4 Anything-But-Boring Ideas for Corporate Event Venues

July 1, 2019

Hotel ballrooms, expo halls and restaurants all serve important purposes for corporate events, but sometimes it’s necessary to break out of the event venue mold to create an impactful experience. The venue can play a key role in helping planners achieve the goals of the meeting — whether it’s a corporate retreat, team building event, client reception, seminar, user conference, or something else entirely.

Here are some ideas for unique venues that can spark even more creative ideas and make corporate meetings more successful.


Museums — in all their diversity — offer elements of history, culture or elegance that can enhance corporate events. 

“We are seeing a trend from our corporate event clients that they want to host team building events inside the museum because it's fancier than a potluck and more intimate than an escape room,” Ally LaBriola, public relations associate at Museum Hackers says.

For example, the company has organized team building events for corporations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it offers a combination of touring the collection and ‘head-to-head’ competitions and games. 

“We gave one team a ‘Manet vs Monet’ challenge, which became a battle of epic proportions,” she explains. “The arguments were, to put it lightly, passionately presented.” 

The challenge worked like this: two groups had ten minutes to search the gallery and find the piece which was the best from the artist they had been assigned. Then everyone regrouped to decide who was the bigger impressionist badass. The attendees were able to see the art framed in the context of making the event highly interactive and fun.  

Bryan Mattimore, cofounder at Growth Engine Innovation Agency, ties museum venues to the corporation’s theme or purpose. He shared an example where he designed a meeting to help a division at Unilever question how they do business. The event was held it at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, inspired by the theme of rock n’ roll revolutionizing the music industry.

“Additionally, to inspire car executives from Australia to accept the importance of inventing and adapting to new technologies, we held a meeting at the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier Museum in New York; and to help a packaged goods company get closer to their family customers, we held a meeting at the Stepping Stones Children’s Museum in Norwalk, CT,” Mattimore says.

Several other planners cited aquariums, piers and other historical sites that offer the benefits of museums and are eager to customize experiences during off hours.

Overlook Hall
Overlook Hall, on Catalina Island. Photo credit: Overlook Hall.

Places of Worship

Houses of worship (both former and active) can offer unforgettable experiences for event attendees. 

Amberlee Huggins, president and chief marketing officer at CSI DMC, says she has used venues that have been around for a century but can be reimagined as unexpected, yet perfect, event settings. One such location is the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

“At the highest point in the city, the Washington National Cathedral sits as a unique architectural and historical masterpiece with a variety of breathtaking event spaces that can accommodate [any event size from] smaller and more intimate groups to grand receptions,” she says.

The concept works on an intimate scale as well. Overlook Hall on Catalina Island, off the California coast, is a church that was converted into a special events venue in 2013.

Mike Rivkin of Overlook Hall says the large sanctuary with open beam ceilings, Douglas fir floor, raised stage, clerestory windows and deck looking out at the ocean works because it’s formal, yet can be themed in a thousand different ways.  

“The whitewashed brick walls are easily decorated and the room can be configured for auditorium, break-out, dining and other uses,” he says. “It offers an aura of specialness and island charm.”  

Motor Speedways

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
MPI WEC 2018 Closing Event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo credit: Visit Indy

Another way to wow attendees is a trip to a speedway. Again, Mattimore used this unique venue option to achieve a meeting’s purpose. 

“To help Craftsman executives invent, market and sell tools, we held a meeting at the Charlotte Motor Speedway,” he says. “The venue allowed us to ideate in an inspiring and fun environment and do walk around research with both attendees and professional mechanics.”

From this experience Craftsman learned that there was tremendous interest in specialized sets of ratchets, wrenches and sockets, including sets specifically for motorcycle owners, boat owners and even DIY moms. Many of these ideas were launched and the project increased sales by six percent and won a record six vendor awards from Sears.

Marissa Renaldi, convention market coordinator at Visit Indy, says the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a unique venue capable of memorable events for 30 to 300,000.

“The Racing Capital of the World is home to many venues, including the IMS Museum, Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, Pagoda overlooking the start/finish, and pavilions,” she notes. “Corporations can offer VIP attendees opportunities to take hot laps around the track with professional drivers, and appearances or meet and greets with Indy 500 drivers.”

Corporate Event News managing editor Danalynne Menegus attended an event at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America motorsports complex. Her group of 15 got to experience go-kart racing, but the facility also offers meeting space that can hold up to 300 attendees as well as customized tours, demonstrations and adventure programs.  

Family Friendly Places

Don’t exclude venues that offer kid- or family-friendly fun like miniature golf courses, theme parks or rustic locations.

Katie Elder, owner of Overlook Barn in North Carolina, says a barn can be the perfect place for corporate events, allowing meeting attendees to unplug. 

“We have two barns including Overlook Barn with renovated horse stalls that can be used as breakout rooms and Cliffside Barn with a breathtaking mountain view,” she says. “While we have all of the modern amenities that someone would want in a corporate meeting (electric, WiFi, A/V equipment, etc), we really encourage our corporate clients to take the opportunity to unplug from their email and day-to-day distractions.” 

Boost Efficiency and Productivity

While offering memorable experiences is key, unique venues also offer opportunities to do business effectively. They can be places to generate new ideas, conduct consumer research and tap subject matter experts. As event planners prepare for future corporate meetings, looking beyond the ballroom or the boardroom can lead to productive and exciting adventures for the entire group. 

Main photo credit: Museum Hackers


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