Events and festivals play a big role in supporting Victoria’s economy, liveability and collective wellbeing. Each year, hundreds of locally organised small events and festivals are held across Victoria. In regional and rural locations, they deliver significant boosts to local economies, create jobs and build communities.
Behind all but the biggest events and festivals are individuals, small businesses and community groups wanting to promote their cause or industry. But the information available on planning and running events is decentralised and varies widely. An event can require more than a dozen different permits and licenses, under various regulatory frameworks at local, state and federal levels, depending on what activities the event will have, and the levels of risk of those activities.
For event organisers, understanding and tackling the complex regulatory obligations of the event or festival presents a significant challenge. It can act as a disincentive to follow through on delivering the event, and cancellations due to misunderstood regulatory issues can have devastating cost impacts, not only to the event, but also, its community.
To make things easier, Portable was tasked with designing a tool to help small businesses understand how to plan and deliver safe and successful events and festivals in Victoria – from the bright idea through to the bump out. To do this, we needed to create a central hub of information on the regulatory requirements that apply to events and festivals. Crucially, the events and festivals information and planning tool needed to help organisers understand the risks associated with events, and support them in navigating, understanding and mitigating these risks.
Mapping the regulatory ecosystem
Planning and delivering a safe and successful event in Victoria requires a lot of consideration. It may involve dozens of government and regulatory bodies, from local councils and land owners to state regulators and federal agencies. Our first task was to map this regulatory ecosystem to visualise the scale and complexity that faces organisers of events and festivals in Victoria. We conducted dozens of research activities with industry experts, government regulators, and event, planning and compliance officers from local councils. This included interviews, workshops and extensive desktop research rabbit holes. The resulting infographic was a massive circular diagram with hundreds of interconnecting pieces of legislation, regulations, permits, licences and government agencies at every level. It not only made a solid foundation for the research that would inform our next design steps, but it also provided a powerful, visual rationale for change.
We then created a visual journey map of the steps an organiser must plan for and go through in the process, from planning to operations, permitting to promotions. The journey includes a mammoth range of expertise and skill sets, from exploring funding opportunities, making a business plan and consulting regulators, to booking venues, promoting the event and selling tickets, to applying for an array of permits and licenses based on size, audience, location and the activities present at the event. Overlaid on those steps were the government and private organisations that might be involved at each stage, as well as ideas for useful content that might help the organiser navigate each step – links that could then be included in the future tool.
Content logic and user pathways
The next step was to start designing how the tool would work. We wanted to create a tool that was rigorous, felt personalised, and guided people to the information they needed. The detailed logic and content took event organisers through a series of questions about the characteristics of the event they were planning. Based on their answers, it queued up a personalised to-do list that included which regulators they should consult, what kind of planning documents they might need to prepare, and which permits and licences they may need to apply for. The tool also calculated a risk rating for their event, and gave the user an idea of what kind of planning rigour regulatory bodies might be expecting of an event like theirs. This logic was then tested with event organisers of varying levels of experience to check that it was giving information that was as accurate and complete as possible.
Prototyping and user testing
Our next priority was to create a prototype so users could test the content and logic in a more true-to-life setting. It needed to give them a realistic experience of the interface and processing the content, and let them experience how it would look and feel. Based on the improved logic flow, we designed user flows and screens for the tool, and tested this detailed prototype with event and festival organisers, as well as with regulatory bodies. After further iterations to improve the interface, content and look and feel, we prepared a detailed pattern library and documentation to hand over for development to Small Business Victoria’s development team.
Researching the impacts of COVID-19
In the months after the COVID-19 pandemic started affecting how everyone lived, worked and played, Small Business Victoria asked us to do some additional research to understand the impact that COVID-19 was having on small businesses. This would help us revise our events and festivals planner to make it more pandemic-proof, as well as update information about public health policies or regulations that had changed in light of the once-in-a-century event. Content was integrated into the tool to make sure that organisers had as much information as possible to plan and run a COVIDSafe event or festival.
- The planning tool was launched in June 2021.
- The final product is a planning tool for events and festival organisers that brings together a wide range of content on the planning, approval and operational aspects of running safe and successful events and festivals in Victoria.
- The database of permits, licences and information behind the tool will be kept up-to-date by a specialist provider, keeping it accurate and complete as local, state and federal policies and regulations change in the future.
- Organisers of events and festivals in Victoria – especially individual, small business and community groups – now have access to a central repository of up-to-date information on each step of the planning and approval processes. As Victoria emerges into the new normal of the post-COVID era, events and festivals and clear regulatory pathways will be more essential than ever to the culture, economies and wellbeing of communities across the state.
Kirsty Yuritta, Project Manager, Digital Services, Small Business Victoria
“Events and festivals play such an important role in our community and cultural life across Victoria, but getting a new idea off the ground can be a challenging experience for an organiser. From fireworks to food trucks, musical performances to signage and more, there are so many details to get right.
The challenge for Portable on this project was significant – to understand user needs, all of the information relationships and to bring sector stakeholders on the journey of developing a new product. Portable’s capability, processes and delivery speaks for itself – an amazing new tool that provides targeted, streamlined information to make it easier for event and festival organisers to know what they need to do.”
Peter Roper, Senior Content Strategist, Portable
“Putting on an event or festival is a heck of a lot more work than most people realise. But the majority of events and festivals in Victoria are run by passionate individuals, community groups and small businesses. Giving them personalised guidance on who they need to speak to, what documents to prepare and which permits to apply for so an event is safe and successful can make a local community’s year.”