Rethinking Meetings Venues

Changing dynamics in the market and the workplace prompt planners to rethink meetings venues. 

Caersars Palace Garden of the Gods pool oasis
Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace

As the meetings industry picks up steam, limited hotel availability coupled with transformative shifts in workplace culture and soaring client expectations have prompted a growing number of planners to consider unique and alternative venues for their clients’ meetings and events.    
For many planners, tight availability of hotel and conference space in major markets is pushing alternative venues into play. According to recent research by Knowland, attendance is exceeding pre-pandemic numbers among the hotel-based meetings the company tracks, more than 60 percent of which are corporate.  
“The market is saturated with groups who want to meet again, so hotels can really pick and choose what groups they want to take,” said Britt Schwendinger, an independent planner and co-owner/senior planner with Precision Planners.  “It’s a seller’s market right now, and the hotels are calling the shots.”   
According to Mindy Hanzlik, manager of experience design and experience and event solutions with The Collective, a division of BCD Meetings and Events, “With the surge back to live in 2022, space is at a premium and this compression in venue availability is making rethinking space a necessity.”  

New Workplace Cultures Generate Change

Another development driving consideration of alternative meeting venues is the broad change in workplace culture. While the trend to redesign work environments to support a less formal atmosphere began pre-COVID-19, it accelerated post-pandemic as organizations have focused on attracting employees back to the office with workplaces that are bright, drive energy, and feature communal spaces to sit and collaborate.    
“A lot of what meeting planners are now trying to do is create spaces for meetings and conventions that emulate that, because that’s comfort,” said Lisa Messina, chief sales officer with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). “Their job is to set a stage for that meeting or event that is going to create collaboration and networking and a general euphoric feeling that leaves you retaining what you learned, who you met and how you felt. That impacts the ROI of the meeting.”  
Schwendinger said her clients are driving the stronger focus on using unique and nontraditional meeting venues.   
“They are so excited to bring their people together again that they want to do something special and memorable that will make their employees happy,” she said. “The bar is set so much higher now for success. We are tasked with being creative and helping them get to the heart of why they want to meet, and that often includes offering options that are not at your typical hotel.”   
Hanzlik has seen a similar trend. “Clients are willing to shake up their format and try new things, and meeting spaces are a crucial part of this,” she said. “And, as trends toward sustainability, engagement and creating experiences grow, more and more customers see the benefit of stepping outside the ballroom and trying something new.” 

Unique Venues Offer Planners Creativity and Flexibility  

Sourcing an alternative venue for a meeting or event has pros and cons. On the opportunity side, planners are not locked into the look of a hotel or event space.   
“There are no boundaries—both figuratively and literally—with unique venues, which allows creativity to run wild when we’re crafting the experience,” Hanzlik said. “We can completely tailor the experience to the space and the messages the client wants to convey.”  
Schwendinger said many of her corporate clients want her to source unique venues where they can bring in their own preferred vendors, or work with smaller, local vendors for catering, rentals and AV services.     
“You also have more control to have a more sustainable meeting, which is really important to a lot of my clients,” she said. “They are trying to make their events more sustainable and more local, showing the flair and flavor of whatever area they selected. Private event space usually demonstrates that well.”  

Zouk Las Vegas
Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World Las Vegas – Hilton, Conrad & Crockfords

Las Vegas Adds New Venues 

Las Vegas is a case in point. According to Messina, Las Vegas embarked on “a journey into the new and different” in terms of unique meeting venues in 2019, although some projects were delayed by the pandemic. 
New venues include the Allegiant Stadium, which Messina said, “was designed with the mindset for events from 10 to 65,000 people. It includes really unique spaces where planners can design different experiences and features the work of local Las Vegas artists that create a real sense of place.”  
Other new venues include AREA15, which includes restaurants, bars and shopping. Messina said the venue, described as a ‘multiverse’, is ideal for team building and activity programming after meetings. And, opening later this year, is the MSG Sphere at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, a sphere-shaped music and entertainment arena that Messina described as the newest, most innovative and technologically driven venue that will debut by the end of the year with capacity to host events of all sizes up to 20,000 people. 

Lower Costs, Higher Engagement   

Mandy Archer, VP customer success and program ops with Infinix Global, noted that unique spaces “can be less expensive and more interesting. This can increase overall engagement and has potential to give attendees that wow. When you do something a little different, it keeps people on their toes and impacts the overall meeting with higher energy.”  
Noted Hanzlik, “If you want to drive engagement, you are more successful if you can build an event that intrigues. Unique venues feel new and different and drive excitement, which builds a foundation for this.”  
The LVCVA’s Messina, agrees. “When we are happy and pleased in a space, everything about the meeting gets rated on a very high level and we retain the experience and the memory. That’s what planners are trying to achieve. They want to create an event that people will rate at a 10.”   
Unique and alternative meeting spaces also offer organizations an opportunity to develop a connection between their brand and a meeting’s theme, content and objectives, which makes the venue part of the overall experience. “The venue you select is a hidden opportunity to set your stage and start telling your story before you’ve even spoken a word,” Hanzlik said.  

Hotels Redesign Meeting Spaces

Hotels have redesigned meeting and public spaces in response to the change in corporate workplace culture to favor less formality as well as ongoing health and safety concerns for attendees.   
According to Brian Stevens, CEO of ConferenceDirect, “Some hotels have permanently installed architecturally beautiful outdoor structures, and what’s happening now is that is the new normal. They want you to do an outdoor event, and they will back you up with an interior space.”  
Many hotels have also redesigned their interior meeting spaces. “During the pandemic, a lot of hotels took the opportunity to rethink the way their meeting space presents,” Schwendinger said. That has included reimagining meeting spaces to make them more attractive by giving them what she describes as “a fun, cool vibe where people can gather to network and talk more casually.”  
When a traditional hotel ballroom is the best choice for a meeting, “Clients that historically never put money into redesigning a ballroom space for a meeting are now putting money there,” according to Archer. “You can’t rebuild a ballroom; what’s done is done. But they are doing what they can to change the ambience. We are seeing more of that if their budget aligns, because, with the comfort, they find attendees are more engaged and more interactive.”  
The LVCVA’s Messina, agrees. “When we are happy and pleased in a space, everything about the meeting gets rated on a very high level and we retain the experience and the memory. That’s what planners are trying to achieve. They want to create an event that people will rate at a 10.”   

Legacy Club Las Vegas
Legacy Club at Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Properties Reinvent Their Meeting Venues  

Las Vegas properties have been on the forefront of reimagining and reinventing their meeting spaces in the last few years to keep pace with changing customer needs.   
“All of our resorts, from Circa Resort & Casino to Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, have been reinvesting in their properties since the re-opening after Covid,” said Messina. “In Las Vegas, our customers always expect what’s new and innovative, so we are constantly redesigning and rethinking and reimagining what meeting spaces look like.”  
She noted that groups, meetings and conventions are one of the most important market segments for Las Vegas. “We have over 150,000 hotel rooms, we’ve got 15 million square feet of meeting space, and we’ve got the second largest convention center in the Americas and one of the top 10 in the world—so we don’t take meetings lightly!” Messina said.   
"There is always something new coming down the pike,” she added. “We encourage meetings, events and convention planners of all sizes, and we realize we need to provide the platforms through our facilities so they can design meaningful meetings and spaces that support what they are trying to achieve in their business.” 

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Unique Meeting Venues Abound in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is constantly creating and re-imagining unique event and meeting spaces. Keeping up with the changes can be challenging, but meeting planners have a great resource, according to Lisa Messina, chief sales officer with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.   

“Reach out to your local CVB and/or DMC who can share best practices and learn a little bit more about your vision, the experience you are trying to create, and what your budget is,” Messina advised. “As the subject matter experts in our destinations, let us help you identify that unique or alternate venue that will support what you are trying to achieve.” 

Here’s a quick look at just 10 of the destination’s meeting venues.  

Ironwood Terrace: An 8,000-square foot outdoor meeting space connecting the East and West Convention Centers at ARIA Resort & Casino. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: As part of ARIAs impressive 500,000 total square feet of versatile meeting facilities, the Ironwood Terrace’s position—nestled between the East and West Convention Centers—makes it particularly convenient for attendees. An outdoor catered affair overlooking the pool area for up to 800 guests is sure to inspire new business ideas. 
Hakkasan: Visitors will thrill to rediscover Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant’s reimagined contemporary Chinese cuisine and a revitalized stylish interior. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: Entering through an orchid-lined archway, guests can dine in the main dining room (capacity: 350) or in a private dining space for 12. After dinner, the excitement continues within four distinct nightlife experiences.  
• Stella Studio: This multi-functional venue in The Venetian Resort Las Vegas offers nearly 7,000 square feet of private meeting or event space for small groups of up to 194 attendees. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: The Stella Studio’s private entrance, customizable menus, dedicated kitchen and bar, and tech package give smaller events a large-scale ambience. This highly configurable space has a modern aesthetic and plentiful natural light.  

Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis: Outdoor space at Caesars Palace featuring seven different luxury pool experiences. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: Spanning five acres, groups can gather, network and relax while enjoying the pool complex’s 40 cabanas and plentiful daybeds. Day services such as poolside spa treatments can be paired with exciting and elegant evening events accentuated by fountains, picturesque landscaping and Roman statues.      
Hyde Lounge: An 18,000-square foot venue at T-Mobile Arena that extends over the arena’s general seating for concerts and sporting events and sweeping floor-to-ceiling window views of the Vegas strip. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: Treat up to 800 guests as VIPs with four full-service bars, elevated menu options, dedicated elevator access and DJ booth for a high-energy atmosphere. 
Legacy Club Rooftop Cocktails: An elegant rooftop club lounge overlooking Las Vegas on Circa Resort & Casino's 60th floor, featuring a 9,330-square-foot interior and outdoor space with a panoramic view of the downtown skyline. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: Unique décor (including 1,000 ounces of gold), intimate interior spaces and cocktails by the outdoor terrace firepits enhance this special view of Las Vegas for up to 400 guests. Customized mixology options also offer an original take on classic cocktails.   
Zouk Nightclub: A 26,060 square-foot technologically advanced nightclub at Resorts World Las Vegas – Hilton, Conrad & Crockfords, featuring a variety of innovative spaces capable of hosting more than 2,000 people. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: As one of the most technologically advanced nightclubs in Las Vegas, Zouk’s main room features screens spanning over a 4K space with the ability to play fully customizable content. Additionally, the entrance and Capital Bar areas have screens spanning an 8K space allowing the ability to create an immersive branding experience. 

Rose Rooftop: Resorts World Las Vegas – Hilton, Conrad & Crockfords offers a rooftop terrace that overlooks the breathtaking Las Vegas Strip and can be configured for ceremonies and receptions. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: The 24,103-square-foot outdoor space can accommodate up to 2,399 attendees standing and offers in-house catering for events.  
The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas: Recently renovated 4,600-person live music venue in Virgin Hotels Las Vegas has new touchpoints on all three levels including updated bars, luxury suites, and two additional VIP lounges. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS:  With a capacity of 4,600, The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas includes an underground music venue along with a 19,000-square-foot space with a patio.  
MSG Sphere: Opening this fall with approximately 17,500 seats and a scalable capacity up to 20,000 guests, MSG Sphere at The Venetian will become the venue of choice for a wide variety of events, including Sphere experiences, concert residencies, product launches and marquee events. UNIQUE FEATURE FOCUS: In addition to the world’s highest resolution LED screen, the Sphere has a multi-layered audio system that delivers targeted audio to every seat in the house. The venue will also feature 4D multi-sensory technologies to take event experiences to an entirely new level. The impactful sphere exterior features the largest LED screen on Earth.  

Plan your unique Las Vegas event now.