The Ideal Event Space: 4 Essentials for Helping Your Group Thrive

Ana Zaldarriaga
Ana Zaldarriaga

What do an Anchor, Compass, Grub, and Firefly have in common? It may be summer and there’s a lot of moving parts to this season’s planning, but whether you take a group on a day adventure, camp, family vacation, or just find yourself in a temporary location for a day, here are my 4 essentials to set up any space for a community to thrive:

  1. Anchor. Whether you’re on a boat, on the road, or in a makeshift space somewhere, the first thing you need to do is ground yourself in the space. At a campsite, this would mean finding an ideal plot of land and pitching your tent and setting up base. For an event, it would mean a central area that would be home base for everyone and everything. Once you are grounded, you have a place to unpack the contents for your space and begin to get organized. Without dropping an anchor, any space would start to drift and it would be impossible to create a safe and contained space for anybody. Pick your spot wisely, and ask the rest of your crew to chime in if necessary.
  2. Compass. You don’t need a literal compass to set up an effective community space, but you need to know where you are and the lay of the land you are working with so you can determine the scope of your event and begin to create a layout for your needs. Where will your group congregate? How will you move them through the space? Where do your supplies go? How do you disperse the marshmallows/pens/firewood/notebooks? All of this can be answered once you understand your physical space. On a metaphorical level, you also need a compass to determine where your group starts their experience and how you want them to finish. Do you want them to end on a high note as a team or on a reflective note as individuals? Consider where you want everyone to end up—before you start.
  3. Grub. It could quite literally be a grub if you’re camping, but I’m really referring to any type of sustenance that will bring a group comfort. From students to parent, teachers to passersby, food always make a group feel comfortable, cared for, and valued. No matter where you set up an event, the nutritional needs of your group must be a factor in planning. Will your activities make them hot? Thirsty? What time will you start or end, and how close is that to a mealtime? On a physiological level, grub feeds the brain and body which give people more energy to participate and effectively learn during an event.
  4. Firefly. Some refer to this as the special sauce, the magic, the Oprah reveal, or enchantment as Guy Kawasaki writes about in his aptly named book. The firefly is the unforgettable moment that brings meaning to the the experience. The firefly can redefine it, expand it, or unfold it into more possibilities. It can be a parting giveaway, s’mores, the butterfly that lands on you shoulder, an impromptu group song, etc. You can be certain that if you create a firefly moment in the experience in your space, the community participants never forget it.

There are so many challenges in planning events at schools, off-site retreats, camp, field days. So next time you prepare a space for a community event, don’t forget to pack these 4 essentials in your planning pack: the anchor, compass, grub and firefly. It’s a great place to start and will ready you for the challenges down the road.

What are your essentials in setting up a space for success? Share them with us in the comments section below. 



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Ana Zaldarriaga

By Ana Zaldarriaga

Ana Zaldarriaga Pronouns: she/her/hers Sr. Dir. of Employee Development The Leadership Program 535 8th Avenue, Floor 16 New York City, NY 10018 Phone: 212.625.8001 Fax: 212.625.8020 “…building strong leaders in classrooms and communities."