Planning meetings and company events is exciting work for me even if the attendees may not feel the same way about actually sitting through them. 🙂 For my own sanity and theirs, I try hard to bring a fresh perspective to the ever boring-sounding “company meeting.” Here are 8 inspiring places to have your event when you get tired of hotel conference rooms and overpriced catering.
1. Museum / Art Gallery
Museums and art galleries are great options for a space that has interest and character and offers something more than just a room to sit in. Not all of them will have an appropriate set up but if you keep an open mind, you may find a really beautiful solution to a meeting or evening event space. You’ll have to do your research – check out websites and call around. Years ago, I planned a very special holiday dinner at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin that also included a tour of their exhibition of Paolo Veronese’s Petrobelli Altarpiece. We served an Italian themed dinner to match the installation. The floor was a gorgeous white marble which is porous and can stain easily so because of this, unfortunately, only white wine could be served. A small price to pay!
2. City Park
Who doesn’t love a day at the park? Lots of bigger parks have a clubhouse that are available for rent. If the weather is nice, you can serve lunch outside and encourage outdoor break times by providing fun games like cornhole, volleyball and velcro paddle ball sets. The fresh air and variety in the day will go a long way toward keeping the group engaged. In my experience clubhouses book up FAST so if you have a big head start on planning, this could work, otherwise you might be better off checking elsewhere.
3. Wedding Venue
There are about a million secular wedding venues in any given town and a lot of them are set up for corporate meetings already (because who gets married at 2pm on a Tuesday?) and the pricing for these is much less expensive than using the space for an actual wedding. You can find some really unique spots that have a variety of rooms and breakout areas to choose from. Most of them offer on site catering and will have a list of vendors that you can use for renting chairs, A/V, etc. It may not be a one-stop shop, but they will be well prepared to help you with all of the items you’ll need.
4. Vacation Rental Home
Vacation homes are a great option if you want to create a more personal feel. They offer a homey environment perfect for brainstorming and creative noodling. Pre-stocking the kitchen with snacks and drinks turns it into an instant break room and is more economical than catering. Smaller rooms or bedrooms could be used as breakout spaces, or even for a recharging catnap. Be sure to check the contract on your rental home as a lot of them will not allow you to have an event or will allow only members of the same family to be there. (Do corporate “families” count?) Definitely budget extra time for set up and clean up since there won’t be a host onsite to do those things for you.
5. Bar / Music Venue
These are some of the most fun places to hold a meeting because they are super unexpected. Lot of venues themselves will be surprised at the request but you can usually talk them into it once they realize that they can now make money during the daytime when the bar is otherwise closed for business. You most likely need to source basic meeting necessities like chairs, tables and easily accessible power outlets. However, the space will have a fridge and a bar which makes for a nice transition from work meetings to work happy hour. A bar’s normal internet capacity may not be beefy enough to handle a whole slew of folks on computers but there are plenty of companies you can hire to amp up the bandwidth for your event.
6. A Boat!
Everything feels fancier on a boat. If you live near any body of water, chances are there is a sightseeing, dinner or party boat that you can rent for your group. Having your meeting on the water provides interesting scenery, relaxing break times and a good story for your attendees. However, I wouldn’t plan an event on the open sea or where the water might be rough as you can’t guarantee that everyone comes with an iron stomach. Even if the water is placid, be prepared with dramamine or other motion sickness medicine, just in case.
7. Sports Stadium
Sports stadiums often have meeting space available to rent to groups and this could be really fun depending on who your audience is and, possibly, what team the stadium supports. 😉 It can be a pricy option, so not really great if you’re working with a tighter budget.
8. Yoga / Dance Studio
Yoga and dance studios are often found in converted houses or other interesting spaces and if you want to engage your team with something unexpected, this definitely fits the bill. Their expansive, open rooms are perfect for large groups and creative workshopping and if your attendees are open-minded (and flexible enough), you could try setting the room with floor cushions and low tables instead of in the usual conference style. Advance planning is key, so you can work around scheduled classes or allow enough time for the venue to give notice that classes will be canceled. Another idea would be to plan a meeting break at class time and offer a yoga or dance session to rejuvenate your attendees. If you have enough time to coordinate the logistics, booking one of these spaces can give your team a calming and unique atmosphere and would be especially great for inspiring creativity or working quietly in groups.
There are a lot of benefits to hosting a meeting in less traditional digs, including increased creative output, higher engagement level and better team building. It takes more time and coordination than choosing a one-stop shop but the satisfaction you’ll get in pulling off a really memorable and successful event makes it all worth it!