan studio.

You can also utilize OnePlan’s new Snap-to-Grid tool, which allows you to perfectly space out items on the map. You can input the number of items needed as well as the distance between them and OnePlan will generate and Snap-to-Grid on the event map. The capability is currently in beta specifically for Porta Potties, but you will soon be able to use it to map out other elements like tents and make your entire event layout more exact and the process of site planning more convenient.

10. Work Smarter, Not Harder

At the end of the day, your tools will be the difference between working harder and working smarter. OnePlan transforms many of the grueling tasks associated with outdoor festival planning, making things like creating reports, site mapping, and collaborating simple. This tool will save you time and money, freeing up your schedule for what matters. Happy planning!

Start planning your festival with OnePlan completely free today. 

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