Public parks can be beautiful locations for a team building session, but a privately-owned venue will always give you far greater control and peace of mind.
Across 31 years of designing and running team building events we’ve been in and out of our fair share of parks and public spaces.
To breeze through a park as part of a Quest or Amazing Race style programme for a quick stop with no fixed props may be less an issue. If you are there for any length of time to start an event, conduct any significant component of it or run a structured finish there, then the proper planning and approvals are a must.
With an event friendly local council and a well-maintained park or beach, public places can of course be great venues, but there are potential pitfalls to be cautious of.
Amongst these are…
1 - Unpredictable park environments
Public parks and spaces naturally play host to a wide variety of people who walk through them, hang out in them and sadly these days maybe even need to live in them.
You cannot therefore predict or fully control the unscripted interactions or incidents that may arise as a result of curious, perhaps even malicious approaches to your people from members of the public.
Just as you may experience variable reactions to a corporate event from local government agencies, so it is with individual members of the public who may be frequenting the space you are in on that day.
Public facilities are also potentially subject to vandalism and varied levels of upkeep and repair (for example toilet blocks).
2 - The potentially unpredictable approval process and multiple stakeholders
Even some of the most event friendly councils can be subject to multiple layers of approvals and compliance before they can green light any commercial use of a public space.
Multiple agencies / stakeholders may also control a single space that you seek to use (for example a park with a body of water incorporated that also borders a national park). In such instances your approvals may need to actually pass through multiple departments or even different organisations. Not all of these may be event friendly and see the merit in what you plan to do.
Commercial use of public areas can therefore attract problematic layers of paperwork including risk assessments, location / site maps, cas-evac plans, environmental impact reports, possible needing to list the local government body as an interested party on your liability insurance policy and with some councils even asking for a DA / Development Application to be submitted for a big corporate event (believe it or not?).
If you plan to erect any form of structure, or add any catering or facilities, then plan for some more layers of reporting and approvals over and above the basics.
You may get approved in days, weeks or even months in some cases depending upon the council, the group size and scale of what you are planning.
Rarely is usage for a commercial event a sure thing, and even then you may not be assured of exclusive use of that space.
It may seem worth the risk of just going ahead without approvals, but imagine if on the day your event gets kicked out of the space, with fines and reputational damage thrown in. You may even turn up to find the whole space being filled by a cultural event, or fenced for major renewal or rebuilding.
It definitely pays to go through the right channels, but those channels may not always be fast, welcoming or helpful to an event professional.
3 - Privately owned and / or event specific venues will always offer you more control
Hiring a purpose-built event space is always going to offer greater predictability and control for a team building event or programme.
The exclusive use of areas can be pre-arranged and locked away to provide your event with a space and also an environment that you can exercise more control over.
Approval for use is faster and once your booking is formally contracted, more or less assured.
Your people will also be in a more predictable and controlled environment, which is more often the preferred state of affairs for any event.