7 Steps to Hosting a Drive-In Event During the Pandemic
We can't help but be inspired by how creative people are getting during the COVID-19 pandemic. In-person meetings between family, friends and peers alike are extremely restricted and therefore clever measures must be taken in order to still be able to connect. These connections are happening on small-scales as well as large. Many people are getting creative at home with their Zoom calls and drive-by parties, while businesses are looking to virtual/hybrid events or ways to socially distance their in-person event.
As a business in an industry that employs many entertainers and thrives off of live events, we have had to get creative as well. The idea of a drive-in event was awe inspiring because it would allow for some of our creatives to perform/work for the weekend and allow attendees to experience some live entertainment once again, safely and securely. So, we decided to go for it and learned so much along the way. The process behind the scenes had many highs and lows while the show went off without a hitch, every single night. But, isn't that the way most event planners view their programs?
Anyone and everyone can produce a spectacular drive-in show and many people have been doing this. From holiday decorations to brand activations and live concerts, there are quite a few ways to plan your event. And while planning your drive-in event is not easy, by any means, there are steps you can take to make the process run more smoothly. We can broken the process down in to 8 separate steps that will lead your next drive-in event to success.
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE COST of planning your drive-in event. If you are not relying on a venue that already has staging, lighting and sound set-up, then all of these will need to be rented/purchased and that is not cheap. Try sourcing your staging from a local company that way it is easy to make any last minute changes. As far as lighting goes, up-lights purchased off of Amazon are likely your best bet. So many people use these for professional ambient lighting and there are many options to choose from. Sound will likely be your most expensive line item, right in line with staging and staffing. Again, try sourcing your sound from a local company and chat with them about renting all of the speakers, transmitters, microphones, etc. that you might need and if it is in your budget, negotiate having their team come and set this up, as this will take a lot of stress away.
Try to lean on a venue that you already have a connection with or that just has a great layout for a drive-in event. In our case, we needed to find a spot that could park at least 20 vehicles, a space for a greenroom nearby the stage, a pole or rooftop to set lighting up on and we preferred somewhere with a view of the Las Vegas Strip. If you can not lean on a venue that you already have an established relationship with, then it is ideal to find a venue that has staging, sound and lighting already set up. However, it does not mean that you can not produce this, just like we did. We had a previous connection with the Erotic Heritage Museum on Sammy Davis Jr. Drive and this assist us a lot with staging, lighting and sound. We paid a small fee to the venue in exchange to use their parking lot for three nights and have a bit of assistance form them when producing the event.
When using fairly wide open space as a venue, it can be hard to block off your show from bystanders who did not purchase a ticket. An easy and affordable way to block off your staging is wood planking from your local hardware store and a fresh coat of colored paint. Staging was rented from a local event company and they were lovely when asking them about any discount from businesses affected by COVID-19. It is nice to look to local businesses because community roots are strong and resourceful. Sound was all our own and we straight up ran it our of our tour van that you can see in the first image, to the left of the stage. This worked perfectly but that may not be an option for everyone - so make sure you have enough generators or you can pull all power from your venue. Lighting was done with twelve up-lights ordered off of Amazon. These lights were strung from the center pole in the parking lot and aside staging.
Regulations and Permitting
It is extremely important to stay up-to-date on your local guidelines. First thing is first, and that is to go to the state government website in the state you are doing the drive-in event, and thoroughly read through everything that is needed in your county in order to produce the event. Many times, a promoters license, event permit, staging permit, and a few other licenses/permits are needed before you can begin. In Clark County, NV, they make it extremely easy, via Clark County Special Events, for you to gather all of the information you need regarding this.
COVID-19 Policies and Procedures
Alongside regulations and permitting, be sure to keep up-to-date on capacity restrictions due to the novel COVID-19. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and this is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember when producing an event right now. Attendees want to know that they are safe and that event planners are taking specific precautions to mandate social distancing and other practices such as temperature checks and sanitation stations.
Producing a drive-in event is perfect during this pandemic and with better weather coming our way, as we step out of Winter and into Spring. However, weather can be very unpredictable and most outdoor events must continue on rain or shine. Be sure to have a back up plan in case the weather does not turn out to be favorable. In or case, Las Vegas had a record breaking wind storm on the second day of our event...of course. But, this did not stop the show from going on.
The entire backdrop of our staging set up was gone by the time we arrived at the venue on day two. We were devastated but the show must go on, and it did. Without a backdrop, we lost a lot of our sound quality and appealing appearance. We knew we had to get one back up but could not do that during day two, as the wind was relentless all evening long and that would be a safety hazard to the performers. But, we connected with our venues and figured out a solution - we'd have a new backdrop up by day three.
Teach your Audience
Many people are new to drive-in events. Maybe they have been to drive-in movies but live shows are a lot different. A lot of drive-in events also have FM transmitters that broadcast the audio into attendees vehicles. You will need to let your attendees know how to tune into this station. This will also keep people in/near their own vehicles for social distancing reasons and not wander around. In addition, since everyone is inside their vehicles it is important to teach them how to honk/use their lights to show attention to the performers. It is so much more fun for the performers, audience and staff when there is audience participation.
Every successful event has reasonable promo. Why put all of the work into the event and not capture amazing footage in order to promote and sell your idea to other venues/producers. Investing in hiring a professional videographer/photographer can definitely help with this or you can take the footage yourself on the best camera you own. It is also extremely important to create a reel out of all of this content. Something that is short, sweet and allows inquirers to see all of the fun, all in one place.