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!
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.
Planning an event in Park City? Last time we talked about event planning in Salt Lake City and mentioned one did not need to go to the mountains to have a good time. But what if you do want to go to “the mountains”?
Nestled in the Wasatch Range, the westernmost reach of the Rocky Mountains, Park City is the high-elevation playground of Utah and much of the West. The former mining town was “discovered” in the 1980’s by people attracted to its natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Park City became world-famous with the Sundance Film Festival, a yearly event that attracts the rich and famous. And the area’s famous and abundant snow entice skiers and snowboarders from all over–in fact, the US Ski Team is based here!
We lead retreats
We just facilitated a corporate retreat in Park City, a gathering for chief technology officers who wanted to get together to not only learn from each other, but also enjoy the fine powdery snow the city is renowned for. This event was a success! And Park City was chosen as a destination due to its proximity to Salt Lake City. Utah’s capital and largest city’s international airport makes getting to Park City via air much easier (and cheaper!) than other mountain town destinations like Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, or Aspen.
Park City Event Venues
Deer Valley Resort. Rising on the mountains above Park City, this resort consists of two lodges with sleeping rooms that total 425 (The Lodges at Deer Valley and Silver Baron), plus three day lodges (Snow Park, Silver Lake, Empire Canyon). With many different rooms and restaurants available across the properties, we see Deer Valley as a great spot for either an intimate retreat or for a conference of several hundred people. Do note that the Deer Valley ski areas do not allow snowboarding, so if you have a lot of boarders in your group, plan accordingly and possibly use the free trolley or lodge shuttles to get folks into town to the Town Lift.
Wasatch Brewing in Park City. We mentioned Wasatch in our Salt Lake City roundup, but Park City has its own location as well, located right in the heart of the city on Main St. There are two different private venues, The Loft Bar (capacity 60/125 depending on sit-down or cocktail style) and The Tap Room (capacity 30/40), located on the pub’s second floor.
Montage Deer Valley. High above Park City, Montage offers rooms from a couple hundred to several thousand square feet, great for meetings, special events, and weddings. One room even has a bowling alley!
The Church of Dirt. We hate using the overused descriptor “unique” when describing a location, but we feel it deserves it in this instance. Located near the top of Empire Pass, this is a simple outdoor space with a few rows of wooden benches and an altar created by lashing branches together. There are no other amenities. To reserve a date, write your name and wedding date on a rock or piece of wood and stick it in the pile of other “reservations”. That’s it. What you get is an epic backdrop for your wedding! This video gives a good overview of the “church”.
A word about elevation
We mentioned Utah’s byzantine liquor laws in our Salt Lake City write-up. What’s worth mentioning about Park City is how high up it is. The base elevation in town is around 7,000 feet (2,130 metres). That’s a couple thousand feet higher than Salt Lake, and probably several thousand feet higher than what you are used to. The ski resorts are even a thousand or more feet higher than that 7,000 feet. Acclimating to this high elevation can take time. The lower oxygen levels may make the simple feat of walking up a hill seem Herculean. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially if you are there in summer. And don’t overdo your drinking!
We hope that you found this post to be informative. And we hope it helps you find the right venue for planning an event in Park City!
Planning an event in Salt Lake City? We recently had the opportunity to visit Utah’s capital and largest city, which is also the largest urban area in America’s vast Great Basin, where no water flows to the ocean. (It’s the reason why the Great Salt Lake is so saline!) Salt Lake City lies on the edge of the lake and at the foot of the Wasatch Range, the westernmost reach of the Rocky Mountains. The mountains rise sharply from the relatively flat valley floor, making for a spectacular backdrop. For many visitors, the mountains and the recreation they provide are the reason for coming here. But Salt Lake City has plenty of urban amenities, so one does not need to “go to the mountains” to enjoy being here. Here is a selection of Salt Lake City event venues for you to peruse.
Venue 6SIX9. Located downtown, the interestingly spelled 6SIX9 offers the ability to host events “from corporate parties, seminars, church gatherings to weddings and more!” The venue includes an 8,400 square foot ballroom plus breakout rooms, totaling 20,000 square feet in total available space. Tables, chairs, linens, and centerpieces are also available from the venue.
McCune Mansion. One type of venue we’re always on the lookout for is a historic property. The McCune Mansion is a Shingle-Style estate built in 1901 and in between Temple Square and the Utah State Capitol. The mansion promotes itself as a good venue for business meetings or retreats, weddings and receptions, and for photography shoots as well. The mansion can accommodate up to 300 people in winter and 500 in summer.
Wasatch Brewing. We love event venues in breweries, because the availability of tasty beer is guaranteed! Wasatch’s Salt Lake City location is located in the hip ‘n’ happening Sugar House neighborhood. The brewery offers two event spaces, The Landing Room which can hold 40 and The Tasting Room which can hold 30. Both rooms can be rented together, too! Wasatch has a full kitchen, and meals can be done buffet style.
Beehive Distilling. Located a couple miles south of downtown in South Salt Lake, this bar can host up to 180 in its 4,000 square foot space. Beehive’s event focus is on “corporate meetings, non-profit organizations, weddings and parties”, with an active distillery as your backdrop. Because of the nature of the business, all guests must be 21 and over.
Getting around: Salt Lake City’s light rail system, TRAX, has expanded greatly over the past twenty years, extending from downtown to the Airport, the University of Utah, and southern suburbs. All of the event venues above are within a ten minute walk to a light rail station or S-Streetcar, which connects to TRAX. If you want to get around by bicycle, you’ll see several GREENbike bikeshare stations around town. Amtrak’s California Zephyr stops once a day at Salt Lake’s Intermodal Terminal west of downtown–someday we hope direct service to Portland via Boise resumes.
A word about liquor laws: Utah’s liquor laws are infamous across the United States. Thankfully the stricter regulations have loosened in the past twenty years: You are no longer required to become a member of a “private club” to enjoy adult beverages in a bar, thank the 2002 Winter Olympics for that. And the notorious “three point two” alcohol by volume limit on beers was raised to five percent in 2019–you can get stronger beer, too, but it’s not as easy. You still can’t get more than one shot (1.5 fluid ounces, or about 45 ml) in a mixed drink, something Emee learned the hard way during a recent visit. But you can buy spirits directly from a distiller like Beehive, even on Sunday when state-run liquor stores are shuttered. For more info, check out these twoarticles.
We hope that you found this post to be informative and hope it helps you find the right Salt Lake City event venue for you!
Planning an event in Eugene, Oregon? We recently had the opportunity to visit Eugene, Oregon, the state’s second-largest city for a trade show so we have several fresh ideas for you. Sitting at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, Eugene is about 120 miles (195 km) south of Portland, an easy two hour drive, that is if traffic on Interstate 5 isn’t bad. But you don’t have to sit in traffic if you don’t want to–there is convenient Amtrak train and bus service, with several trips daily. That is how we traveled for this recent trip! And because Eugene is a city known for its numerous cultural activities, brewpubs, and bikeability, it’s a good place to hold an event. Here is a selection of Eugene Oregon event venues for you to peruse.
Venue 252. Operated by local natural grocery chain Market of Choice, this venue bills itself as “your event venue for weddings, fundraisers, trade shows and more.” Located just outside of downtown and close to Eugene’s Amtrak station, this 20,000 sq. ft. venue can accommodate up to 770 seated guests or 1,285 standing.
The Barrow. This community-minded venue is also located close to Eugene’s Amtrak station and consists of two buildings adjacent to each other. The Mahonia and Stellaria Community Rooms can hold up to 50 people, while the Stellaria Board Room can seat 25. Each building (Mahonia and Stellaria) have rentable common kitchens. We can see The Barrow as being perfect for planning an event in Eugene, Oregon for small gatherings, workshops, meetings, and the like.
Graduate Eugene. The Graduate is a chain of hotels that operate properties in many college towns across the US. (We visited their Berkeley location in 2019.) Conveniently located just two blocks from Eugene’s Amtrak station, The Graduate boasts its own Conference Center. The Center has spaces such as the Playwright’s Hall (11,620 sq. ft./capacity 1,400), the lobby which can hold 800 people, a suite of smaller event rooms that can hold 125 to 350 people, breakout rooms, and board rooms. To top it off (pardon the pun), there is the 3,700 sq. ft. Vista Ballroom and Rooftop space which according to The Graduate is perfect for “small weddings, company retreats, and family reunions.”
Barrel Room at Hop Valley Brewing. Eugene is renowned for their beer scene. There are numerous brewpubs and tasting rooms in town, many located in the Whiteaker neighborhood to the west of downtown. This is where you’ll find Hop Valley’s Barrel Room. This private room can accommodate 10 to 100 people, with additional patio space reservable if needed. Hop Valley bills this space as appropriate for “birthday parties and company events to non-profit fundraisers and monthly meetings for your club or organization”. And you’ll be able to sample Hop Valley’s tasty beers and food from their pub menu!
University of Oregon. Lastly, we could not forget to mention the place that Eugene is most known for! The University of Oregon has numerous spaces available, large and small. This would be a perfect venue for a planning an event in Eugene, Oregon; especially a very large one.
We hope that you found this post to be informative and hope it helps you find the right Eugene, Oregon event venue for you!
I bet that company picnic planning is not top of mind in January, but it’s actually the best time to start thinking about it. With Portland still a bit cold and dreary at this time of the year, it’s hard to believe we only have about six months to do your company event planning for summer. Above is a photo of a kayaking add-on that we planned for a tech company’s employee outing at a riverfront park on the Willamette. Just a few extra touches like this can make your event really special and make your employees feel so appreciated and re-energized.
What else goes into an event like this? First, you’ll need a great venue. Then most likely, you’ll need delicious food. Finally you’ll need to choose some entertainment, such as DJs and photo booths; or games like Capture the Flag or an obstacle course. This particular group also added treats like chocolate, beer, and wine tasting booths. There are tons of ideas out there for planning your company picnic, but if you get stuck, feel free to contact us at EJP Events – Portland Event Planning.