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Transforming Event Planning for 52,000 attendees at The North Australia Festival of the Arts

Lachlan and the NAFA team’s story shows that in event planning, using tools like OnePlan not only gives you knowledge and control but also leads to more precise and safer events, and ultimately, bigger successes.
NAFA Event Plan in OnePlan
Tropic Sounds - Tones and I. High Res - 2023 - 46


10 - 12

Estimated site visits saved in the planning stage alone




Captivating Performances

Nestled in the heart of Townsville in Queensland, Australia, the North Australia Festival of the Arts (NAFA) is not your typical arts festival; it’s an inclusive, organic and open access festival that features all forms of art and performance. Hosted by the Townsville City Council (TCC), it spans two weeks and celebrates an impressive range of art genres. From handpicked, curated showcases to open-access fringe-style events, NAFA has something for every art enthusiast. Every year, the festival comes alive with the participation of around 1,000 artists, witnessing over 470 captivating performances and drawing an enthusiastic crowd of about 52,000 attendees, making it the largest event put on by Townsville City Council.

We spoke with Lachlan Welsh, the Festival Director for NAFA, for an in-depth discussion about their festival management journey and how OnePlan has reshaped their planning process.

Planning NAFA Previously

Planning a festival like NAFA is no small feat. Festival directors and their teams grapple with logistical challenges, from curating diverse performances to ensuring safety protocols, all while juggling limited spaces and ever-evolving requirements. Every inch of the venue becomes a puzzle piece, and the challenge lies not just in fitting them together but doing so in a way that creates a great experience for attendees.

Lachlan opened up about what planning was like before OnePlan, remembering the days when they used tools like Publisher and CAD. While these tools offered planning options, they often fell short. The complexity of CAD and its lack of ease of use was a challenge, while Publisher didn’t provide the required accuracy. The primary hurdle? Ensuring every piece of the festival fit perfectly in limited spaces, without compromising on crucial safety aspects like evacuation routes.

OnePlan to the Rescue

NAFA Event Plan in OnePlan

When NAFA found OnePlan, the first feature that stood out was its accurate scaling.

“The scaling is essential,” emphasized Lachlan, detailing how confidence in spatial planning can make or break an event, “Especially when you’re trying to fit so much stuff in a tight confined space. Now, using OnePlan, I’m confident that it’s going to fit. I know I’ll have circulation around what I need and I’ll have the appropriate evacuation routes.”


But OnePlan wasn’t just about accuracy. It was about efficiency. With ready-to-use templates, teams no longer had to reinvent the wheel by designing basic structures.

“Having everything templated is such a time saver. You’re not having to design your toilets, you’re not having to make the tents, or the pop-up 3x3s – it’s all just in OnePlan, which saves so much time,” said Lachlan.

Furthermore, OnePlan’s HD mapping elevated the planning game. OnePlan’s HD maps constantly update, providing the most recent version of your event site. This real-time, updated mapping was instrumental in making split-second, informed decisions, eliminating guesswork.

“The festival is run by Townsville City Council, so I have access to a lot of the city’s planning and GIS mapping systems, but even that is older than what I can get through the HD maps in OnePlan,” says Lachlan. “The maps are never the same even through seasons, like how big the canopy of trees are between a dry season and a wet season. So you can see whether you’re going to be able to get that truck through that driveway with a container on the back without hitting the canopy.”

Digging Deeper: Using OnePlan to Solve Underground Planning

One of OnePlan’s best features is its capability to overlay CAD documents onto your event plan. Why is this so important? NAFA’s primary venue houses a maze of underground utilities – from high voltage power cables to critical communication fibers. Lachlan recounted a particularly stressful event where an unplanned peg pierced a water bank, leading to a whopping 10,000-dollar repair bill and a significant water outage. Errors that are now a thing of the past with OnePlan.

But it’s not just about dodging obstacles; it’s about space optimization. Lachlan tells about how OnePlan’s precision enabled them to position a tent perfectly over underground concrete blocks, leaving no room for error.

“It was centimeter-perfect from where I did it on OnePlan to where the guy jackhammered in the pegs,” says Lachlan. “Visualizing underground is crucial. By overlaying existing underground service plans, event managers can save heaps of dollars.”

Streamlining Communication and Updates with OnePlan

One of the game-changing advantages of OnePlan is the ability to share your plan with contractors. In the past, managing plan versions was a logistical nightmare, ending up with multiple versions. It was a constant struggle to ensure that everyone had the latest update. Often contractors would arrive at the site with an outdated plan, causing confusion and delays.

Share your event plan

However, OnePlan’s real-time sharing feature has revolutionized this process. Now, everyone accesses the most current plan at any given moment. There’s no more second-guessing whether someone received the latest version or chasing down outdated copies. It’s a seamless process where a single link is shared, and contractors can view or print the plan as needed.

“Being able to share plans with contractors helps them better plan their bump ins and bump outs – as well as understand what’s potentially going to be in the way when they bring a truck onto site and how they’ll be able to get in and out. They can prep their crews to understand what the event site will look like and where they need to be,” says Lachlan.

Even last-minute changes are no longer a cause for concern; Lachlan and his team simply adjust the plan, and the update is instantly available to everyone involved.

The Quantifiable Impact of OnePlan

OnePlan has been crucial in a substantial reduction in manual site visits. Lachlan estimated a saving of ten to twelve site visits during the planning phase alone.

“Now I’d be comfortable not going for a site visit and working off the OnePlan because I’m confident that it’s that accurate and everything will sit where it is,” he explains.

These saved hours, previously spent on manual measurements and scale verifications, are now channeled into enhancing the festival experience.

Commitment to Customization

NAFA’s experience shows OnePlan’s transformative capabilities. From ensuring spot-on tent placements to averting costly underground utility damages, OnePlan stands out as an indispensable asset for event planners worldwide.

“It’s pretty exciting to see the trajectory and evolution of OnePlan. What stands out about OnePlan is how we can suggest improvements and then actually see those suggestions come to life. You can clearly see it’s a company that wants to develop, which is good to see in this industry – because this industry changes all the time and having software that keeps up is vital.”

Lachlan and the NAFA team’s story shows that in event planning, using tools like OnePlan not only gives you knowledge and control but also leads to more precise and safer events, and ultimately, bigger successes.

Planning a festival? Get started using OnePlan today.

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