Last night we had the opportunity to produce the 2014 Merit Awards Dinner for the Women’s Bond Club, over 800 guests coming together to recognize women’s achievements in finance. This is an event we’ve been producing for over a decade, and for the second consecutive year it took place at the American Museum of Natural History. The list of jaw-dropping spaces and venues in New York City is long, but the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life is somewhere near the top. The hall is home to one of the Museum’s most celebrated displays - a 94 foot-long, 21,000-pound model of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling. (If you’ve ever seen the whale in person, and wondered how in the world it’s not falling on your head, your answer is right here.)
Events at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life usually pass the Photo Test, with the majority of attendees pausing at the room’s balcony to take a picture of themselves with the whale and hall in the background. Watching people’s reactions as they enter the room and are noticeably impressed is always a nice sight. The name cachet, the stunning scenery, and the photo barrage for social media buzz are all unique advantages of an alternative venue like the museum. But even if you can afford a space like the museum for your next event (it is not cheap), always remember that there are potential drawbacks as well:
- Alternative venues — especially cultural institutions — tend to have their fair share of quirky rules and regulations. Sometimes these are disclosed up front, sometimes not.
- Be prepared to review and sign a lengthy contract, as you’re most likely signing a license agreement instead of a banquet agreement.
- Many alternative venues have limited in-house equipment, so what you’re saving in decor/scenery you may be spending in audio-visual or rentals.
- Finally, keep in mind that for most alternative venues, your event is not their primary business objective. Whether it’s a museum, a private club, an art gallery, a retail store, etc. be prepared for more ‘No’s’ than you may be interested in hearing, and try and understand as many of the limitations as possible before jumping in.
On a related note, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we produce many events at the Museum of Natural History, and their team does an outstanding job of guiding you through the process and accommodating as many requests as they can. The space is not without its challenges, but working with a hospitable and knowledgable venue team makes a world of difference.