As event managers we often get stuck in a rut of using the same venues year after year committed to the saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Many of the events we plan are annual events where the same people attend year after year. The program changes each year so why can’t the venue? Venue selection is critical to the success of your event so maybe it’s time to start getting creative with your choices!

Choosing a unique venue can help to bring life back into a tired annual event or create the new standard for an inaugural event. The word unique is often defined as “not typical” or “unusual”. In our case a unique venue would be defined as one that uses a space in a way that it is not typically intended. Challenge yourself to look at spaces in different ways, not just their regular function. Everywhere you go imagine what an event would look like in that space!

Thinking Outside the Box

A gala doesn’t have to be in a ballroom; check out your local museums or art galleries. An AGM doesn’t have to be in a boardroom – restaurants, universities, golf courses and private clubs usually have private rooms that you can reserve – even if you are not a member (hint: many private clubs love outside event dollars and attendees like the idea of getting access to a venue that is otherwise off-limits). A conference doesn’t have to be held in a convention center – how about your local football stadium instead? A great way to get started thinking about potential spaces is to recall those spots in your city that have people saying, “I have been meaning to check that out” or “I have lived here for 10 years and have never been there”.

Think about going outdoors! There is nothing worse than being cooped up in a conference room with no windows and poor air circulation. If weather permits look at venues that have both indoor and outdoor space available. Perhaps there is an outdoor courtyard in the hotel you have booked for your conference or a park a across the street from the conference centre. Always make sure to have a “Plan B” as Mother Nature may not always be on your side.
Even though you may be thinking outside the box, you still need to ensure that your venue meets all of your requirements. Our article on venue selection will remind you how to create your venue selection list based on your must-have and nice-to-have list.

Real Life Example

At an annual conference we plan, the opening reception is always at the hotel where the conference takes place. This year we moved it to an alternate venue that is just a five minute walk from the hotel. This venue is a converted theatre that now functions as an amazing reception/ballroom space, it has a more relaxed feeling and is a new space in our city that most of our attendees have yet to attend. By simply changing the venue we brought new life into the opening reception!

Is a Unique Venue the Right Choice for Your Event?

If you are thinking about using a unique venue, one of the most important aspects is knowing your attendees. Ask yourself a few questions before deciding if a unique venue is right choice for your client.

Would they appreciate the change or would it cause them anxiety?

Example: Some organizations are more comfortable holding their annual gala in the same hotel every year and will continue that relationship forever. You need to determine whether they keep using the same venue just because they have always used it or if they are willing to put some more work in and switch things up.

Have they received feedback about previous venue selection?

Example: Surveying your attendees after your event is important and listening to their feedback is even more important. Listening and then finding solutions to their concerns shows that you value their feedback and are committed to making the event a success year after year.

Does the space fit the attendee must-haves?

Example: If you choose a lakeside resort for a conference and one of your attendees’ must-haves is free Wi-Fi, make sure this is something that is available with the new venue choice.

Working With the Venue

Working with the venue, especially if this kind of event is new to them, will take a lot of detailed planning and project management. It is important that your venue is able to provide everything you need and are willing to go the extra mile for you. Keep in mind that your event could help to generate business for the venue as other event managers may begin to see their space differently. You are creating a win/win situation for both sides and each side needs to invest an equal amount of work for the event to be a success.

Is A Unique Venue Right for Your Event?

Remember, unique venues are not right for every event you manage, but it is definitely something to consider for every event you do. It is not possible in all cases, but get your thinking cap on and start exploring!