The Importance of Your Venue

Or Why You Shouldn’t Run A Conference In A Hotel Ballroom

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I have a background performing in the circus. Finding myself, more than a decade later, organizing large, annual events and helping other organizations with their off-sites and conferences, I’ve come to appreciate how much of my training as a performer translates directly to running great events.

One element I’ve taken away from years of performance is how much ambience matters. When I performed with the San Francisco Opera, it was clear right from the moment attendees entered the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House that they were there to see a grand event. The size of the building, the grandeur of the theatre, the elaborate sets — everything about the experience — gave a sense of the nature of the show even before it began.

When I ran the first annual Responsive Conference in 2016, I wanted to produce it somewhere unusual that would, by the nature of the venue, spark the conversations that the event was designed for. I chose the Lawrence Hall of Science, which is a children’s science museum in the hills of Berkeley, California with a 180 degree view of the San Francisco Bay Area. Throughout the conference, all of the science exhibits were open and available for our attendees to explore. This fostered excitement and playfulness within a conference that was already specifically designed to encourage curiosity and excitement about the Future of Work.

My venue in 2017, and again in 2018, was the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. This museum is an architectural masterpiece: beautifully designed, modern, and somewhat surreal. Located in Queens, it is an unexpected treasure, unknown even to many New Yorkers. The Museum of the Moving Image has displays ranging from a Jim Henson exhibit (creator of the Muppets) to galleries full of film and photography artifacts from the last several centuries. All of these hidden wonders provided attendees the opportunity to consider what hidden gems exist within their own organizations and inspired a sense of awe, which translated well to the content we were there to explore.

In 2019, we are running the annual Responsive Conference at Zappos HQ in Downtown Las Vegas and the surrounding Downtown Project. Zappos has long been heralded as a company which embraces experimentation in how they work. The Downtown Project, a personal investment spearheaded by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, is an effort to revitalize historic Downtown Las Vegas, which until recently, has been in decline for more than 50 years. As we go into Responsive Conference 2019, I’m excited to demonstrate this sense of experimentation and play. Zappos has gone through constant iterations through the course of their 20 years, and Downtown Las Vegas is currently going through it’s own rebirth. These provide context for attendees to consider experimentation and restructuring within their own organizations.

Locations matter. Putting on an event in a space that sparks creativity and ingenuity adds to the overall feel of any event. Think of your event as if you are putting on a three-ring circus. The venue, location, and details make a substantial impact on attendee experience. As with any live performance, you are putting on a show. Make it great!

Interested in learning more?

Responsive Conference is an immersive 2-day experience about the Future of Work. This year the conference is taking place at Zappos HQ in Downtown Las Vegas.

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