Why You Should Consider Unconventional Venues

When it comes to venue scouting, every planner has their go-to list of favorite spaces. These can range from the traditional hotel to private rooms at local restaurants to art galleries. But with the ease of the familiar, you might be overlooking impactful spaces that could add the “wow factor” to your event.

Case and point: The Crystal Couture fashion showcase. Produced by the Crystal City Business Improvement District in Virginia, this annual fashion event bring retailers, boutique owners, accessories shops and designers together with nearly 1,000 fashion enthusiasts for three days (and nights) of retail therapy, fashion shows and business promotion. What separates this show from other fashion events though is its venue choice. 

“Each year for the last nine years we’ve showcased a great retail experience with lot of fun shopping, sipping and ‘fun to have with friends’ format,” said Angela Fox, President and CEO of Crystal City BID. “It also lets us show how much Crystal City continues to change and evolve and become a more soulful interesting place in the past few years.”

If you’re a designer, these types of unconventional venues allow your creativity to shine because they offer the blank canvas of your dreams. “Blank canvas” doesn’t mean it has to blow the production budget though. The innate office (or dressing room layout, depending on the type of commercial real estate space you find, lend themselves to V.I.P. suites, sponsored lounges, or in the case of Crystal Couture, individual boutiques and dressing rooms for shoppers.

Add in a solid DJ, some ambient lighting and brand activations and you’ve turned an empty piece of real estate into an experience that will leave guests talking about it long after they’ve left.

Overcoming objections

Objection 1:

“But I always do that level (or more) of production and guests still love my events. Why bother changing the venue from the tried and true?”

To that, the solution is two-fold:

  1. The unique space pushes your guests to look at the everyday in a new way. Think about the last time you saw an abstract painting, then imagine going back and finding the artists hung it at a 90-degree angle from the first time you saw it. That would make you think about it the change and what you saw the first time right? That challenging of your conventional thought is exactly what your guests experience with unique and unconventional venues. Challenging the conventional is what will help give you that X-Factor that secures the job.
  2. Aren’t new ideas and a passion (or need) for creativity the reasons you got into this business to being with? Run with that! It’s important to keep work fun and finding ways to challenge yourself, especially if clients aren’t bringing the challenge to you.

Objection 2:

“My clients come to me knowing what they want and corporate will never go for something that’s not a hotel ballroom.”

Solution: As the event planner, it’s your job to show them why an unconventional space can work. Corporations and nonprofits have similar goals for their events: make money. The former does so through client appreciation events, product launches, meetings and workshops, and the latter through fundraising efforts.

Your burden is to effectively articulate to them how this departure from the ordinary (and the unique experience that comes with it) will have the desired branding (and therefore future monetary) effect they are looking to achieve. Connect your ideas to how they will reach the client’s goals and you’re better armed to close that deal.

See how Crystal City BID used an unoccupied office space for Crystal Couture.

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**Photos: Courtesy of Crystal City BID 

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