Alternative Venues 101
Museums are a type of alternative venue, which we define as a venue whose main purpose and design is for something other than events. Unlike hotels and conference centers that live and die on event and meeting business, alternative venues want the additional revenue your event brings, but their first priority is always their core business, which can often make them seem, well, less than user-friendly. Understanding that mindset will help you deal with some of the various challenges you might face.
- When you host your event in a museum, you're leveraging its cultural cachet to generate prestige and excitement before, during, and after the event. This “invitation pull” can result in higher attendance than a traditional venue.
- Most museums also have striking architecture and attractive interior features. And of course, the artwork provides built-in decor.
- As an added plus, you can arrange to have docents (expert guides who can discuss the artwork) on hand in galleries or provide tours for guests.
What to Watch Out For
- Cost. Museums are not cheap. You'll probably be hit with a rental fee, and possibly additional fees for security, maintenance, and other ancillary expenses.
- Ironically, food and beverage may not be allowed in the galleries where the art is. If so, arrange for “drop tables” at gallery entrances for guests to deposit their glasses before entering.
- Finding the event contact online can be surprisingly difficult. If there's no tab for “Space Rental,” look under “Support” or “Membership,” as hosting events at museums is often a benefit of being a corporate member.
- Expect higher insurance requirements, a lengthier contract, and more rules and regulations than at a typical hotel. For example, the bases of lighting or sound poles may need to rest on top of rubber pads so as not to scuff the floors. In addition, you may need to get the museum's approval any time you use their name or logo in any of your marketing, invitations, collateral, etc.
- Exhibits may change between the time you do your site inspection and your event date, so be sure to ask what’s scheduled for installation when your event comes around.
Hire firms that have experience working in the venue, a flexible attitude to help navigate the quirky contracts and rules, an ability to work within the narrow time windows for set-up, and the capacity to meet strict venue insurance requirements.
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