The most fundamental rule of real estate can be just as important for events: location, location, location. An event’s host city can play a pivotal role in attracting attendees.
Most event planners will choose a city based on reputation, and then select one of its major hotels or convention centers to satisfy all their venue requirements.
With more and more offsite venues providing unique experiences for conferences and events, it may be time to rethink this routine. Why not consider what venues a city has to offer before landing on it as your destination of choice?
Think outside the box. Business events aren’t just for conference centers anymore. Libraries, museums, sports facilities, and even zoos are getting in on the action. With the right mix of venues, your guests can enjoy the best a city has to offer without missing a single networking opportunity.
Pick Your Area Of Interest To Find The Right Venues
If you want your attendees to leave with stories they’ll be sharing for years to come, pick venues that will add a dash of recreation to the agenda.
Think like a tourist, but research like an event professional. What places would you like to visit if you were on vacation? Are any of these facilities available to rent? Will these venues give your attendees lasting memories and a flavor for the city?
Start by narrowing down the general areas of interest that are most likely to engage your target demographic. Some ideas to consider include:
- Arts, Culture, and Innovation
- Museums and Heritage Sites
- Sports and Outdoor Activities
Once you’ve laid out some options, look into what types of meetings they can accommodate. Forward-thinking cities are starting to recognize that opening the door to business opportunities creates a win-win situation: clients like you are not only enjoying the city’s most treasured institutions, but reinvesting in them.
Spotlight On Calgary
Exactly how does such a business-friendly mindset translate into more exciting offsite venue options? Canada’s Rocky Mountain metropolis, Calgary, provides a good example of what to expect from this model.
Popular with tourists for its yearly stampede, Calgary also meets all the criteria at the top of an event planner’s checklist. It combines the local with the global, and it offers just as much modern convenience as traditional flair.
What you may not have anticipated is that many of its best attractions provide rental spaces for conferences and other events. You might be surprised by the options!
Libraries: They House Knowledge, And They Host Events
Libraries may not be top of mind when it comes to event spaces, but the most enterprising cities worldwide are starting to realize how versatile these venues can be. Some of the biggest, most impressive libraries are available for private functions.
And what better way to communicate your commitment to sharing the best and brightest ideas of the day than to host an offsite event at a library? If you have a guest speaker who is launching a new book, the library is the perfect location to host a book-signing event.
Hosting an event at the library can also generate publicity on the local level. To make the most of this outreach potential, consider letting a limited number of people purchase individual event tickets without registering for a full conference pass.
The key is to pick a library with unique design features that foster a sense of community and a love of learning.
Calgary’s new Central Library boasts all these selling points. Its stunning architectural design functions as a ‘bridge’ between Calgary’s downtown core and the East Village. If you needed any more evidence of how much it unites the community, over half of all Calgarians are card-carrying members!
Like many contemporary libraries, it is built around the concept of open exchange. Its elliptical foyer creates an expansive central meeting place that unifies multiple levels–in other words, the ideal layout for a networking event.
Music Centres Are Made For Events, So Why Not Yours?
Music halls are a natural fit for events–they offer wide-open spaces and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. Look for a music venue that offers the best of all worlds: world-class architecture, cutting-edge technology, and cultural capital.
Just like libraries, a city’s prime musical center is often a hub of cultural activity, with a design that considers visual appeal just as much as acoustic quality.
If you want the ambience of live background music with the perfect sound balance, a music venue might be the way to go.
Calgary’s Studio Bell (National Music Centre) not only has the facilities to host musical performances, but it can also accommodate large cocktail events and other gatherings. With a shimmering interior clad in 226,000 glazed terracotta tiles, it exemplifies the streamlined elegance of contemporary design.
It also houses an award-winning museum installation and Canada’s Music Hall of Fame!
Fun activity: host a music-themed trivia game.
Science Centers: Bring The Spark Of Invention To Your Event
Science centres can add a whole new twist to the business event experience, and many are opening their doors to external event planners.
When reviewing the science museums of a potential host city, make sure you look into:
- Special temporary exhibits that coincide with your event.
- Guided educational tours.
- Labs and studios that offer hands-on training or group activities.
Try to find a science museum that combines informational displays with team-building experiences.
Calgary’s TELUS Spark, for example, not only features an array of impressive museum exhibitions, but also offers interactive studios in coding, animation, and computer graphics. Their “Innovative Team Builder” exercises even involve game design challenges.
If you are looking to host a large-scale event, they even have several beautifully designed spaces that can accommodate conferences and tradeshows.
Heritage Sites: Give Your Event Historical Weight With A Blast From The Past
For a memorable event, you want to choose a city with its finger on the pulse, but you also want a destination that is rich with cultural history.
The most engaging heritage venues are ones that allow visitors to immerse themselves in a bygone era. Look for venues that allow guests to walk through–or even dine in–original structures and recreated buildings.
Hosting an event inside a vintage environment can be a great way to keep the spirit of the past alive while creating a memorable experience for your attendees. Take it up a notch by incorporating props or role-playing games.
Calgary not only has multiple sites dedicated to the legacy of its frontier origins, but it has made these spaces available as rentable facilities.
The word “fort” automatically conjures images of a battle-ready populace, and Fort Calgary gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of early settlers. Its facilities include the Interpretive Centre (a reconstruction of the city’s original barracks) and Hunt House (an original trading post building from the days of fur trappers). And yes, you can rent dining halls here!
Heritage Park is an immersive ‘village’ featuring multiple historically-themed attractions. The “Wainwright Hotel” recreates the stately dining halls and infamous saloons of the frontier heyday. “Gasoline Alley” delights visitors with a display of vintage automobiles, and its floor plan can accommodate a 400-person banquet. Click here!
With its exterior walls still bearing the painted signs of its past life, the Simmons Building is a former mattress factory that has been repurposed as a culinary hotspot for the trendsetting crowd.
Sports Complexes Are A One-Stop Shop For Spacious Venues And Exciting Activities
Concert performers have long taken advantage of the arena-style venues of the sports world. Now, it’s time for event planners to get in on the action. Add the adrenaline rush of extreme sports to the equation, and you have the makings of an unforgettable experience.
While Calgary’s WinSport Olympic Park has been credited with boosting Canada to the top of the podium in Olympic winter sports, its state-of-the-art facilities can also give office workers a chance to live the dream for an afternoon.
Winter activities include the usual suspects of skiing and snowboarding, as well as more niche options like the “Ice House” luge-track. It is the only indoor facility of its kind in North America, and it even offers video reviews of individual sessions.
And the fun doesn’t end with the winter season–thrill seekers can get their fix all year long. In the summer, you can slide across North America’s fastest zipline or ride along 12.5 miles (20 km) of mountain bike trails.
Fun bonus: look for a venue that offers mementoes of your activities, such as finish-line snapshots or play-by-play video recordings.
Sports facilities don’t have to be limited to break-out activities, either. WinSport’s arena, with a capacity for almost 4000 guests, has established a reputation for hosting business events with its award-winning catering.
If you would rather offer your guests the spectator experience, look for venues hosting special sporting events and tournaments.
For example, Calgary’s Spruce Meadows equestrian facility hosts show-jumping tournaments throughout much of the year, and its facilities have all the versatility needed to host major events.
Leveraging modern technology to meet the needs of equestrian shows, its “Equi-Plex” venue uses a modular flooring design to create up to 56,000 square feet of space! Not just for horse shows, this space can accommodate conferences, conventions, and trade shows. Click here!
Events At The Zoo: Contribute To Conservation While Wowing Your Guests
If you want to create an event that is truly keeping with the times, think of ways to bring environmental consciousness to the table. Move beyond simply cutting back on paper waste with the use of electronic apps, and choose venues that put conservation and sustainability front and center.
Things to consider:
- Does the organization actively support an environmental cause?
- Where does it source its catering?
- Does it take advantage of the latest in energy-saving technology?
The Calgary Zoo has a long-held commitment to wildlife preservation, and its facilities look to minimize their environmental impact every step of the way. Hosting an event at the Calgary Zoo lets you enjoy the marvels of nature while helping to conserve its bounty for future generations.
The zoo’s meeting and banquet facilities include the ENMAX Conservatory, one of the most energy-efficient greenhouses in the world. The Calgary Zoo’s catering service even grows its own produce onsite, with other ingredients sourced from local suppliers.
Special Considerations For Offsite Venues
As more and more establishments recognize the benefit of welcoming private functions, your offsite options become more and more diverse.
This diversity also means that you may have to take some extra logistical considerations into account. These include:
- WIFI CAPACITY.
Does the venue have the network bandwidth to accommodate all of your attendees, or will you have to outsource this service?
Will you be providing a shuttle service from the hotel to your offsite venue? If not, what other travel arrangements will you provide to ensure everyone arrives together?
- SEASONAL CONSIDERATIONS.
It goes without saying that any facilities offering outdoor options will be affected by seasonal changes, but it’s worth doing a little research before making assumptions. You might be surprised – the Calgary Zoo, for example, has a special light show on display during the winter months.
- SCHEDULING OPTIONS.
The versatility of offsite venues can sometimes create scheduling conflicts. Many public institutions, for example, have limited hours of availability for private events. The main foyer of Calgary’s Central Library can be rented, but only outside of standard library hours in the late evening. On the other hand, when it comes to venues that host musical shows and sports tournaments, events that compete for scheduling space might also translate to bonus attractions.
Although offsite venues may sometimes involve a little extra legwork, your investment will pay off in the end.
If you want to surprise your guests with the unexpected, offsite venues can add a whole new dimension to the experience. When choosing a city for your next event, remember that there are options beyond run-of-the mill conference centers and hotel facilities.
Venue rental options may be accessible in every corner of the city, including:
- Arts and Culture Centers
- Science Museums
- Heritage Sites
- Athletic Facilities
The ideal city is one that has made its top tourist attractions available to rent. In Calgary, everything from the library to the zoo is fair game, so don’t sell yourself short on the hunt by limiting yourself to traditional conference spaces.