Susan Tanner, CEO of the National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) introduces the organisation and explains why outdoor events is one of the most exciting sectors in the industry…


Hi Susan! Why do you love working in outdoor events?

For me it’s the people, and the different ones involved. As someone who has organised one of the largest outdoor events in the UK, you really become a family with the people you’re working with. To me it is like going to war – not that I have been! You get to create a bond with the people you work with, all the suppliers, and your event team. They become your family and you become part of something really special together; it’s a great industry to work in.


How did you become associated with NOEA?

I was a member for a long time while I was working as Event Director of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, a 500,000-plus event. When I left, I saw the secretariat role at NOEA was being advertised and it just went on from there. Now I have the great honour of being the organisation’s CEO, which is really special.


The NOEA annual convention gets bigger and better every year, what can we look forward to at the next event?

Yes, we’re on a really good run at the moment, and mostly because we’ve taken the content back to basics and are addressing the things that matter most in the lives of event organisers. Last year the theme was ‘It Could Never Happen to Me?’ a theme close to my heart, as ‘It’ certainly happened to me! Often, we only look at what went right but so much can be learnt from what went wrong and how we can learn.

Within NOEA we pride ourselves on having a membership with integrity and high standards, and we wanted to use the convention to spread the word. This year, the theme will evolve from this to look at responsibility around the people that influence your event from staff, to support services, to the people that come to your event. Its already looking really good!


Why event organisers and companies seek out NOEA?

It’s a two-way process membership. First of all, we want people to join that want to contribute to the industry and share experiences with like-minded individuals. We’re an association that looks to influence our industry, so we need an engaged and active membership. Secondly though, we also have a strict vetting process, and we’re proud of the values and integrity of our members. The idea is that an event organiser can choose a NOEA member and be confident that they have an outstanding partner be they event organiser or supplier.


What are the benefits of joining an association dedicated to outdoor events?

Some associations can be very broad, and there is a place for that. In NOEA though, we need to address the detail, the legislation that is affecting us right now, the issues that will affect us this coming summer. Event people need to see action, and that’s why they like the way NOEA runs its business.


Can you tell us about the Futures Programme? 

We’re delighted to have the support of our Futures supporters; GL events UK, A.C.T National (Ltd), Arnold Clark, and SeeTickets. Each of them is heavily involved in supporting major events up and down the country and represent some key areas of them e.g. ticketing, infrastructure, seating, stadia, transport, as well as health and safety.

They will join an advisory board, alongside the other supporters, that puts recommendations forward to the NOEA Council to ensure the association continues to represent the industry’s growth and stability. What is most important is the amount of time and experience they bring to NOEA, acting as a guide for us to make sure the association is supporting the industry in the right way, all the time. They’ve all been amazing, and we’re delighted to have them.


So what kind of hot topics on members’ lips right now?

We’re focusing on many at the moment, but the big one for discussion is Zone Ex [creating safe environments in to and out of events]. This is an important subject and one that the rest of the events industry should watch closely. It’s about the duty of care that events and organisers have to give their attendees in the ‘last mile’ before they arrive on site and when they leave – not just at the event.

It’s important that NOEA members are aware of these changes and have meaningful discussions as a community to work out how best to handle them.


What key advice would you give to people who are considering holding an event outdoors?

Essentially, work with NOEA members. When it comes to a large event, you’re only as good as your weakest link, and you’ll be relying on a number of different suppliers that you need to trust to have your back; through good and bad. We have so many good people in NOEA, but outside of our community there are some poor businesses that will let events down. It’s of huge reassurance to event organisers especially, that they can rely on NOEA members.


To find out how to become a member or how to choose a NOEA-member supplier, visit Noea.org.uk.