Meeting planners often ask: “How can I create a ‘wow’ while staying under budget?” One of the easiest solutions is to meet in an unusual locale.
“There are so many venues that have their own character and features,” says Jennifer D. Collins, CMP, of Washington, D.C.-based The Event Planning Group. “Whether it’s high ceilings, tons of windows, ornate décor, open foyers or other aspects, choosing venues with the most unique features can help enhance the event.”
Haley Hughes of Houston’s En Vogue Events says her company often selects unusual venues for corporate events to enhance meetings and drive attendance. “We have used a new winery to attract guests, as well as renovated theaters — any place new, different or with a history that people will want to see.”
Tying the venue into a meeting or event’s theme is critical. “Not every venue is appropriate for certain types of events,” Collins warns. “The character and integrity of the event will yield more value when the chosen venue represents the program’s focus.”
Some of the boons of meeting in unexpected spaces can include bargain rental fees, built-in décor and entertainment, and an atmosphere most ballrooms can’t match. But meeting in a place that may not have been built to host private events can have some serious drawbacks.
Sara Gaum, a former Los Angeles meeting planner and current owner of VendorBar.com, suggests planners pay special attention to what restrictions are in place. “Ask as many questions as possible,” she says. “You never know what you can or cannot do unless you ask. Questions should touch upon venue size, venue cost, kitchen/bathroom facilities, power availability [and] venue hours.” She also recommends asking about fire permits, if there are preferred vendors or audio/visual equipment available, and whether or not decorations may be hung from the walls or ceiling. Collins adds, “Places may have restrictions on moving furniture or placement of items you may need for the event, such as signage. There could also be limitations on aspects [of] building access, security or photography use.”
To ensure things run smoothly, Gaum recommends planners provide the venue with floor layouts and contact information so the venue feels comfortable with everything planned for the space and can raise any objections in advance.
“The venue may not be used to the type of event you are planning,” Gaum says. “Keeping them aware of your plans will keep them out of your hair and on your side on event day.”