How to Host a Safe and Fun Live Event: 5 Pro Tips

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how to host a live event

It’s no secret that hosting a live event draws a crowd. That’s why bars, restaurants, and breweries are packing their calendar full of events: from live trivia to watch parties.

With all the extra foot traffic and amped-up energy of live events, it’s easy to overlook basic safety strategies. Now is the time to get smart about protecting your patrons – and your business – during events. Take a closer look at 5 popular live event ideas, paired up with pro safety tips.

Live Event Idea #1: Bar Games Tournament

Flip cup. Cornhole. KanJam. Once upon a time, these games were only played at backyard BBQs and tailgates. Today, many bars, restaurants, and breweries have brought the fun and games to their place. If you have the space, you can even set up the games indoors. Players can form teams and compete in a tournament to win fun prizes like trophies or championship belts, or gift cards for team members.

Safety Strategy: Waivers for the Win

Anytime there is physical activity involved in your live event or competition, you should have guests sign a waiver, also known as a release form. A waiver essentially releases your business from liability if the patron gets hurt while partaking in your event. Work with an attorney to draw up a one-page waiver that you can reuse for any future events.

You can either have live event attendees sign the waiver before the competition kicks off. Or, better yet, have them review it – and sign it – online. If you post your event on a website like EventBrite, you can easily set up a terms and conditions that appear for guests as they register.

One more release form you may not have thought of. Do you plan on taking pictures at your live event? Will you use these photos in advertising…online, in a newspaper ad, a billboard, etc.? Then you should have the person you photographed sign a media release form, giving you permission to use their image without the need for compensation. Typically, if you take a big crowd photo, you will not need to have everyone sign a release form.

Live Event Idea #2: Open Mic Competition

Why pay a band when you’ve likely got customers who are also talented musicians? Consider hosting an open mic night on a weekly basis as one of your live events. Put a competitive spin on it. Select a local musician to host the first open mic night. He or she will then select the best performer of the night, who then becomes the following week’s judge.

Safety Strategy: Be a Music License PRO

You may save money on talent fees with an open mic night, but you still have to pay to play. Specifically, you need to pay performing rights organizations (aka PROs). PROs like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC represent various popular artists. By paying the PROs, you are able to let musicians perform most popular songs. This helpful guide walks you through the process of obtaining PRO licensing for live events, background music, karaoke, and more.

Don’t fall victim to the mindset that the musicians you hire or your open mic performers have to obtain PRO licensing – that’s all on you. Forgo this advice at your own risk! Bars have been hit with $30,000 lawsuits for opting not to pay the PROs.

Live Event Idea #3: Live Trivia Night

Popular everywhere from college bars to neighborhood pubs, trivia night is the “it” live event at bars, restaurants, or anyplace people gather. As an added bonus, trivia night is typically played on weeknights so it’s a great way to boost midweek business. Trivia is also one of the easiest live events to host, thanks to the latest trivia platforms You get everything needed to run the event yourself, or hire one of their pro hosts.

Safety Strategy: All-for-One Carding

Everybody loves trivia night, and we mean everybody. That’s a good thing, right? Sure, until you have 18-year-olds trying to sneak into your live event with fake IDs. Get up to speed on the underage drinking laws in your state, and be sure you know the required protocol for checking IDs. When in doubt, if you have a doorman, card everyone who walks through your door even if they look like they’re pushing 60.

Live Event Idea #4: Taste and Talk Events

Get in on the trend of hosting live events that double as educational seminars. It could be a tequila tasting event. Each week, feature a different tequila from one of the five official tequila-producing Mexican states. Other restaurants and bars are hosting live events like bartending demos and workshops, where guests learn how to make that perfect martini – and leave with a recipe or two.

Have a few breweries nearby? Run a weekly brews and bites event. Your chef and brewmaster can team up on a paired appetizer and beer menu, and speak to the crowd about their inspiration for the pairings at your live event.

Safety Strategy: Managing Intoxicated Guests

It’s inevitable. If your business serves alcohol, you will find yourself face to face with an intoxicated patron. What do you do? Your top priority must be ensuring that this inebriated customer doesn’t drive home from your live event. Not only could they harm themselves or others, you and your business could be liable for thousands – if not millions – of dollars if that customer causes a serious accident.

If the drunk customer is with friends, enlist their help in getting the intoxicated guest home safely from your live event. To be even more cautious, personally call a taxi or summon an Uber or Lyft to bring the patron home. If all else fails, call the police.

You can significantly reduce the number of intoxicated guests at your live events if your team undergoes training for safe serving. In fact, this is often required by law in most states. If it’s not, consider training your team anyways using ServSafe Alcohol by the National Restaurant Association or The TIPS ® Program. In addition, make sure your Liquor Liability insurance policy is up-to-date. If a drunk patron does cause damage to themselves or others this policy will have you covered.

Live Event Idea #5: Themed Dance Party

The only thing better than a night out dancing, is a chance to dress up. At least that’s what the latest trend in live events suggests. If you want to host a themed dance party, start with Throwback Thursday – also known in the social media world as #TBT. Pick any decade, play music from that decade, and give guests half off cover if they come in a themed outfit. From 1990s hip hop to 1970s disco, the possibilities for your dance-focused live events are endless…

Safety Strategy: Insurance Ensures Peace of Mind

First, a quick reminder. When you hire a DJ for your live event, you are the one who must have the proper PRO music licenses. Yet another reason to get those music licenses all lined up!

Now, when people are out on the dancefloor, there’s always a chance that someone slips and takes a tumble. Even if your staff is watching the dancefloor for spills, you don’t have control over all the factors involved in slip and fall accidents.

That’s where the right insurance comes into play! If a clumsy dancer tries to sue your restaurant or bar, a good insurance policy can protect your cash flow. It’s critical that you team up with an insurance company that understands the unique needs of a restaurant or bar. Not every business hosts live events, or serves alcohol, and you deserve an insurer that has the knowledge to help reduce your risk of liability.

The ultimate objective for live events should always be to show your customers a great time out, while also protecting their wellbeing. This list of 5 event ideas and 5 safety tips should help you get started out right.

Lindsay Ott Wilcox writes for the Buzztime Business blog. Her mission? To hook up bar and restaurant owners with the latest trends, tips, and best practices she has gathered from over a decade of foodservice research and writing. Lindsay is an award-winning writer and creative director, with recent honors from Graphic Design USA and the New York State Broadcasters Association.