Purpose built venues… a thing of the past?

Head of Venues, Louise Goalen, ponders the role of purpose-built venues in an ever changing events landscape

Making the decision to stage a corporate event in an unusual space rather than in a purpose built, traditional setting is becoming a regular occurrence.  Whilst conference centres and hotels sit comfortably with organisers’ basic requirements, many companies discard purpose built venues for more idiosyncratic facilities.

This comes as corporate events have changed significantly over the last decade. They are no longer about sitting in a bland theatre style room with the board of directors and a PowerPoint deck to get key messages across. Corporate events are now largely focusing on delegate engagement and participation, and the choice of venue and environment you create is a key tool to help achieve that.

Unusual venues can help bring a message to life, reflect the brand and provide the wow factor for delegates. People are calling out for unusual spaces in which they can be creative. Whilst purpose built venues are a blank canvas and reliable, they limit the level of creativity that businesses are looking for. Hosting an event in a conference centre or hotel gives of a completely different message compared to an event held at a disused warehouse, a roof top garden or an underground vault.

Whilst the popularity of unusual spaces suggests purpose built venues are a thing of the past, they will of course always have a place in the industry. Large scale events, congresses, corporate meetings and exhibitions will always have a requirement for purpose-built venues. Corporate sectors with heavy compliance, like Healthcare and Life Science businesses, still rely heavily on the more traditional purpose-built venues as the venue cannot be seen as an enticement to the audience. The venue is secondary to the educational content of these meetings.

At Top Banana some of our client events need to host thousands of delegates and require a flexible space that can be used for different elements of the event agenda. This is where purpose built venues win every time over unusual space as everything is under one roof and we know they have years of experience in catering for these types of events.

The scalability of the space, services offered and reliability are all reasons why there will always be the need for purpose built venues. However, with event space now literally being any type of space, competition is tough and purpose-built venues need to step up. We are seeing more and more conference centres, hotels and stadiums undergoing refurbishments and modernisation to increase their competitiveness and appeal within the industry.

Over the last couple of years, the HBAA have really noticed an increase in diversity of types of venues becoming members. Whilst it largely used to be the traditional purpose-built venues we are now welcoming new types of venues that have the unusual space businesses are looking for. That is what I love about the industry…it never stands still and the way businesses are using venues and event spaces is always changing.

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