Thinking Outside the Boardroom - Alternative Spaces for Your Next Event
By JC Chang General Manager, Kapow | September 10, 2019
One of the most important items on an event planning to-do list is choosing a venue to host your event. The venue is your foundation and home from the moment your pen hits that contract to the moment the last guest steps out the door. This choice dictates whether your gathering will be small and intimate, or a large blow-out engineered to reach the masses. The perfect venue sets the tone as soon as your guests receive their invite.
Moreover, the venue can have a significant impact on achieving your business goals. According to a Demand Metric survey, 85% of B2B marketers believe engagement at events is crucial to accelerating the buying journey. Whether or not you realize it, the venue is a major part of the experience.
To make a lasting impression on attendees, it's time to break out of the conference room. Factors like technology and social media have shifted people's expectations in recent years. Guests expect dynamic, shareable moments from their events.
Outside-the-box venues like retail stores, movie theaters and sports venues are becoming increasingly popular hot-spots for events. Though they likely are far from the first venues that come to mind, these alternatives have tremendous potential for taking your next event to new heights. As an added bonus, hosting your event in an unusual space - depending on how creative you get - can reduce costs and be easy to execute, ultimately helping the bottom line.
Planners considering alternative spaces need to understand how to leverage these types of venues, trends driving their availability and how to seamlessly incorporate the unique space with their event needs. Venues can be better suited to one type of event and have real inadequacies for others – for example, a movie theater has lots of seats, but limited networking space. These alternative venues are wising up to the extra business they can muster by investing more in upgraded AV options and private spaces that meet corporate standards. From rock climbing gyms and archery ranges to cultural institutions or nightclubs and even parking decks, unique spaces that wouldn't have been an option a decade ago are now fully equipped to welcome your group.
At Cvent Kapow, we've identified the best categories for alternative spaces to "wow" your next corporate event audience and the steps needed to be successful.
Corporate happy hours are a tried and true way of getting people to come to your event – and stay. Your average cocktail reception gives you the opportunity to mix and mingle with your guests, whether they're clients, prospects, colleagues or team members, and is one of the best ways to entertain large groups of people due to the space and lower cost per head.
Happy hours and cocktail receptions are also perfect for employee appreciation and team-building events as they allow you to relax and bond outside of the office. In that same vein, entertaining clients at these functions also offers a more casual atmosphere for clients and helps foster more open dialogue and engaging conversation.
Because you aren't confined to a seat or an agenda, you can mingle with multiple groups of people during a cocktail event. This makes them ideal for networking and client appreciation events when inviting multiple clients. You can also host a prospecting event and invite clients to bring a guest of their own.
You can take some simple steps to switch up the traditional cocktail reception format, such as adding a mixology demonstration or hosting the event at a brewery or winery. If you really want to venture outside the box, you can add a retail pop-up to your next cocktail event. This experience gives your team a unique way to engage with guests while providing a memorable experience and a customized takeaway that will help keep your organization top of mind long after the event has ended. Design-your-own bag and shoe events work great on tablets with retail representatives and sample merchandise on hand. When customized items are ready, use hand delivery as a great follow-up for your sales reps or for the host to have an excuse for an additional touch point.
The retail space allows you to focus on personalizing the consumer experience and experiential marketing, concepts that lend themselves well to creating events for corporate audiences. One thing to keep in mind: Retail events are often more expensive and are ideal for smaller get-togethers and one-on-one time with top clients. They might take place in a private or semi-private store where guests can interact while browsing for the perfect item – often compliments of the host. Staff is on hand to help them shop, and in some cases, fit them for custom clothes, shoes or accessories. To round out the event, a caterer will bring in food and beverages for your guests.
Retail experiences are ideal for nurturing client relationships because it gives your team a chance to connect with guests on a personal level. Your guests also leave with something tangible to remind them of their experience. Every time they use the item they get, they'll think of your brand and the great time they had at your event.
Interactive, physical or problem-solving activities can be one of the best ways to build trust and engage with customers, clients and employees in new ways. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like a stimulating activity. No matter the demographic or seniority level, attendees will appreciate the time they are given to step away from their chairs and get hands-on with an organized activity. This trend grows by the day, so there are hundreds of new options that will resonate with your attendees and increase engagement and excitement as the day unfolds.
These activities range from escape rooms to a cooking demonstration to Topgolf experiences. Whether you are working together to accomplish a goal or learn a new skill, these events are unforgettable and make a lasting impression. If you want to get an attendee to remember you, there is no better way than getting them to do something they wouldn't have done otherwise. Dinners and cocktail events can become monotonous, but attendees will remember the first time they throw an axe forever.
Activities are best for nurturing existing relationships and tend to last many hours, so you get to clock more time in front of your clients.
There is an added bonus here: Bonds are built between participants during adrenaline-inducing and thought-provoking activities. Strength is built and trust is accelerated in relationships as you get creative and work through challenges. Activities are always considered to be morale boosters.
Sports and Entertainment
Sports and entertainment events offer group tickets and packages for live event experiences, like an NFL game, concert or festival. Although these events tend to cost more and are intended for smaller, more exclusive groups, they can have the strongest impact on your most important clients.
These events can often be memorable, once-in-a-lifetime client entertainment experiences, which make them ideal for nurturing existing relationships with your top clients. Because of the time commitment and advance notice, it might be harder to book with new prospects, and they may be more hesitant to accept upfront. The VIP treatment can be thrilling, and existing clients will be more likely to participate. These events not only make an impression on attendees; they also offer significant face time because they last for several hours, giving you the continued opportunity to grow the relationship.
Summertime is blockbuster season, when movie attendance typically goes through the roof. An easy way to plan a multi-city event for clients or coworkers is to treat them to a private viewing of the next big summer hit. Private movie pre-screenings are a great way to roll out the red carpet for a large group – without breaking the bank. Most blockbusters will not only pique the interest of prospects, but they can also be shown ahead of their premiere date for an element of exclusivity.
Movie events also give you an opportunity to put your brand on the big screen. Queue up a five to ten-minute brand or product video before the movie starts to really capture the attention of your guests and show them what you're about.
Pre-screenings work best with large, national campaigns. They are a great way to incentivize guests to show up by including families and significant others on the invite. While movie events limit networking time, a movie pre-screening is an experience that is hard to recreate. Closing just one deal with a prospective client could pay for the entire event, making it an extremely worthwhile campaign.
Choosing a venue is one of the most important decisions event professionals face. A truly successful event needs to create the right mix of attendees to justify the spend, be compelling and convenient enough that your invitees take the time to attend and allows your team the right setting to build meaningful connections. There will always be a need for traditional event spaces, but a unique experience could be just what you need to open your attendees' eyes to something new, make a lasting impression, and set your event - and brand - apart from the rest.
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