Creating an outdoor stage for a local festival or community gathering is a great idea, but one which requires a little bit of pre-planning. In a venue, smaller speaker cabinets can project sound well, and the acoustics of the venue can either help or hinder the quality of the sound. Outside, you are at most risk of outdoor sounds and very little reflection, so it's easy for music and public speakers to not be heard. You could hire an engineer or a rely on the band to bring their own gear, but you run the risk of them bringing inadequate gear. Alternatively, you can invest in a solid speaker system hire to ensure you have the right PA setup for the job.
What Do You Need?
When hiring your own gear, a fully equipped PA system (public address system) is your safest bet. It should consist of two or more speakers and possibly some stage wedges, which can be placed to offer, at the very least, stereo sound and a live mixing desk. Some of these packages come complete and can be attached together in a handy and compact package, whereas some larger speakers will come separately. The idea is that the microphones are plugged into the mixing desk; the signal is then processed and amplified before having effects and EQ added. The signal is then sent to the speakers.
Hiring the PA system is simple enough, but you may want to consider hiring a few extras to help with your setup. Speaker stands will allow you to maximise the positioning of them. Some PA systems come with built-in stands, so be sure to check beforehand. By having the speakers off the ground, you will get a crisper and cleaner sound as they won't be vibrating on the stage or ground. You should also get a number of spare mic cables, as they are renowned for breaking. Finally, hire some closed-monitor headphones. Having closed headphones will cut out the noise of the crowd and allow you to check the band's in-ear levels, and monitor headphones will give a neutral frequency response. Most of your live mixing will be basic — adjusting volumes, etc. However, before the event, you'll want to make sure the band can hear themselves through their stage monitors. These are wedge-type speakers that project the band's sound back at them and which are, again, an optional extra to hire.