28th June 2007

Summer Events

Does it pay to hold your event over the summer? John Spain finds out

It may only be the end of June but have you realised that since last week the nights have begun getting darker and that we are, according to the calendar at least, in the middle of high summer?
For people who were at Glastonbury a couple of weekends ago, tennis fans at Wimbledon this week and the countless thousands of people who will have surely picked last weekend in which to get married, it probably didn’t feel exactly like how they expected it to be but let’s hope that the deluges and downpours didn’t completely ruin their enjoyment of the various events.
Leaving the weather aside, it is understandable that so many organisers choose the months from May until mid-September for their events. Whether it’s a wedding, party, corporate event or sporting fixture there are rather obvious pleasure to be gained from doing it when the weather’s warmer. There can be few people who haven’t enjoyed sipping a chilled white wine or cold beer in an open space while either meeting fellow party-goers or networking with new business contacts.
However, isn’t this a rather cosmetic reason for holding an event during the summer? Surely if the content of your event is right it really doesn’t matter when you hold it? Does a summer date actually bring anything to an event rather than the meteorological possibilities?
Frank Ford is the managing director of Professional Incentives and has spent many years organising a wide variety of events including conferences, product launches and special events. He thinks that the summer months can be attractive to event organisers.
“One of the major aspects of the summer months, say late May through to July, is that these are traditionally the quieter periods and so you can benefit from rates that are less than other times of the year,” he says. “Come August and there are plenty of places where you can more or less name your price.”
Ford, however, points out that these months are traditionally quieter for good reason.
“If you’re running a pan-European event for example, the summer is in many ways the worst time to run it,” he says. “Look at France and, ‘le grand départ’ where everyone goes on holiday for most of August. This is mirrored across Europe which means that getting delegates along to your conference can be, at best, problematic and, at worst, impossible.”
Ford does accept that the attraction of summer events, especially in the UK, is warmth. “People enjoy nice weather and the chance of getting the sun on your back, even for a few minutes, becomes a very welcome aspect of the event.” Ford points to the large number of clients his firm has who run spring events in Mediterranean countries because the feel good factor created by delegates enjoying some sunshine, even if it’s only for 20 minutes during morning coffee, adds a certain element to the event.
Another aspect of staging events outside is that there is often more space in which to do things than one would normally have indoors. This is especially the case with product launches. If you are launching a car, for example, it makes sense to have it driving around. It therefore follows that if you are going to have people outside for a reasonable length of time, it may as well be at a point in the year when they are going to be pleasantly warm instead of freezing cold.
But surely the fact remains that content is all. It really doesn’t matter how nice the weather was if the conference was a total snore from start to finish?
“Absolutely, if you get the content wrong you can be in paradise on Earth and it’s not going to make any difference,” says Ford. “It’s a horrible term but ‘the business theatre’ must be spot on, you’ve got to get that core element right. Then, the wrapping, the ensemble of destination, weather become contributing factors. But you still have to work from the inside out.”
It would follow then that if the organiser has done a good job the time of year in which you hold your event shouldn’t make a lot of difference. However, a pleasant few days in agreeable temperatures will nevertheless add something, a glow, if you like, for the delegates to take back to the office when it’s all finished.