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Planning for Rain

May 26, 2021

Isn’t it beautiful outdoors? It is until it rains. Our ancestors prayed for rain, and many farmers still do, but in the events world, rain is the enemy in your hero story.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Event planners love to plan. It’s in their title. We love to plan, too.

Everyone has a plan, ’till they get punched in the mouth.

When the pressure is on, it’s important to have a plan to stick to. When Captain Sully landed his plane in the Hudson he had only a few minutes to follow a plan and land the plane. In those minutes, luckily, he did not have to design the plan. He only had to follow it. The plan had been laid out in pilot trainings and reviewed hundreds of times over his career. Now, when the moment came, the few minutes he had thankfully was enough to follow that plan. When the rain comes, and you have limited time, there’s not enough time to make a plan, only enough time to follow one. Let’s form a rain plan, together.

For the contexts of this article, we are going to workshop an outdoor ceremony. Think of ground breaking ceremonies, college commencement ceremonies, church worship services, they are all a set program.

The Show Must Go On

For this writing we are not going to touch on outdoor receptions, cocktail hours, or anything that can adapt so easily. These are events that attendees can simply walk inside, and continue mingling. When the goal of the event is networking, human beings can do that just about anywhere. However, when the goal of the event is a key moment: a ribbon cutting, the deferring of degrees, or an alter call, the show must go on.

We plan for rain in three separate moments:

  1. It could rain during the show
  2. It could rain right before the show
  3. It could rain after the show

Be looking at your rain plan through the eyes of your three most important stakeholders who are counting on you to lead:

  1. Your boss
  2. Your co-workers and on-site event team
  3. Your audience

A dream without a plan is just a wish.

Make sure if you have a dream for an amazing event, you have a plan to execute it, including rain.

What if it rains during the show?

This is priority one. It’s the most natural, knee-jerk way that first-time event planners respond to possible rain. They look at their weather app, watch the radar, and are constantly refreshing to see if any precipitation will happen during their two-hour event. Phrases like, “whew, it’s going to clear off this morning just in time.” Or sometimes, “thank goodness, it doesn’t start until this evening, right after we finish.” These are beginner mistakes. Rain and weather forecasting is just that: forecasting. It’s not factual until it’s historical data. Those forecasts may move. If there is any reasonable risk of rain during your event, you need to move it. Ceremonies, shows, services, they have pinnacle moments. Don’t have a show begin only to get rained out during.

What if it rains before the show?

Rain plans aren’t just for the few hours of your event. When it rains the morning of an event, everything is soaked. This is something we see over and over again with new event planners as well. Their boss, or their audience, excitedly believes the show can still go on. Just don’t forget the hours of decoration, rehearsal, preparation and setup it takes to pull off an event. That is on a fixed timeline counting down to your show start. Some of that can be done the day before, but not everything can be covered with a tarp. Make sure you add up how much time you need to deploy your event, and save that much time before show start on your production timeline so that everything can effectively and safely be re-deployed after a before-show shower.

What if it rains after the show?

Who cares, right? The show happened, setup happened, the audience has left, but you still have to tear down. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the show happening is the only goal. Equipment, decorations, staging, it all has to get torn down safely. If things are left out in the rain they will be damaged. In the environment above when it rained before an event, those things could be covered with tarps during setup. In this scenario, setup happened, the show happened, and then rain immediately following doesn’t allow any time for tarps to cover everything up. Your guests will be happy, they had their event and made it safely to their dry cars, but the event equipment is endangered. One question we get often is, who pays for that? To speak a little higher level to that question, we hate waste. Someone has to pay for those damages. The foolish response is for the customer to think if they’re not liable it’s not their problem. The customer, the company, the insurance, someone will have to pay for the lack of rain plan. Those costs come back around to the customer at some point, and so we work hard to avoid damages happening. With a solid rain plan, damage can be avoided.

Things to Consider When Creating a Rain Plan

As we wrap-up, here are some things to consider, in rapid-fire fashion, when creating a rain plan.

Guests will be confused. A core value at avad3 is Over-Communicate. A month before your event, write to your audience with a Plan A and a Plan B. Keep it simple. Plan A, we’re outdoors. Plan B, indoors. Morning-of, they’ll hear from you via XYZ platform. It doesn’t have to be complicated for them. Then, on-site, have signage. If they drive to park at the field, have signs there saying we’re inside. If they drive to park for an indoor event thinking, “it might rain,” have signs saying we’re out at the field. Have your co-workers and event-day team ready as volunteers to point people, and remind them to bring their rain gear.

It takes an army. You’re going to need more than just you or one other person to move everything if you do have to make a last-minute call. Typically the week before an event is filled with setup and decor. Event elements arrive one at a time in small cars to be setup. If you move with one hour notice, what trickled in like a stream is going to need to rush out like an open dam. Have hands and trucks and carts ready to move like it’s a football halftime show.

Remember your rain plan begins at least two hours before your show. Don’t add up at the micro level how many minutes you need, think macro, and realize that guests arriving early need to know where to park and which way to go.

Tarps are your friend. Beg, borrow, buy. Ask friends, family and fools if you can have their tarps for the week. With softball and baseball, they tarp the field. As soon as the rain stops, they can play ball! Your goal is 100% focused on having a dry setup the moment the event starts. It can pour a monsoon on your tarps, as long as you can pull them and have dry decorations and production equipment underneath, it cuts your rain-restoration time down significantly.

Limit the scope if you have to. Your dream event may have included moving lights and other features. You may have to choose between a simpler event outdoors and your dream event indoors. Prioritize your dreams.

No one wants to get hurt. No one wants to ruin equipment. No one wants to see all your hard work as an event planner endangered by something out of your control. We can’t control the weather but we can create rain plans .

Remember, if there’s any chance of rain during your show, it endangers everything. Shows have key moments, ceremonies have big finishes. You’re hosting this event for a reason. If that “reason” can’t happen outdoors, it needs to move indoors. The worst thing imaginable would be getting through all the commencement speeches only for it to rain before the deferring of degrees and seeing a student walk across the stage. That’s why your audience is there. If you can’t give them that outdoors, move indoors before the ceremony begins. Your audience will scatter, and if you haven’t communicated well before this moment, it will be nearly impossible to rally them back together that day.

Before you choose a production partner, talk about rain. Make sure your decision on who will be with you day-of is someone you want with you in planning. Hours together on-site pales in comparison to months together in planning. Choose a production company for your event that thrives in planning.

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