The Rise of Unconventional Event Venues

In an industry that aims to create memorable events, one critical component is often overlooked: the venue. When you’re trying to build unique experiences, where you execute them can be as important as the activation strategy itself. And while standard settings like convention centers and sports arenas have their time and place, selecting unconventional venues for events can give brands the boost they need to take their experiences to the next level.

For brands looking to go extra bold, 35,000 feet in the air is a solid place to make it happen. In-flight events are gaining a lot of traction in the event space, and with a cabin full of passengers looking to kill time, it’s easy to see why. For JetBlue’s in-flight mixology experience, dubbed “Shakes on a Plane,” mixologists whipped up three cocktails in the aisle while an editor from Bar Business educated passengers on the ingredients and processes from the front of the cabin. The activation ended with two rounds of cocktails served during the airline’s standard beverage service. And suddenly airport bars have lost their luster.

While you’re contemplating leveraging modes of transportation as activation venues, consider adding a cruise ship to the list, too. There are a variety of options depending on the size and duration of the event, from day trips on smaller vessels to multi-day adventures on full-amenity cruise ships. And if you’re looking for something more temporary, riverboat cruises are great unconventional venues for smaller crowds with time constraints.

Rustic spaces like farmhouses and vineyards are also unique options, allowing for the incorporation of homey touches and the charm of the countryside into the experience. Consider adding communal tables, warm décor and natural elements like fresh flowers to elevate the ambience. Top it off with some comfort food and you’ve got a guaranteed winner.

Another creative way to shake things up is to hold an activation in a typical venue at an atypical time. Selecting hot nightclubs or lounges for daytime events creates a sense of intrigue and can allow brands to transform a low-key event into a standout experience. Bonus: many of the amenities you need, like killer A/V, are already set up on-site. 

And then there’s the natural world—the mountains, trails, campsites and national parks that offer clean air, an escape from reality and a powerful reminder of those nostalgic childhood memories that make us happy in the present. Beer brand Upslope tapped into all of it with a decidedly unique sampling experience that enticed consumers to hike a trail in the Rockies for a few free beers.

Also consider unconventional venues that offer guaranteed foot traffic. Selecting well-known, public spaces ensures your event hits its target numbers. To support the launch of the Moto Z phone and its accessories, the Moto Mods, Moto Mobility wanted a unique and innovative environment that served up as many consumers and passive buyers as possible without invitation. With three major entry points, the High Line in NYC was selected as the optimal backdrop for the experience.

When all else fails, turning to iconic venues that conjure up a sense of nostalgia could be just what the doctor ordered. Take Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, NY, for instance. The restored 1922 carousel, which is encased in a Plexiglas “jewel box,” is available for groups of up to 150 people to rent on days the venue is closed to the public. Amenities include an in-house sound system, outdoor deck for spillover crowds and 48 meticulously decorated wooden horses that evoke the charm of an era gone by.

Fact is, you can execute a successful experience just about anywhere if there’s a relevant way to map it back to the objective of the event. There will always be reasons to hold corporate meetings in ballrooms or pop-up events in retail spaces, but when you’ve got some wiggle room, choosing unconventional venues is a smart way to set the stage for an unforgettable experience.

Posted by Geoff Albro | Request as a Speaker

A man with the plan who loves everything creative, always drawing inspiration from the everyday. My better half keeps my ideas in check with her event production chops and my two kiddos in diapers keep me on my toes!