Meeting planners are always looking for new ways to create an environment that fosters lasting impressions. I’ve noticed an uptick of meeting planners bringing their groups outdoors to enjoy nature, and have seen how this can help the overall success of an event. By encouraging attendees to get out of the traditional boardroom, meeting planners can find easy and fun ways to engage their group and create a setting that builds lasting connections among your attendees.
I recommend that meeting planners consider the following when planning an outdoor event.
Use nature to help meet your goals
First off, planners should outline the goals of their event and understand how incorporating outdoor elements can help to achieve the desired result. For example, if planners would like their group to network, a casual and relaxing outdoor setting may help attendees to be more comfortable with connecting and encourage meaningful conversations.
Also, planners should not be hesitant to change it up a bit and consider moving traditional elements of the meeting agenda outdoors. For example, instead of a projection slideshow presentation, I’ve seen planners host creative and fun flip chart sessions outside in which the attendees have been fully engaged and more interactive than in a traditional ballroom or boardroom setting. We’ve even held trade shows outdoors to add a new element to exhibits. Sometimes a small change in setting is all it takes for planners to make a big difference for their event.
Reset your mind and re-energize
As we live in the day and age of fast-paced work environments, instant downloads and hundreds of emails, planners can get attendees outdoors in order to help them tap into a different part of their brains and decompress. Even if you have a content-heavy program, planners can incorporate outdoor breaks that allow guests to enjoy the fresh air, give their minds a moment to process all of the information they’ve learned and allow them to “reset” before their next set of sessions for the day.
When planners incorporate the outdoors into their events, they are choosing to infuse “light space” which refers to anything with a natural setting, from fresh air and sunlight to trees and running water. These types of spaces are perfect for groups to spur creativity and reenergize, helping to increase the success of the event.
Things to consider
For planners who are hosting full outdoor sessions, it is important to keep a couple things in mind to ensure a successful event. For example, I encourage planners to consider a pavilion-type setup which provides overhead shade or extended covering that protects from the sun and is adaptable based on weather changes. I also suggest a casual dress code that is suitable and comfortable for being outside—there is rarely the need to be in a suit for an outdoor function.
Although several types of meeting sessions can be hosted outdoors, I’ve noticed that roundtable discussions that open up dialogue to attendees and encourage out-of-the-box thinking typically work best, rather than closed, content-driven sessions.
Consider and utilize your specific venue
I recommend that planners look for destinations that provide an abundance of outdoor space. As most resorts are designed to incorporate a natural landscape, they are typically ideal venues for outdoor meetings that encourage creative learning. A resort’s outdoor spaces are usually among its best assets, and as an added bonus, it’s typically beneficial for planners to utilize those areas.