Beyond the Ballroom: How to Leverage Non-Traditional Meeting Venues

By Victoria Belton

Beyond the Ballroom: How to Leverage Non-Traditional Meeting Venues

With meeting planners looking to book events for attendees that are memorable, inspiring and engaging, DMOs have the opportunity to meet their needs by strategically marketing alternative meeting spaces in their cities - consider wedding venues, breweries, downtown rooftops, etc.

Meeting planners are increasingly looking to create more unique and memorable experiences for their attendees. And increasingly these planners are looking “outside the ballroom” to do it. And with inquiries into alternative spaces up 7% from 2016 and projected to continue rising, this growing trend is an opportunity for DMOs.

Hint: As you update your Destination Marketing Organization’s Marketing Action Plan (MAP) for this year, consider adding “unique meeting venues” to the required beliefs of the Meeting Planner target audience, and then get to work curating your destination’s non-traditional and alternative meeting venues to help your destination stand out.

Identify Potential Venues

The key to identifying these meeting spaces is determining the value they can provide to meeting planners that traditional options can’t. Ask yourself what you can communicate about these venues to make them a good match. Keep in mind that as meeting planners face limited space availability in larger locations, finding the right opportunity is becoming a bigger driver than cost. Today’s meeting attendees want venues with spaces designed to meet their needs in the moment, and they often react positively to intimate, relaxed, informal and one-of-a-kind spaces. And if the spaces are particularly notable, they can be promoted in advance and have the potential to increase meeting attendance. Check out how the Dallas Cowboy’s AT&T  Stadium is being offered up to meeting planners.

Examples of the Non-traditional

So, what types of venues could your DMO be leveraging? Wedding venues are just one example of an alternative meeting venue that can provide amenities and an atmosphere that most traditional meeting spaces lack. However, they tend to be narrowly marketed, and as a result will remain vacant when they could be generating additional revenue. Dedicated wedding venues are designed to be both versatile and memorable, making them ideally suited to meet the needs of meeting planners who are thinking more strategically in terms of how to stimulate and engage attendees. Often situated in scenic surroundings with both indoor and outdoor spaces well-equipped to accommodate podiums, presentation screens, audio/visual equipment, and a wide array of seating arrangements, wedding venues can serve as a refreshing alternative for meetings and events of almost every size. And with weddings typically occurring on the weekends, offering corporate packages for the weekdays is a great way to generate additional revenue for the venue. If your city has a brewery, adding it to your online listing of local meeting spaces is another great opportunity. Breweries often reflect the community they are a part of and offer a unique vibe that attendees are unlikely to find anywhere else – especially not in conference centers or hotel ballrooms. The industrial, modern atmosphere can be the perfect setting for meeting planners who are arranging corporate holiday soirees, private after-parties and even brand launches. Adding a brewmaster guided tour and tasting to your event is one way to make the experience even more unforgettable. Other locations like downtown rooftops, museum galleries and even libraries can moonlight as unique alternatives to the predictable experiences that meeting planners are striving to break away from. We could spend forever listing out trendy venue options, but the key takeaway here is this: event organizers and meeting planners are increasingly looking to engage their attendees on multiple levels, and that includes using event spaces themselves to do so. And with creativity in location and property choice becoming central to achieving meeting goals, leveraging non-traditional meeting venues for your DMO to promote to meeting planners will ensure that your destination stays at the forefront of this trend.