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Open Air Business February 2018

The UK's outdoor hospitality business magazine for function venues, glamping, festivals and outdoor events

EVENTS GETTY IMAGES

EVENTS GETTY IMAGES Local Liaison John Radford highlights the importance of local liaison when planning an outdoor event, and how to get it right YOU’VE WORKED HARD to plan your project or event. Your sums add up (hopefully), the team is working well, the date is set and the marketing plan is taking shape. What more do you need to produce something unique and exciting? How about making sure that you have really done your homework when it comes to local liaison and engagement? We are not talking about placing a marketing advert in the local paper or even telling friends down at the local pub about your plans. We are talking about really engaging, communicating and liaising with those in the community in which the project takes place. Those who live or work nearby, the local shops and businesses, the parish council, local authority and the local agencies such as Highways, Fire Service and the Police. BENEFITS FOR ALL Have you really considered the benefits that this kind of local liaison can bring to your event? What’s even better is that a lot of this liaison shouldn’t cost money but simply time and effort. The rewards though could be fantastic and the investment in time and effort can easily pay off handsomely. Some of that liaison may not always be positive but if issues are highlighted in the early stages then actions can be implemented or simply the act of communicating may assist in developing a better relationship. Better relationships can build better projects through opportunities and ideas. Look at local liaison time as time well spent. WHO ARE THESE STAKEHOLDERS? The term stakeholders is sometimes used when considering projects and events but who exactly are these stakeholders? At the most simplistic level, they are persons with an interest in or concern about something; in this instance, that “something” is your project. You’ve probably thought long and hard about the project you are about to embark upon. Have you considered though how it may impact others around you? Do you have neighbours or adjoining businesses? How will your actions impact them? Rather than working in isolation, early engagement and building relationships can provide significant dividends. We often see local stakeholders object to projects and events based on perceptions or assumptions that don’t actually hold water. The classic example is the small community music event in a local field that adjoining residents feel 56 WWW.OPENAIRBUSINESS.COM

EVENTS is rapidly going to become the next Glastonbury Festival when the reality is an attendance of 1,000 people from local families having a fantastic summer evening out. Getting these groups and individuals (stakeholders) on side and informed is a critical aspect of the event planning, and something that shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be ignored. Don’t just see these stakeholders in a negative context. Local stakeholders may hold the key for you in terms of opening up other opportunities to improve your event. Do they have adjoining access or egress routes that may assist in ensuring your customers can get to and from the venue or event footprint effectively? Maybe they would like to become actively involved as a volunteer? Do they have experience in similar projects? There could be significant positive impacts from local liaison and stakeholder engagement. WHERE TO START Get the facts out there early. Does the local community really know how your project or event could benefit them, or even simply what the project is actually about? Will your customers spend money in the local community or use local accommodation and food outlets? Are you using a local park or school as part of the event footprint for example? Have you paid fees for the use of local halls or facilities that can have a direct and positive benefit for local stakeholders? Have you talked to similar events and projects to gauge what benefits they created locally? Provide good examples – don’t hide the positives. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the wider positive aspects that your project can bring. If you are running a closed site with on-site camping, food and entertainment there may be minimal immediate cross benefits for the wider community, although you are still putting the location on the map and visitors to your event or project may return again, simply to see the local area in more detail. If, “INCREASED FOOTFALL PRODUCES INCREASES IN REVENUE FOR SHOPS, CAFES, PUBS AND ACCOMMO- DATION PROVIDERS” however, your project is integrated into the general environs the benefits to the local community can be substantial. Increased footfall produces increases in revenue for shops, cafes, pubs and accommodation providers. Have these potential benefits been investigated and can you use local relationships to bring benefits to all? During the planning phase ensure that the communication process is an integral part of the project life cycle. It shouldn’t be seen as an optional add-on but an integral element within the process of planning. In some circumstances it may be wise to bring together a larger group of people who could be affected by your project to ensure everyone feels they have a clear line of communication with you. Don’t be afraid if they ask searching questions – if you have done your homework and planned the project appropriately then you should have nothing to hide. ENGAGE AND COMMUNICATE Communicating – “the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium” (Oxford Dictionary). We all do it on a daily basis, but sometimes we forget how important communication is. Whether verbal, written or even body language, communication allows understanding and engagement. Don’t be afraid of it but embrace it; it can make your life easier and bring people and organisations on side if they aren’t already. Use the local newspaper or community website, write some articles, run a local leaflet drop or maybe facilitate an open meeting. As a business, we recently attended a community hall meeting regarding an event. Initially there was some hostility towards the planned event but having come face to face with the team behind the project, the community went away with a better understanding and knowledge about what the event would bring and how they would not be impacted. Overall the meeting took less than two hours but over 30 people from the community attended and the benefits of that engagement can not be underestimated. COUNCILS AND PUBLIC BODIES Many promoters and event teams leave liaison with the local authorities and other public GETTY IMAGES WWW.OPENAIRBUSINESS.COM 57