As originally seen in Associations Now.
Meeting planners are continually challenged to create unique and memorable events. In fact, 78 percent say the call for unique attendee experiences is rising, according to the spring 2019 Meetings Outlook quarterly report, produced by Meeting Professionals International. Sixty-six percent say this demand affects their venue-selection decisions.
Infusing creativity into meetings is key to engaging your attendees, sending meeting planners on the hunt for non-traditional spaces. “Events held in non-traditional venues add an instant uniqueness and bucket-list feel to the overall guest experience,” says Indy-based meeting planner Carol Howard. “Hosting events in these spaces allows the planner to think well outside the proverbial box.”
Fortunately, downtown Indianapolis is overflowing with the type of venues that will spark inspiration and create lasting impressions. Here are two unique spots to consider for your next event:
Head to the corner of Washington and Illinois streets and look up, and you’ll experience your first view of the Indianapolis Artsgarden, a seven-story tall glass and steel icon hoisted over the intersection. Even better, go inside at night and enjoy the expansive illuminated cityscape.
The Artsgarden—which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020—hosts 250 live, free performances every year and 100 events. In 2018, the NFL Players Association hosted an event during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. The Artsgarden has also featured events hosted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, International Union of Operating Engineers and the National League of Cities.
“The uniqueness of the space lends itself to interesting events,” says Artsgarden Director Mike Prusa. “While a hotel ballroom can be beautiful, it has some limitations.”
The Artsgarden regularly hosts wedding receptions and corporate events, fashion shows, and, of course, convention-related events. For meeting planners, it’s a great location for receptions, dinners and lively events like Casino Night. The space holds 400 people for a standing reception and 250 for a seated event. It’s also convenient because it’s connected to the convention center and hotels like the Conrad Indianapolis and Hyatt Regency.
Creative meeting planners will take advantage of the superb in-house audiovisual (AV) system—and knowledgeable AV staff—perfect for adding a musical or art performance to an event. There’s no need to spend extra money on AV rentals. “Our system has been designed with the space in mind,” Prusa says. “Having in-house audio really makes a difference.”
For a much different experience, meeting planners can head to the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Attendees will experience something few people have access to: the behind-the-scenes of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. Depending on the event, guests can stroll across the famed Yard of Bricks, which is the track’s start-finish line; view the prestigious 5-foot-tall Borg-Warner Trophy; and stand on Victory Podium, where race winners pop champagne bottles.
The site also houses the IMS Museum, which chronicles more than 100 years of racing and showcases vintage race cars. There’s also a golf course and concert space.
The history and uniqueness of the location opens up new levels of creativity. Howard, owner of C Squared Consulting, is the executive director of Rev, the signature fundraiser for the Indiana University Health Foundation at IMS. The party for 3,000 people is held in early May, kicking off the month-long buildup to the Indy 500, which is run on Memorial Day weekend.
“Planning Rev at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has provided me with opportunity after opportunity to be creative with themes that can be changed or altered each year, causing guests to anticipate Rev year after year and even make guesses as to what will happen next,” Howard says.
And you don’t have to be a racing fan to appreciate the massive site—it holds over 300,000 people! Design fans marvel at the simplicity of the architecture, while history buffs have 100 years of stories to ponder, Howard says.
Hosting an event at a place enveloped in history provides a magical feel and can spark creativity. “There’s more than a century of racing history and tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway” Howard says, “so much so that anyone who drives through its gates can feel it in the atmosphere of the place.”