4 Venues Beyond Convention Centers for Smaller Event Spaces

August 18, 2022
Smiling business colleagues standing at table during rooftop party

Convention centers have had a rocky few years, but they are welcoming big events and conferences again. As publications report, the road back to full capacity meetings in convention centers is an ongoing journey. Yet there are opportunities here for smaller event spaces to fill in gaps for destination organizations and convention bureaus looking to attract meetings. 

Advocating for smaller event spaces seems counterintuitive since destination organizations and convention bureaus have traditionally sought to maximize their event attendance. In its latest study, Meeting Room of the Future, however, the International Association of Conference Centres (IACC) revealed, among other takeaways, that small business meetings were regaining ground faster than larger ones. 

While convention centers are always going to be needed, destination organizations need to realize that smaller meetings – and hence smaller event spaces – are more important than ever. Moving forward, it’s not ridiculous to imagine a heated demand for smaller event venues for the foreseeable future.

So while prioritizing sales of convention centers that form the cornerstone of most convention bids, destination organizations must also elevate their smaller, more unique venues to make it clear that smaller events are welcomed. 

By promoting alternative spaces, it’s also a chance to bring various partners into the MICE industry who may have been struggling to gain a foothold in reaching meeting planners. In the end, whether it’s ten small events or one big event, you’ll be getting visitors attending – and spending – in your destination.

1. Museums & Galleries

Destinations naturally position their local museums and galleries as attractions to visit, but many have well-equipped meeting spaces to welcome smaller meetings. The payoff is double. Visitors get to enjoy a unique meeting in a culturally important location and museums get a much-needed boost in visitation.

Holding meetings in museums also does double duty of showcasing your destination, helping to prevent any dull conference room events where delegates bemoan never really experiencing anything in the destination. Take a closer look at your museums and galleries and provide them with any support they may need as you begin shining more light on them for meeting planners.

2. Botanical Gardens

Much like museums, many botanical gardens have indoor and outdoor meeting spaces that are more than just backdrops for wedding photoshoots. Take the New York Botanical Garden, for example. It boasts a theater, classroom space, and various other outdoor and indoor areas to hold a variety of functions. It’s an oasis in a city where you’d never expect to find one.

While far from intuitive to think of a garden for a business event or conference, attendees will thank meeting planners who think outside the box, and those meeting planners will in turn thank destination organizations for helping them get there. 

They may even ask what other unique spaces you have to offer!

3. Tasting Rooms & Producers

Networking and sharing a drink go hand in hand, so planning an event directly in a venue that facilitates both is a win-win situation. Help meeting planners connect with smaller venues like tasting rooms and wineries, or even craft breweries, that have ample space to provide a unique experience. 

Attendees can enjoy local wines or beer through a guided tasting before or after the main event, without having to worry about transportation. Not every facility will have the capability to host an event, but by promoting those that do, your destination will soon see itself with many smaller event spaces that are hooked up with the audiovisual capabilities and other requirements needed to host a high quality event.

4. Boating Vessels

Visitors to a destination love getting on the water, whether it’s a water taxi or a sunset Champagne cruise. When possible, destinations should make sure they have and promote any boating vessels that can act as smaller event spaces. 

An old-timey paddleboat can be more than just a way to view the river – it can be a place to share drinks, hold panel discussions, and create a memorable event for attendees. Helping fund and cultivate these sorts of spaces, for destinations with a viable waterfront, is a creative and promising way to offer a new kind of indoor/outdoor space for meeting planners to consider.

And the bottom line for all of these unique venues is that, ultimately, they will leave a lasting impression on attendees – more than any windowless hotel conference room might. Good experiences lead to a likelihood that visitors and planners will continue looking to your destination in the future for business and leisure travel, underscoring how even smaller event spaces can leave a big impact.

Considering how to attract smaller business events to your destination? DCI has more than 60 years of marketing experience with the MICE industry, connecting with planners and MICE media worldwide. Get in touch with Stella Tsitsipatis at [email protected] to learn more about how our destination marketing agency can help place you at the top of meeting planners’ lists.