In this week's guest blog, Andy McNeill, president and CEO of American Meetings, Inc, offers some ideas about off-site venues you should consider the next time you are looking for a unique way to wow your constituents.
Whether planning an event around the corner or around the world, here are some ideas for unique off-site venues for receptions, dinners, and parties:
Photo: Setting up for a private reception at the Rodin Museum in Paris
• Museums—Many museums accept after-hours buy-outs of their space. Just imagine how excited your attendees will be dining in front of world-renowned statues and art. Availability can be limited, especially for popular spots, so plan early.
• Yachts—Super yachts are great for receptions and private dinners, and they offer an amazing tour of the local waterways. Consider yachts for smaller groups; they also are fantastic for incentives.
• Stadiums—Have a big group you want to impress? Try lighting up Wrigley Field or Dolphin’s Stadium just for them. Many stadiums are seeing the value of off-day venue rental, and, believe it or not, it is not as expensive as you might think. Just remember that many have catering contracts in place, which may restrict the food selection, so you want to plan with the catering company well in advance.
• Warehouses—Warehouses can be a great choice for a rough and rustic off-site event. They are not without challenges—warehouses don’t always have the staple services or equipment to put on an event, so you may be bringing in supplies—but if different is what you want, this may be the choice for you.
• Mansions and homes—Many of the world’s greatest dwellings are vacation homes. Consider a mansion or high-end home for a private party, particularly in cities that don't have a lot of traditional venue options such as hotels and restaurants. Partner with a great caterer and you're are on your way to a truly unique event experience.
• Cultural Spaces—Work with the local cultural commission to find those special places in your conference city. From restored historic buildings to government public spaces like old train stations, you'll likely find lots of interesting options. An added benefit: Cultural spaces usually are very affordable, and they can give attendees the real feel of the city.
• Retails Stores—From department stores like Macy’s and Neiman Marcus to smaller, more intimate antique shops, retail is becoming a hot option for dinners and receptions. Tie in a gift card for the attendees as a unique takeaway and you will have some very happy attendees. Stores love the exposure, and often the venue will offer space without a fee.
• Gardens—From local parks to botanical gardens, cities love to showcase their outdoor space. Ask the local parks department what unique venues they have…you may be surprised. Also a very affordable option, having an outdoor event (weather permitting) is a great way to get your attendees in the open air after an all-day conference.
• Airplane Hangers—Looking for a blank space to make your own? Try an airplane hangar. With its high walls and sprawling cement floors, hangers can be turned into almost anything. Be sure to know the security requirements at the hanger area, as you don’t want your attendees waiting in line. Consider smaller executive airports that have the space, but not necessarily the heavy security of the larger airports.
Off-site events are all about creativity, and venues are a great place to start.