playacar palace beach deck

Beach deck at Palace Resorts | Playacar Palace, Mexico

Planners are always on the lookout for cool, unique venues for their meetings and events. Leverage this trend by selling meeting rooms that are outside the traditional conference room or ballroom space. Here are six ideas for your consideration:

1. Park your meeting here.

Social Tables suggests several unique venues that hoteliers can sell as meeting spaces, but the one that caught our eye is the parking area. Of course, you can’t just set up some tables and chairs in spaces 330-369. But if your parking area is under open skies, it can be repurposed for dynamic team-building activities. Borrow ideas from street festivals, using tents, booths, picnic tables, lighting and stages to create a fun, unexpected environment.

2. Outdoor meetings are just second nature.

Tap all of your outdoor spaces when you’re selling meeting rooms. Beyond courtyards and pool decks, think how you can appropriate lawns, gardens, golf courses, stables and tennis courts. Can you add a fire pit and a cluster of Adirondack chairs to an unused area? Or could you pirate a design trend from restaurateurs, who are using sliding glass garage-style doors to create indoor-outdoor spaces? Whatever you do, be sure to have photos of outdoor spaces set up for a meeting or event on hand. It can be hard for a planner to visualize his/her corporate group meeting poolside when families are playing Marco Polo.

outdoor fire pit

Fire pit at Airlie | Warrenton, VA hotel & conference center

3. Cook up a different type of meeting space.

When you throw a party, have you noticed how everyone gravitates to the kitchen? Why should a corporate event be any different? If you have a state-of-the-art or open kitchen, show it off! Use your kitchen during down times for networking and small group gatherings. Groups enjoy the invitation to explore the back of the house, and this may give your culinary team a chance to shine by offering a tasting or mini cooking lesson.

4. Raise the bar on informal breakout sessions.

Alternatively, think about using your property’s bar or lounge off hours. Without the evening crowd, it makes an attractive breakout space for spirited (no pun intended!) group conversations. Set the scene by having a member of your bar staff whip up some mocktails. Using this space dovetails with IACC’s 2017 Meeting Room of the Future Report, which notes that comfortable seating and lounge-style settings allowing for collaboration and social interaction are becoming more important in choosing a meeting venue.

5. The next generation of “inflatable” is here.

Talk about flexible meeting space—behold the inflatable meeting room! The Dana team had the chance to experience this meeting room trend firsthand at the 2017 IMEX America show. Called “Infuse Rooms,” the igloo-style inflatables offered a cozy, tribal setting just right for learning and teamwork. “The space really makes you think differently, and that elevates the experience,” said Dana’s President, Lynn Kaniper, who added that participants were given headphones to block out the noise of the convention floor.

imex america group session

Infuse Room at IMEX America | Las Vegas

6. Explore your neighborhood for more ideas.

Stake out your surroundings for unusual venues. Is your property near a museum, zoo, park, library, historic building or small airport? Are you friendly with a local farmer, winemaker or brewer? Eventbrite reports that farmhouse pop-up dinners are popular now. If you don’t have access to a farmhouse, consider ways you can transform an on-site space with that same cozy ambience. How about a silo? Airlie Conference Center in Virginia is in the planning stages of turning its on-site silo into a cool new space.

The new mantra for selling meeting rooms is this: less formal atmospheres, collaborative spaces and unique experiences. Watch this space for more out-of-the-ballroom ideas, and contact Lynn Kaniper today at or 609.466.9187, ext. 117 to further the discussion.

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