It’s no secret that one of our favorite places to visit is the storied City of Lakes. Lying on the upper Mississippi River where its only major natural waterfall is located, Minneapolis is the Upper Midwest’s thriving, vital hub. The city is a natural jewel, with the river, numerous lakes, and parkland. But it also has many cultural attractions, making it an attractive spot to meet. We love helping you folks find appropriate settings for your corporate retreats, conferences, and more. So here is a smattering of Minneapolis meeting venues to help your next event be memorable.
Minneapolis Convention Center
Let’s start with the biggest space in town: Minneapolis’s Convention Center is conveniently located on the south edge of downtown, linked to other hotels and businesses via the Skyway, a network of climate-controlled bridges over city streets. No need to “dress for the weather” to get here! The Convention Center contains “1.6 million square feet of space including a 3,400 fixed-seat auditorium, 475,000 square feet of exhibit space, 87 meeting rooms, a 28,000-square-foot ballroom and a 55,000-square-foot ballroom.” We got acquainted with this awesome space when we attended Connect Marketplace in August 2023.
Minnesota Orchestra Hall
Located adjacent to photogenic Peavey Plaza a few blocks from the convention center, the Minnesota Orchestra Hall became the first performing arts center in the country to achieve a LEED v4 O+M Silver certification. The hall features six customizable event spaces, including its Grand Foyer, a high-ceiling, multi-tiered space with abundant natural light. Corporate Meetings, Events & Conferences are a great fit for the Hall, as they can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 2,000 attendees and feature on-site beverage service, with access to local caterers.
Located on the far east side of town in a former industrial zone, Surly Brewing is one of Minnesota’s largest breweries. Not only is Surly a purveyor of tasty beers (and tasty New Haven style pizza, a style we heartily approve of), but their taproom provides a great meeting space. Scheid Hall is located above the main tap room and hold 175 people. Surly also provides a tented space in the beer garden during the nicer months with a capacity of 120 people. And Surly will provide all food and drink for your event, whether it be a meeting, corporate retreat, or wedding. Also, Surly is a stop on Minneapolis Trolley’s Hop-On, Hop-Off brews cruise. After a meeting at Scheid Hall, you can tour the city’s other great breweries!
We’ll close out this blog post with a world-renowned nightclub, First Avenue and Seventh Street Entry. How renowned? Well, Prince filmed most of Purple Rain’s performance scenes here! Located on the edge of downtown, First Avenue has been hosting many legendary performers over the past 40 years. The 22,000 square-foot facility includes two levels, two rooms, a 1,000 square-foot dance floor, and a stage. Perhaps First Avenue can host your next special event?
Getting There/Getting Around
Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport is located about 10 miles south of downtown, featuring non-stop flights from most major American cities. The airport is connected to downtown via Metro Blue Line light rail. Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which connects the Twin Cities to Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, stops at Union Depot in downtown St. Paul, 10 miles east of downtown Minneapolis. Metro Green Line links Union Depot to downtown Minneapolis. The two light rail lines and Metro Transit’s extensive bus network will get you to most Twin Cities destinations. We find that getting around by bike is the best option, as Minneapolis has a great network of on-and-off street bike facilities. Hop on a bike share bike provided by Lime and explore the town.
We hope that you found this post informative, and that it helps you when sourcing Minneapolis meeting venues. If you need any help planning your Minneapolis Corporate Meeting, Event or Conference, EJP Events is here to assist!
After several years of being closed to tourism during the pandemic, the country of Japan is open again. We returned for the first time since 2019, in March and April of 2023. And we found Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto to be just as vibrant as ever. Let’s help you with meetings and events in Japan!
Tokyo Recommended Activities and Itinerary
The capital of Japan and largest city in the world depending on your metric, Tokyo is many things, but never boring. Just riding around on the subways and commuter rail and wandering the many districts can provide a lifetime of fun for most. There are some attractions that require buying tickets far in advance to guarantee admission, but we’ve found them worth it: Ghibli Museum is dedicated to the famed animation studio. Owl Cafe Akiba Fukurou Tokyo, offers the opportunity to hang out with owls for a bit! And teamLab Planets is an immersive interactive digital museum. Tokyo Whiskey Library offers an extensive list of whiskeys from Japan and around the word in a lovely setting. Before you leave, take a journey to the observation deck of Tokyo Skytree, world’s tallest tower, to see from above what you’ve been exploring.
Osaka Recommended Activities and Itinerary
Japan’s third largest city, Osaka is just a three hour journey via Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. While Osaka is dominated by tall glass towers just like Tokyo, Osaka Castle, a fortification in the heart of the city, is worth a visit. The castle was built in the 16th century and heavily reconstructed in the 20th. Dotonbori is the brightly-lit “drinking district” along its namesake canal, a great place to sample nightlife. Then treat yourself to a “spa day” at the Conrad Osaka Hotel, where you can get a truly luxurious massage. The many restaurants at the Conrad are also worth visiting, and the numerous meeting rooms would make this hotel a memorable conference spot. Additional meeting options can be found at Grand Prince Osaka (formerly Hyatt Osaka) which is near the INTEX convention center.
Kyoto Recommended Activities and Itinerary
Japan’s pre-modern era capital, Kyoto, is now the country’s ninth-largest city, still large (1 1/2 million people) but with a mellower feeling than Tokyo and Osaka. Kyoto’s biggest attraction is all its temples–go a mile in any direction and you’ll hit something. Kyoto’s many streets are filled with wood framed houses, a stark change from the other glass-and-concrete Japanese cities, a legacy from avoiding extensive bombing during World War II. Rent a mamachari bicycle from one of the numerous rental companies (remember to ride on the left!) and explore the temples, rivers, and bars. We love visiting Kyoto Beer Lab on the bank of the Takasegawa River.
Though I love all three cities, as a Portland-based meeting and event planner, Kyoto is my whole vibe! We stayed in the central city and found it easy to walk to a bike rental shop and just go toodling around the city by bike, visiting shops, restaurants, brewpubs, and temples along the way.
If we can help you with meetings and events in Japan, let us know! We have great partners in-country that support additional offsites, airport transfers, and transportation. We can craft a great itinerary for you.
Last fall we had the opportunity to assist with a AIDS educational conference held here in Portland. This conference provided opportunities to exchange the latest scientific perspectives, research findings, and emerging technologies for HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. As we mentioned before, we love working with educational organizations.
The bulk of the conference consisted of researchers presenting their research papers. There was also an area where people could see posters about other research projects that would not be presented live.
Attendees were treated to a diverse range of presentations at this week long event. The time spent together fostered collaboration and inspired a collective commitment to eradicate AIDS.
We provided pre-event planning and consultation, administrative support, marketing of the conference to attendees, and trade show planning. We also provided final coordination, onsite registration and help desk, and onsite event coordination. Our partner Tree-Fan Events provided the livestream to participants who could not be here in person.
And we’d be happy to work with you on your next conference, whether it be an AIDS educational conference or something else. Please get in touch!
A few years ago we helped with the Chasing Grace Movie Premiere at the Hollywood Theatre here in Portland. The pre-screening party was at the Magnolia Lounge and the after party at Velo Cult. Catering at the after party was by Elephants Catering.
Who gets tipped at a wedding is a common question in wedding planning. It used to be you could just say, “Tip anyone you would tip normally,” and everyone knew what to do. However, this gets complicated when you factor in vendors such as DJs, photographers, and florists that not all of us use in our everyday lives. (Well, maybe if you are a celebrity…) Using a little knowledge of history, common sense, and principles of fairness and equity, we’ll try to tackle this question.
A little tipping history
While tipping predates the Civil War in the U.S., it became more prevalent in post-Reconstruction America. When it became no longer legal to enslave humans and pay them nothing to work, companies such as Pullman hired Black workers and paid them low wages, expecting them to work for tips to make up the bulk of their income (via USA Today).
CBS News continues, “Surprisingly, in those early years, many considered tipping undemocratic and therefore un-American because of its roots in the aristocracy. ‘Tipping, and the aristocratic idea it exemplifies, is what we left Europe to escape. It is a cancer in the breast of democracy,’ wrote William Scott in 1916. But the railway and restaurant industries fought for using tipping as their employees’ full wages, to exploit their African American labor force, and they won.”
Today, we have what are called “Tip Credit” exemptions in US laws such as the FLSA, that allow certain classes of workers to be paid a minimum wage as low as $2.13 (!!!), and to earn the rest of their wage through tips. Thankfully, some areas have adopted minimum wage laws that start minimum wage at $14.75 or better (hi, Portland). However, even a higher minimum wage doesn’t quite cut it when you look at this table from MIT showing what a living wage should be for a household with 2 children — for example, that’s between $27 and $48 in Multnomah County, depending on how many adults are working in the household. Simply put, tips really help if your hourly wage doesn’t cut it.
OK, so knowing the above, we’ve accepted that the history of tipping is pretty awful. Also knowing that while we continue to live in and agitate against this inequitable system, it’s up to us to take direct action and figure out who gets tipped at a wedding, to make it a better situation. So we should absolutely tip folks who work at a wedding, because not only are they working hard, they’re under so much more pressure since they are not just making dinner or creating space, they are doing so for such a timeless and special occasion. By tipping, we’re also directly helping people, and making up for some of the inequities in a system that we have the privilege to affect. That being said, if you absolutely do not have the ability to tip*, you shouldn’t feel bad, and nothing bad is going to happen to you. There are alternatives to cash tips that we’ll go over later in this article.
Yes, you should still tip anyone you would tip in your daily non-wedding life
So who gets tipped at a wedding? Let’s start with the easy answers: Anyone who you would tip in normal, non-wedding life. Do you go out to eat? You tip the waiter, and maybe even in your food delivery app, leave something for the kitchen staff. Do you drink in bars? You tip the bartender. Do you stay in hotels? You tip the people who carry your stuff or bring things to your room, and those who clean up after you. None of this changes just because you’re having a wedding. Do you tip your hairstylist? Of course you do. Do you tip when you go to the department store, and a makeup artist helps you choose makeup and sometimes, even applies it on your face? Yes, all of these tips that happen in normal life, should also happen at your wedding.
And anyone who offers an above-and-beyond customized service
In addition, let’s think about people who offer specialized labor or a customized service. When you go to a karaoke bar, you might tip the KJ for finding you that special song you wanted to sing, and moving you up in the queue because she knows it’s your birthday. Similarly, a wedding DJ who goes out of their way to customize your wedding playlist, gets to know your likes and dislikes, and watches the crowd to tailor the music in order to get the most people dancing — this person is deserving of a gratuity. The words gratuity and gratitude are related – use tips to show how grateful you are.
Exceptions to who gets tipped at a wedding: Bad service, business owners, and when it’s already in the contract
Let’s be real, tips add up. When you are already spending so much money on the wedding, it’s always good to look for safe places where you can skip the tip. One is if the vendor provider is a business owner. Although they will definitely appreciate, and certainly not turn away, a tip if you give them one, they normally are not thinking of themselves as who gets tipped at a wedding. This is because, as an owner-worker they are presumably (hopefully) paying themselves a living wage or better. (If you are a business owner and you are NOT paying yourself a living wage, there’s a book for you!)
The other situation is where gratuity is already included in the contract. But be careful! “Service charge” and “Gratuity” are not always interchangeable. It’s up to you (or your wedding planner) to ask vendors who add service charge (most likely a caterer or a hotel), whether or not that service charge goes to the staff. If it doesn’t, then it would be customary to give tips to hotel or catering staff at the end of the night.
One last situation is if you’ve received overall bad service. I’m not talking about if one guest’s impossible request wasn’t met (I’m thinking of that one wedding guest who asked me to chill and serve her own wine that she brought from outside the venue. Uh, no.), but overall bad service where it seems like everything went wrong — late or missing staff, important instructions such as dietary needs not followed, diagrams or timelines given well in advance not followed, etc. In this case you should feel fine about reducing or eliminating gratuity for the affected services. But please do give tips for those who did show up and give their all.
Ways to show appreciation without tipping
For those vendors who aren’t being tipped, there are still lots of ways to show appreciation. Offer a sandwich tray with ice-cold sodas during setup, for the floral and rental setup crew. In my experience, those folks do a lot, but rarely get tipped. After the wedding, you can write your vendor a thank-you note and include a coffee gift card, or send a bottle of wine (unopened, please) that is left over from your reception.
And if they did a good job, you should write that vendor a nice review on a site like Yelp, Google Maps, or TheKnot. (Pro tip: Copy and paste your review on as many sites as you can. More ideas include WeddingWire, LinkedIn, and Facebook.) Your vendor will love you forever, and a good review that could lead to future business is worth far more than a $50 handshake.
Finally, don’t forget to write your vendors a thank-you note if they did a good job. It’s a little thing that does mean something, especially if you cannot tip someone.
Your wedding planner is your intermediary
This seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? But this is a perfect example of a service a wedding planner provides for you, in order to remove stress and fuss from the events leading up to the wedding. Your planner can look at your vendor list and help you figure out who gets tipped at the wedding and exactly how much. Once you and your planner determine what tips will be arranged, you can place these amounts (usually cash) in sealed envelopes with the name of the vendor for your planner to hand out (or not hand out, based on service) at the end of the night. You and your sweetie and all your friends and family won’t have to deal with all of that.
*As most wedding expenses are non-mandatory, my stance is that few people planning weddings fall into this category. Just as if you can afford to go out for dinner, you can afford to tip; so if you can afford to host, for example, a wedding with a budget of $30,000 or more, you can afford to tip your wedding vendors. To host a wedding at this budget level or higher in the US and think you can’t afford to tip, in my opinion, means you didn’t plan correctly. Smaller weddings on shoestring budgets are exempt from my blanket judgement.
We recently attended Connect Pacific Northwest in Boise, Idaho and heard from Justin Skeesuck who taught about the Multiplier Effect and how it relates to accessibility in your events. My takeaway from this important talk was: If you exclude one person, you are also losing 4-5 additional attendees who might be connected with that person. Photo from official website of the speaker.
Everyone says, “I want to throw the best event ever!” and that means making events more inclusive. If your attendees feel unwelcome or left out, your event is falling short. Here are 6 ways you might be making attendees feel unwelcome, and how you can fix that. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive or definitive list. We welcome your input and additions in the comments if you have the time.
The menu. (Including alcohol)
Gone are the days of the rubber-chicken conference dinner or surf-and-turf-for-all. Today’s event attendees are health-minded, from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and care about the environment, animal welfare, and where their food comes from. Food is the centerpiece of any gathering, and if the foods you offer at your event do not serve all of your attendees, they’ll feel left out and unwelcome. Check out this blog post, written by EJP Events’s resident vegetarian and Marketing Events Assistant, Shawn Granton, for some examples.
Are you preparing for attendees who avoid animal products; follow diets based on their faith, such as Kosher or Halal; or have sensitivities to any of the nine major food allergens? If not, you should! And to do so, you’ll want to ask, in your registration form, whether or not your attendee has any dietary preferences (I prefer the word “preferences” rather than “restrictions,” which can sound negative). You also want to make sure you’re working closely with your caterer and venue — even before signing the contract — to make sure they can prepare the foods your attendees want within your budget.
Don’t forget alcohol! As we talk more and more about mental health and overall wellness, we need to bring this into our events too. Not every attendee is excited about an open bar. Indeed, being around a lot of alcohol can present problems both for individuals on a recovery path as well as for organizations who want to promote healthy choices and professionalism. Make sure you are designing your event not just for different dietary needs, but also including those who make the choice to avoid or reduce alcohol consumption. Here’s a recent blog post we wrote about Dry January and how that thinking is coming into how events are planned.
There’s nothing worse than getting to an exciting event you’ve been looking forward to, and finding out it’s a literal pain to get there. Think about the last time you had to walk what felt like miles inside a giant venue to find the restroom, or when you finally got there, only to find it was cramped or poorly appointed. Now imagine being a wheelchair user, someone on crutches, or a person with any other kind of mobility challenge, and you can see how the problem gets much worse. All of us are one accident away from disability, and if we’re lucky enough to grow old, we’ll all need accessibility accommodations at some point in our lives. Again, ask your attendees when they register what their needs and preferences are. “What accommodations, if any, would make it easy for you to attend this event?” is one example of how you can ask. And again, start asking your planning and logistics questions BEFORE you book your venue. One important one is “Are there ramps for a wheelchair-using speaker to get to the stage?” You can find a good resource of additional questions to ask starting here.
Finally, just because there are no curbs, or because the venue is legally ADA accessible, doesn’t mean your event is safe for a wheelchair user. We recently attended a presentation on Accessibility in Travel, where a wheelchair user described being assigned to stay in a hotel where she couldn’t open her room door by herself, from the inside. When asked, the front desk said she could call them whenever she wanted to leave her room. But what if there was a fire? Clearly, “just following ADA” is not enough. We all need to do more, such as spending more time evaluating the actual attendee journey through the space, not just checking off boxes.
Outdated concepts and wording
Sadly, this example of making guests feel excluded is still common. When attendees eagerly click on your event website, or registration form, is there anything there that would make them feel like this conference isn’t for them? One example I see often is titles on a registration form such as Mr. and Mrs. If all I see is Mr. and Mrs. as the choices, I feel left out because neither one describes me.
While many people use these titles, it’s true that “Mrs.” in our current society refers to marital status, and in a business setting, there’s no reason to ask women to declare their marital status. while leaving Mr. as the default for men, without any kind of denotation. Probably a whole dissertation could be written about why there is no version of “Mrs.” to denote a married man, in our society. What to do? A couple of ideas: Avoid titles altogether and instead, ask for first and last name, and pronouns. Or do all of the former and allow multiple choices and fill-in options for the title, such as Dr., Mr., Ms. or Mx.
Just like physical accessibility, online accessibility involves allowing everyone, not just sighted or hearing folks, the ability to enjoy your content and use your registration form. If someone with low vision, or a Blind or Deaf person can’t get to your registration form, then how will they attend? It’s a real problem and if your goal is to be inclusive and attract a diverse audience, you must consider disability. Thankfully there are lots of tools to make your visual content readable by a screen reader, so a person with vision disability can have it read to them. And vice versa – there are lots of tools to create captioned content for photos and videos, so hearing-impaired people can access your event sound content. One of the resources for finding these that we like is at MabelyQ – they’re a resource helping organizations improve access for people with disabilities. We recently took their course “Accessibility Made Easy“, and we realize we have a lot of work to do. Even looking at my own web theme at ejpevents.com, there is a lot that needs fixing, starting with text color contrast in my own, low-vision opinion. From adding alt text to photos, to using #CamelCase for hashtags, the resources out there have been useful and important to learn.
Online accessibility is also related to other ways of including everyone. By offering an online component of your event, whether it’s a selected number of livestreams or a full hybrid version, you’re making events more inclusive and accessible to attendees with a caregiving responsibility, such as mothers; the immunocompromised or at-risk populations who are still told to avoid large groups due to COVID; and those for whom traveling to an event would pose a barrier. Consider virtual or hybrid options to increase your attendee reach and inclusivity.
Excluding introverts and the neurodiverse.
This is something, as an event planner, I have struggled with for many years. As someone who gets energy from one-on-one contacts, and can feel depleted having to connect with many people all at the same time, I’ve realized over time that I identify as introverted. It’s common for me to need extra time to process information, to desire to skip small talk, and jump right into deep discussion of a topic. These might sound like liabilities in the workplace. On the other hand, what clients and colleagues stand to gain from these traits, is they receive more authenticity, well-thought-out opinions and guidance, and meaningful interaction. Glen Cathey, SVP of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the staffing agency Randstad, has a wonderful presentation about introversion at work called Introversion: The Largest Neurodiversity Category In Sourcing, Recruiting, Diversity and Inclusion. Unfortunately, because introverts are in the minority, our society and events tend to be built for assertive, “sociable”, and talkative people who have the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, leaving introverts (1 in 3 people) feeling left out and excluded. While introversion is not officially yet considered a category of neurodiversity, both Cathey and others, such as Sam Sheppard, advocate for including introversion as a part of any organization’s strategy to include the neurodiverse, and I agree.
And let’s talk about the more well-known neurodiversity identities, which are just as, if not more important, to accommodate at events if you truly want to work towards making events more inclusive. How do we serve those who are on the autism spectrum? How do we design for those with sensory issues or other neurodivergent traits?
What can you do? Learn, learn, learn, and then take action. We love the resource from GoogleXi called The Neu Project, which explores the topic of neurodiversity and helping create events that embrace all neurotypes. We recently heard Naomi Clare, one of the leaders on this project, speak at CMP Advance in New York, and she provided us with a Guide to Neuroinclusion which contains a wonderful A-Z toolkit of what you can actually do, starting now, on your path to making events more inclusive.
Affordability of events, in my experience, has only recently become part of the conversation of inclusivity. However, as a child of immigrants, and someone who identifies as “1st Gen” (being the first generation in your family to meet a major life milestone, such as going to college in the US), I’ve witnessed firsthand how affordability can be a real issue in attending events. While there has been some consideration of affordability at events, most often in community and nonprofit events, the affordability question is now being addressed by more corporate and business events as well. This is important when we think about the history of racial inequity in this country, and how financial and monetary resources, and paths to generational wealth, have been inequitably distributed or just outright stolen, removed, or legislated out of the hands of marginalized groups. This Twitter thread from Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor at University of Michigan, clearly outlines many of the major issues of affordability and events.
What can you do? Here are a few ideas and you’ll need to consider your event’s business model.
Offer a sliding scale or path to reduced or free participation.
Get sponsors to host scholarships or awards that come with a comped registration.
Pay speakers the cost of their travel plus an honorarium, so you’ll have access to all kinds of talent no matter their financial situation.
Sometimes, stakeholders will say, “There isn’t a budget for this.” However, my experience is that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Consider how you’re apportioning your entire budget. Do you have budget for conference swag, luscious decor, or other items, but not a few scholarship or student/low-income registrations? Did you pick a venue that leaves you no margin? Why is that? Can you sharpen your event planner pencil and find a place for your priorities? Your budget will show what the goals and priorities of your event are. If inclusivity is one of those goals, you and your budget will find a way.
I hope you find this blog post helpful! EJP Events works to include many of these methods of thinking when we are working with our clients. If you find these methods would be helpful for your event, I hope you’ll reach out.