Content leads when it comes to choosing a unique venue, says Jo Austin, Sales Director of Lime Venue Portfolio.

There was an interesting survey, presented not so long ago at the Professional Convention Managers Association (PCMA) annual congress, which demonstrated that venue choice and date were dropping behind content in order of priority for event organisers.

Securing the date and the venue used to be that the first thing a conference organiser would do before moving onto the content programme. Speaking honestly, as sales director of what is essentially a food and venue business, I have to say I absolutely agree with this shift. Afterall, Steven Spielberg has never sorted out his shoot locations, brought together his actors, sound, cameras, lighting, and then said “Right, we’re going to need some ‘content’ in there…” It actually makes perfect sense to let the content drive the theme, purpose and objective of an event, and that the venue selection then follows. That’s when an unusual or unique venue can really come into its own.

Let’s say the event wants to say something powerful about health, nutrition or wellbeing, sometimes doesn’t do justice to content of that nature. Absolutely, with the right venue selection that message can be amplified. Considering unique and unusual venues opens up sporting venues, and centres of health and nutritional excellence. Now, the theme can be underlined through the surroundings, not just of the room itself, but the break-out areas, or even a social programme; tours of the sports facilities, kitchens, changing rooms, all support the content and make the event more enriching and memorable.

How about another example; you want to say something about science, learning, or the pursuit of knowledge? Where better to host the meeting than in a science centre or museum of learning, where this theme is already plastered all over the walls. How about a message on heritage? The field of unique venues means organisers can now consider museums, castles, and country houses, all steeped in history and with stories to tell.

The industry is right to put content first, and build an experience around it, it makes for a more interesting event, and with unique and unusual venues it has a willing venue partner.

There are many other benefits to working with unique and unusual venues, and again it absolutely fits into the three stage process many organisers use; pre, during and post. Here, unique venues support the event at every stage. First of all, from the outset they both underline the content theme, and create anticipation. Who wouldn’t be excited about spending an evening in a fabulous museum rather than a different, soulless event space? For the delegate, it may be a business or ‘work’ event, but people still want to enjoy themselves, maybe an inspiring venue will play a small part in converting and inspiring that extra few delegates. Equally, post event, there can be real bragging rights from the ability to see these venues ‘after hours’. It’s one thing to see a sports stadium on match day with the rest of the crowd, but to spend some time backstage and to see all the VIP areas can be really special.

But most important is the theatre and drama of the day, be it for a day conference or evening banquet these venues look great, especially when bought to life by a creative event organiser. Because of what they are, they are iconic, but also filled with interesting artefacts and stories that can be bought to life by the production team. This creates memory and adds to the impact of the event; it’s the one they’ll remember afterwards, and not just because of the great content they got.

We’re really lucky at Lime Venue Portfolio to have so many options for event organisers, from the North West’s Imperial War Museum North, to the National Railway Museum in York. From newly promoted Premier League side Sheffield United Football Club, to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, these venues are ready made to work alongside the content programme to support and enhance it. There are many, many more unique venues around the country, and all have become an important part of the venue landscape for event planners, with infrastructures to facilitate the most intricate of events.

So, when you’re organising your next event, think about the process, and make sure you’re putting the content first and then letting everything else support it, including venue choice.