"Indoors or outdoors?" is a common question faced by planners when deciding on the best venue for a program. To make that decision easier, consider the benefits of both indoor and outdoor settings.
For instance, because there are less unknown variables with indoor meeting spaces, they provide a level of convenience and comfort.
"With a lot of indoor venues, you're really working with a blank canvas," says Matthew Marcial, CAE, CMP, senior director, events for Meeting Professionals International, which is based in Dallas. For a recent indoor event, "we created the exact type of experience we wanted with the lighting, the decor, the music, all of those elements," he says.
But outdoor venues can really provide a multisensory experience, says Eli Gorin, CMP, CMM, chief operating officer for the Sarasota, Fla.-based Far Horizons Tourism Inc. "Outdoors, you may have a more creative canvas to work with, or it decorates itself," he says. "Indoors clearly has its major benefits, particularly avoiding inclement weather, ease of setup and ease of maintaining the climate you want."
But it really depends on the program, he points out. This summer, Gorin is utilizing spaces with both indoor and outdoor components for a client's program, including a baseball stadium for a general session made up of 250 people.
"The original idea was to do things in the stands, but considering where the sun is going to hit during the day, it was going to be way too hot for people to sit there for two hours," he says. "Instead, we moved them over to the concourse overlooking the field - but right next to air vents that will be blowing cold air."
Gorin adds that open-air environments can be ideal for something like an educational session - but the setting needs to be comfortable and the space should be free of distractions.
Oftentimes, planners will move between indoor and outdoor meeting venues within a program to keep attendee engagement up and improve productivity.
"I think showcasing both the indoors and outdoors gives [attendees] a good sense of the destination," says Marcial. This was the case when Marcial took MPI's World Education Congress (WEC) to Atlantic City, NJ. "The Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah's was great in terms of the size, and we utilized the WAV [nightclub] at the Playground for our MPI Foundation fundraising event, Rendezvous."
The WEC opening party was held outdoors on the beach behind Bally's. "It was the perfect location to showcase the boardwalk and everything that Atlantic City has to offer," he says.
He adds, "I think a lot more planners are looking at things like wellness programs and exercise and fitness activities to be able to take advantage of utilizing the outdoors.
Planners can have the best of both worlds by enhancing an indoor setting with something from the outdoors, such as a view of green spaces. Meanwhile, indoor furniture can lend a more sophisticated air to an outdoor space.
"With indoor venues, you can either have an opportunity to create exactly what you're looking for, or you utilize the beauty that's already there," says Marcial, citing an indoor space right on the water as an example.
For outdoor events, planners should always be prepared with a back-up plan if the weather goes bad.
"The biggest factor for us was the [WEC] beach party," Marcial says. "The forecast was changing on an almost hourly basis. We worked with our partners to make sure that whatever indoor option we had really delivered that same great experience that they would have had on the beach."
Learn more about creative venues in Atlantic City, visit www.meetinac.com