Move over, hotels and conference centers. It’s time for a fresh(er) approach to event venue selection. Most of us have seen and done what’s commonly seen and done at events in our industry. We’re craving a new space we haven’t seen before. A space that’s worthy to “write home” about. A space that inspires our imagination. And if the forecasts are right, we aren’t the only ones who want a non-traditional venue.
As live events continue racing into the 21st century, non-traditional venues are set to be a BIG aspect of industry evolution. According to AMEX, the demand for less conventional venues has spiked a total of 7% over the past two years. That demand is only forecasted to climb, and it’s no wonder. Another recent survey has suggested that venue accounts for up to 47% of an attendee’s decision to register—meaning that your venue selection is a big deal.
Bottom line: if you seek to infuse an existing or new event with panache and attract a whole new audience segment, a non-traditional venue could be the big shift you need to make. Non-traditional venues give you an alternative canvas on which to paint your experience. Many also offer open new options for guest interaction and lend themselves to a greater emphasis on sensory experience. What more could your guests ask for?
The Skyline Loft at the Bridgeport Art Center, in Chicago, is a great example of an exciting new event space that’s not found in a traditional hotel or conference center.
True, non-traditional venues come with their own challenges. You may have to do more work to ensure you have everything you need. Food/beverage may involve some extra creativity. And you may need to ask a longer list of questions. But in exchange, you can be confident you are designing an experience your guests will never forget.
Here are some potential spaces to explore, available in most popular host cities:
Architecturally non-traditional spaces
- Factories & warehouses. Hello, amazing lighting opportunities! Also the sweeping architecture and wide-open spaces are as perfect for setting up a big keynote as for encouraging mingling and dancing at the closing gala.
- Library spaces. What happens at the local library when it’s closed? Might all that beautiful architecture and literary inspiration offer your event a fresh twist? University, business or public libraries are all potential options.
- Lawns, courtyards & gardens. Perhaps your best non-traditional space ... is the one outside a traditional venue. Though weather becomes a factor, yes, don’t immediately dismiss an incredible canvas of green.
- Museums & art galleries. Want to sponsor a keynote under a giant dinosaur skeleton, or let attendees take in their breakouts near a priceless work of out? A museum might be your best (and most accessible) alternative venue.
Experientially non-traditional spaces
- Zoos & aquariums. Does your event have a natural theme, or support an environmental cause? Getting your guests up close and personal with animals could put a whole new spin on your message.
- National parks. Similar to the one above, if your organization or guests favor the great outdoors, try immersing them in it. Or see about renting a beautiful conference room or guest center on site—preferably one with huge glass windows.
- Local restaurants. Sure, you might have explored restaurants as venues before. But we are not talking about large restaurants or chains. Think small. Intimate. Quirky. Off the beaten path. Rent out the dining room and let the chef shine.
- If you want to get creative, look UP. Especially during the summer, many cities feature rooftop gardens on condo high-rises, hotels or even business towers. They might not be visible from the street, but they’ll knock your socks off forty floors up.
- What’s not to love about sampling suds while you network and learn? Craft breweries are springing up everywhere across the country, and many feature significant amounts of restaurant and event space.
- Food trucks & farmers markets. No, seriously. For a quirky outdoor (or loosely covered) venue that promotes a casual, exploratory vibe, consider setting up next to a food truck lot or farmer’s market. Time to browse and nimble: mandatory.
- Farms, orchards, wineries & villas. Want the farmers market vibe without all the crowds? Go pastoral, and take your guests out for a day (or two or four) in the country. Be sure to select a venue with varied space to host all your different activities.
Not sure where to start? The Convention & Visitors’ Bureau in the city you are targeting can be a great resource for discovering venues you might otherwise overlook. Also, a strategic, full-service event production team can help you source and assess potential venues—as well as plan for all the unique logistics a non-traditional option entails.
It’s time to take your event venue to the next level! Let LSAV POWERHOUSE help you source and outfit that surprising, delightful venue they will never forget. Check out our portfolio here and contact us to get started.