Unconventional event venues: 31 considerations for finding the perfect fit

Unconventional event venues
Finding the perfect job…finding the perfect size…finding the perfect mate…finding the perfect home… In almost every avenue of life, we are in search of finding the perfect fit. This too is true in the events industry. As event planners, one of our primary responsibilities is to find the perfect venue.

Event venues come in all shapes and sizes, and range from conventional – such as a hotel or conference centre – to unconventional. The opportunities for unconventional event venues are endless: museums, greenhouses, market places, conservatories, zoos, music halls, movie theatres, airport hangars, aquariums, sports facilities, night clubs, watercrafts and so on. Depending on your event needs, wishes, budget and logistics, thinking outside the typical “four walls” can pay big dividends for event organizers.

The decision to host in an unconventional event venue must begin at the conceptual stage of the planning journey when event planners are exploring the needs and wants for the event. “Needs” – such as cost-effectiveness, essential services, accessibility, functionality, reliability and availability – must be balanced with “wants” when considering one-of-a-kind spaces. Event wants are often the intangible outcomes:

  • experiential and memorable just by being in the space,
  • inspiring productivity by taking the event out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary,
  • increasing participation with having access to unexpected spaces,
  • generating goodwill.

The challenge for event planners is delivering on client expectations while ensuring event logistics are rigorous in scope and depth, contingencies are addressed, and budget expectations are realized. In no particular order of priority or importance, here are some considerations for matching your event with unconventional venues:

  • Choose a venue with the appropriate event ambience: funky, edgy, nostalgic, warm, high-end.
  • Unique venues often boast built-in one-of-a-kind décor.
  • There may be unexpected economic value in choosing a turn-key venue – price it out!
  • Acknowledge the degree of privacy needed for your event. Does the venue suit this?
  • Align the client’s brand with the venue’s brand. Venue selection can be a reflection of the goals and values of a business.
  • Can there be exclusivity for your event by choosing a buyout?
  • Washroom needs must be addressed for availability, capacity, accessibility and inclusivity.
  • Does the venue support your flow of event traffic and timelines?
  • Are the acoustics of the venue amenable to your event needs?
  • Arrangement of seating options influences the way people interact and behave.
  • Do you need the capability for assigned or reserved seating?
  • Does your venue geographic location match your audience’s expectations?
  • Technical capacities and equipment of the venue are key to event production.
  • Power needs for the event must be identified and capable of being supported.
  • Infrastructure to support connectivity and bandwidth for audience and event needs is needed.
  • Explore the requirements for insurance.
  • Will you encounter restrictive rules and regulations such as noise ordinances or fire safety codes?
  • Is there flexibility in negotiating contractual obligations?
  • Is there easy access to transportation and accommodations?
  • Consider the parking needs of audience.
  • What are the expectations for supplying and transporting equipment and furniture for your event?
  • Does the venue assist with weather-related contingency plans?
  • Are there restrictive terms for outside suppliers such as catering, décor, audiovisual?
  • Is there an ability to deliver unusual food and beverage set-ups and menus?
  • Check on the site’s liquor license status and alcohol policy.
  • Compliance with accessibility regulations for audiences of all capabilities and ages is necessary.
  • Is protection of event property and guests addressed through security planning?
  • Are emergency plans available with site-specific information and contacts?
  • Are onsite first aid provisions available?
  • Is access to professional onsite staff and resources needed?
  • Assess the environmental friendliness of the unique venue: recycling, efficiencies in heating and cooling, walkability, sustainability.

There are limitless possibilities for unconventional spaces to host an event. As you can see, there are a countless number of factors to consider. However, with careful planning and visionary thinking, I am confident you can find the perfect fit for your next event!

About the author:

Heather Reid ARCT MSc, the Founder and CEO of PLANNER PROTECT, has been engaged in the meetings industry since 1994. Beginning in the industry through her work with a national association, to founding her own independent full service event management company in 2000 (Innovative Conferences & Communications), Heather launched Planner Protect in 2014 to focus on serving the meetings industry through her passion for "everything contracts!" Planner Protect provide contract negotiations consulting services, workshops and webinars for meeting planners across Canada, as well as providing education opportunities for entrepreneurs and organizations on hosting and contracting for live events. She is passionate about helping others read between the lines! It is Heather’s desire to continue to grow in this exciting and ever-changing industry, as she is constantly challenged to learn and is inspired by those around her.

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