Event Design

How the Soaring Heat Impacts Events

Coworkers gathered on a rooftop beating the heat

Skift Take

Outdoor events should always be handled with care. Contingency plans are a must, especially when the temperature soars.

It’s hot out there: A heat wave is impacting much of the United States. Excessive heat advisories, watches, and warnings are in effect.

In addition, cities on four continents have hit record highs. The World Meteorological Organization says climate change is projected to increase the severity of heat waves.

What does this mean to event planners? As with any gathering, the safety and comfort of attendees is paramount.

The Stakes Are High

One meeting attendee who preferred to remain anonymous shared his experience at a recent Arizona conference. “It was stifling out, yet our company insisted on going ahead with the opening night reception outdoors. This was despite the heat,” he said. A colleague had to go to the hospital. Although he was fine after receiving IV fluids, it did not reflect well on the company, said the attendee. “Many were complaining that they felt their health was put at risk to get a good deal at a hotel during an off-season.”

Backup Plan a Must

Melinda Burdette, senior director of events for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), remembers planning the organization’s World Education Congress (WEC) in Indianapolis.

The opening party was held in the city’s White River State Park, which was planned as an outdoor celebration to kick off the conference. 

Lucas Oil Stadium, connected to the Indianapolis Convention Center that was hosting WEC, was booked in case of heat, rain, or another weather occurrence. “During an initial site visit, I am exploring potential venues we can use as a plan B if needed,” she said.

Not every group is in the position of booking a football stadium as a backup plan, but a hotel ballroom or meeting space will suffice as well.

Ways to Beat the Heat

Caesars’s Global Wellness Summit gathered 120 event professionals in Las Vegas earlier this month. The temperature soared during the summit to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not unusual for Las Vegas but unusual this time of year. Caesars moved from the pool area into a conference center meeting room for one dinner reception because of the heat. It had cooled off enough by the time dinner ended to host its outdoor sound bath, an experience that immerses participants in deep sound vibrations, on the pool deck. 

Lee Caston, a meeting planner based in Houston, plans many outdoor gatherings where heat may be an issue. She too arranges for an indoor area available to attendees for the duration of the event to cool off in. Cool misting fans are set up throughout her outdoor space and she has even used handheld fans as a giveaway. 

Ultimately, planners have no control over the weather, so flexibility is key.

Tips to Keep Attendees Comfortable During Outdoor Gatherings 

Burdette offered suggestions for ways to keep attendees comfortable at outdoor gatherings.

  • Hydration: Ensuring attendees stay hydrated is crucial. Provide plenty of water stations and encourage frequent water breaks.
  • Sunscreen: Little travel-size containers of sunscreen should be available. Burdette suggests having them sponsored.
  • Shade and Cooling Area: An air-conditioned room should be provided for guests who need to cool down from the heat. Cooling misting fans are also recommended.
  • Dress: Be sure to keep your attendees updated about the weather and encourage them to dress accordingly. Cool towels for the backs of attendees’ necks are a welcome addition.
  • Schedule: Plan outdoor gatherings during the cooler part of the day or evening. Tokyo got so hot during the 2020 Summer Olympics that schedules had to be adjusted accordingly to protect athletes and spectators from heat-related illnesses.