I was teaching a class on venue research and site selection as part of a course on event management and I started out the one hour class by asking the students to share the most memorable event venue from an event they had attended. The answers ran the gamut from castles (more than one!) to landmarks like the Space Needle and museums like the Smithsonian. The one thing that almost all of the answers had in common was that they weren’t hotels or banquet halls – they were what we would consider non-traditional venues.
I like to describe non-traditional venues as any venue that exists for another reason besides hosting events; events are not their primary function. This also knocks out meeting space at hotels and private dining rooms or buyouts at restaurants. This includes places like parks, museums, libraries, warehouses, sports arenas, malls… this category is all encompassing. For many of these types of venues, hosting events there at all is somewhat unique and unexpected.
But with the wow factor of many of these types of venues, you often have some of the most challenging venues to work with. Since the venue was not built for events, it might not have enough power or proper freight elevators or a loading dock. Since the primary audience or occupants of the space are not your guests, you might have limited hours to hold your event. There are often policies that are limiting or even downright harsh. Not all of these types of venues have dedicated sales and event staff to service your meeting.
But at the end of the day – they are memorable. This is not to discount hotels and banquet halls – some of the most fabulous event venues happen to be built for events and that’s part of their charm. But there’s also something to be said about getting to attend (or better yet – plan!) an event at a place that doesn’t seem regularly associated with events. It’s a natural conversation starter for guests. It might even help convince guests to attend your event in the first place!
For me, the most memorable event venue I’ve worked with was definitely the Library of Congress. It was absolutely challenging – working with the federal government isn’t easy any day of the week and we were planning the event in the middle of federal employee furloughs. But it was absolutely worth it! (Especially since a few of the students in this class had attended that event last year, and one listed the venue as their most memorable!)
As for events I’ve attended, it’s hard to pick just one. Last year I attended a reception at Sea World in Orlando – the event itself was pretty fun, but I remember having so much anticipation before the event, solely based on the venue. My husband went to a conference last month in Denver and got to attend an event at Coors Field – he was excited ahead of time and the event definitely met his expectations.
What about you? Does the event venue impact your decision to attend? What is your most memorable venue from an event you’ve planned or attended? Let me know in the comments!