The Unconventional Event Venue: What You Should Know

The Unconventional Event Venue: What You Should Know

A growing focus on unique and immersive event experiences is leading event professionals to seek and explore non-traditional and unconventional event venues to meet the needs of their clients.

While event and meetings venues such as hotel ballrooms, convention centers or resorts remain the most popular choice, matching your event to the right unconventional venue is an opportunity to let your imagination and creativity fly to deliver an experience that exceeds the expectations of your attendees and leaves them wanting more!

Start by Defining the Audience Experience

Before choosing an unconventional venue, consider your goals for the event and the audience experience. Is it a social event? Is it a structured session with presenters and a stage? Will the attendees be networking in an open capacity? Determine the meeting objectives and then find a location or environment that will be the most effective in meeting them.

Most non-traditional venues are categorized as either experiential or architectural spaces. Experiential venues offer an attraction that people normally go visit – zoos, aquariums, museums, vineyards or art galleries would all be in this category. Architectural spaces provide an unconventional setting, such as a rooftop, warehouse, or aircraft hangar.

When planning at a venue that’s a blank canvas you must define the space so that your attendees understand where they are and the event objectives. Just because you chose to host your event in an aircraft hangar doesn’t mean the program will make sense to your attendees if nothing else relates to the location.

Let your location inspire the event theme to deepen your attendees’ experience and provide them with things to see, hear, and do in unexpected ways. Having your event at an art gallery? Ask local art students to create themed works at the event – the attendees can interact with the artists and you could even auction the works onsite or afterward to benefit a related charity. A museum experience could be the stage for a truly memorable event, with immersive AV, costumed staff, and food and beverage themed around the venue.

An aquarium offers the chance to literally dive into a tantalizing palette of undersea colors and oceanic imagery. Tie the experience to a global connection: serve sustainably sourced seafood or showcase the venue’s efforts toward conservation awareness.

Remember that aircraft hangar? It’s a perfect unconventional location for aviation enthusiasts. Here too, the sky is the limit to create a memorable experience, with elements ranging from simple – thematic décor and staff attire – to deluxe: airplane rides or even a mini air show if the budget allows.

Unconventional Locations Have Unconventional Considerations

When selecting an unconventional location, even though events may be part of their business, they may have fewer in-house options, or limitations you wouldn’t normally consider with a traditional venue. Along with the typical questions such as: how much space is available? Can the space accommodate staging requirements?, etc., other considerations include:

  • Are there any noise restrictions or curfews?
  • Are there adequate bathroom facilities or a food and beverage staging area?
  • Is the rental rate hourly or daily? Are there any budgetary add-ons, such as deposits or service fees?
  • If you are looking at an outdoor space, how will the weather or time of year affect the venue’s suitability?
  • What is included (in-house assets) in the venue rental? For example, do they have tables and chairs, AV equipmentfood and beverage, sound, and lighting?
  • Is there sufficient electrical power? Consider vendor needs too, such as AV or catering. If you need to rent a generator, can the venue accommodate that?
  • Does the venue provide security? Check with the venue to see if you will need to hire outside security before your event.
  • Because many unconventional locations are open to the public at other times of the day, what is their set up policy? Ask about access for set up and breakdown, and be sure there are no scheduling issues  you will have to accommodate.
  • Don’t forget about accessibility – be sure the venue can accommodate attendees with mobility issues as well as any equipment that may need to be brought in, such as AV.

Events in unconventional venues may require a little more work to plan, but you’ll find the effort is worth the payoff when you’re able to provide your clients and guests with an event to remember!

We Asked the JDC Team: Where’s the most unconventional location you’ve ever produced an event?

  • The golf course at the Four Seasons Hualālai in Hawaii
  • Petco Park Stadium in San Diego
  • A cocoa farm in West Africa
  • Dracula’s Castle!