Organizing an event in the United States can be a stimulating experience, but one that comes with its own set of challenges. Even if it’s only a few hours from the border, there are many differences from state to state, and the impact on your events can be significant. After several experiences in the U.S., including JACKALOPE fest in Virginia Beach, our teams share 5 essential things to consider when planning an event in the U.S:
5 Things to Know About Planning an Event in the United States
1 November 2023 / By audreane
1.Local Partnerships and Networking:
In the first year, it’s normal not to have a vast network of local contacts, which makes the upstream research phase all the more important. It is therefore essential to identify the key players in the local industry. In the case of a festival like JACKALOPE, local suppliers, potential sponsors, community organizations, athletes, staff or simply the town’s tourist office. Establishing solid partnerships with these players not only enhances the event’s credibility, but also opens doors to future opportunities.
And networking plays a crucial role in building lasting, beneficial relationships. Attending industry events, conferences and local meet-ups is a great way to meet industry professionals and make valuable connections.
“We organized a networking event with professionals, artists, staff and volunteers several months in advance of the festival to create a bank of contacts and choose the best collaborators according to our needs” – Karine Bélisle, Production Project Manager at TRIBU.
A proactive approach to networking is essential. This can mean organizing small networking events, inviting professionals to informal get-togethers (like a dinner party), or even setting up special collaborations with locals.
2. Jurisdictions and regulations :
First and foremost, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the various jurisdictions and regulations that may have an impact on the event and festival. This includes a thorough understanding of local police requirements, city rules and permit regulations.
For our part, we had the privilege of working closely with the Virginia Beach Tourism Office, which offered us an opportunity to dive behind the scenes of local event management. “The city takes local events at heart, and it shows in their commitment to solving the many challenges to producing events like ours” said Karine.
In addition, liquor license management is a crucial aspect to consider. Regulations surrounding the sale and consumption of alcohol can be complex and vary by state and municipality. The legal drinking age and consumption zones (also known as ABC zones) are good examples. As in Canada, you need to make sure you obtain the appropriate licenses and comply with local laws.
Compliance with building regulations is also essential. This can include the installation of temporary structures, space planning and compliance with safety standards. In our case, we had several large projects for the JACKALOPE festival. We had to build a scaffolded base on the roof of the Hilton to allow the BASE Jumper to jump safely. We also built a skatepark directly on the beach. The biggest challenge for our suppliers was the weather, which delayed progress on the structures. We were very happy to have suppliers we could trust!
Partnering with police and sheriffs to help enforce laws and safety for all participants was essential, especially since there are distinct laws on the legality of carrying weapons from state to state. Working with the city, we had access to their real-time analysis system of activities on site, with a drone for example, enabling us to quickly spot any suspicious activity and take the necessary measures in time. A must in a state where carrying weapons is legal!
3. Budget planning :
Budget planning proved to be a delicate stage in our project. Exchange rate fluctuations (USD vs CAD) and price differences between Canada and local suppliers demanded particular vigilance. In the early months of our approach, we quickly noticed that suppliers were taking advantage of our Canadian status to inflate their prices. Local contacts and relationships are key. Each of them brought their own reputation and expertise to the table, thus avoiding any unnecessary overload.
4. Targeted marketing and promotion :
In terms of advertising and marketing, there were several challenges: as a relatively unknown entity in the US market, it was vital to get our name out there as a festival. Tastes, preferences and consumer habits can vary considerably, requiring a tailor-made marketing approach to attract the attention of the American public and stay top of mind. The use of PR specialists in the American market can be extremely beneficial in surrounding yourself with relevant media in an unfamiliar environment.
In addition, it is essential to adapt the message and promotional content to better resonate with the American public. This means making sure you understand local market trends, communication channels and popular social media, which may differ from Canada or other countries.
“In the U.S., you can’t be afraid to go big and bold, especially when you’re a little-known event in the area. […] I really enjoyed developing this strategy.” – Audréane Béland Côté, Communications & Marketing Project Manager at TRIBU.
5.International Logistics Management:
Coordinating these essential aspects is literally a full-time job. You have to make sure that all participants have adequate accommodation and meals that suit everyone (and their allergies and intolerances). Which is a big challenge when you have a large group! In our case, a good part of the team traveled to the United States to ensure that the production of the event ran smoothly. We also hired out-of-town suppliers and brought in several international athletes. So we had a hundred people to accommodate and some thirty to feed. This meant meticulous planning, constant communication with suppliers and responsiveness to any changes or unforeseen events.
“The most important thing is to make complete follow-up documents and get ahead of the game to make sure you have as much information as possible upstream.” – Sandrine Kerignard, Production Coordinator at TRIBU.
To guarantee a smooth process, several imperative steps must be followed. First and foremost, visa and customs management is essential. It is advisable to work with a broker specialized in ATA carnets, to ensure efficient management of customs formalities. It’s essential to knock on several doors to select a broker that best suits our needs,” Karine emphasizes. Furthermore, having a plan B is imperative – it’s always wise to have alternative transportation solutions in case of need, something we learned the hard way!
“I never thought I’d have to count boxes of screws to cross equipment into the States. All other related tasks as they say” – Karine Bélisle, Production Project Manager
In addition, although obtaining work visas may be in place, training with external lawyers is essential to ensure that you deal properly with customs officials and avoid unnecessary problems. We advise you to allow sufficient time, as these processes can often take several months of preparation to complete.
In a nutshell: surround yourself with the right contacts who can support you throughout the process. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to organize an event in the U.S.! Don’t forget that each point deserves special attention to ensure a smooth and memorable event experience.