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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

Trends for Venues 2018

Last week I signed off on my contribution to the 2018 edition of EventMB’s Trends Report. Focusing on venues and destinations, I called out the trends that, I believe, will dominate discourse in 2018 and beyond. This is the 2nd year that I’ve collaborated with Julius and team on the Trends Report and, both times, it’s been a great exercise in trying to discern the difference between a fad (here today, gone tomorrow) and a trend (shaping the future of the industry for #eventprofs). While waiting for the next edition to drop, sign up and check out last year’s release – and tick off, based on your own experience, where we were right or wrong!

Shake it up – venues of the future

These are exciting times for venues everywhere with various factors conspiring to shake the meetings and events industry out of its customary conservative comfort zone. The bleak years of recession were bad but they did cause us to seek out alternative venue solutions to the expensive and ultimately bland hotel meeting room. Thus we discovered Coffee Shops for Meetings – buzzy environment, on-demand WiFi, great coffee, mixed seating options. Then, of course, we wanted more and more of this and actively sought out unusual but highly stimulating environments as our meeting venues.


Parallel to this, the early pioneers in methodology around meetings  started to finally be heard and concepts like meeting architecture and meeting design went mainstream and now define our approach to meetings. Corporations, too, realised that sitting classroom style in a beige coloured room listening to some suit drone on to the accompaniment of a PPT deck was – ahem – a little too like the history lessons in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!). They, too, started to take risks and hold meetings in weird places like warehouses or football stadia or museums.


So it’s a radically changed landscape now and not unusual anymore to pitch a venue whose original purpose is miles away from the learning, knowledge transfer or updating objectives that define why the meeting is taking place.

È Nata una Stella / A Star is Born – new venue in Rathmines

That’s the first thought that occured to me yesterday when I visited the sumptuously renovated Stella cinema in Rathmines, the south Dublin neighbourhood that’s currently undergoing rapid gentrification. Lovingly restored with massive pride and respect to its Art Deco origins, this 2o0+ screen room screams out “use me for meetings and events”. And, of course, alternative uses are very much part of the business plan for the venue as Dave O’Keeffe, General Manager of the facility, explained:

We are first and foremost a movie theatre but that tends to be evenings and weekend. Midweek daytime we’re open for private hire with or without the screen. There’s ample space both in front of and behind the screen for uncomplex stage sets. It’d be perfect for TED style presentations or panel discussions or town halls style meetings.

Each seat is beautifully upholstered in traditional burgundy leather and comes complete with velvet cushion and an ottoman or foot stool. A small table is shared by every 2 armchairs. At the back there are couches or love seats and the front is a row of full scale beds (although it mightn’t be appropriate to occupy these if the CEO is giving his “talk for the troops”).


There’s a magnificent Cocktail Club on the top floor of the Stella which can also be hired as a private venue. Again period detail is in great abundance here and there’s an authentic retro feel, right down to the cocktail menu . The cocktail bar could easily be a scene from a vintage movie – you could walk from the Auditorium watching Casablanca to the Cocktail Club and think you’d walked directly into the movie . The Stella also has a full kitchen and specialises in tapas-style bites.


Caleb Parker is Bold and so are his venues

I also caught up this week face to face with a long time digital buddy, Caleb Parker. It’s always wonderful to meet Twitter friends face-to-face and get the backstory straight from the horse’s mouth. Caleb’s backstory is every bit as interesting as I imagined it would be involving hospitality, mobility over 2 continents, serial successful entrepreneurship, an engaging love story and a compelling plan for his latest project, Bold.  And, of course, he’s not even 40!


Having been a digital pioneer in the intangible area of booking small meetings, Caleb has now turned his attention to tangible assets, bricks and mortar, actual real estate. He has come up with an exciting concept for on-demand meetings. Called Bold, Caleb’s new initiative is unapologetically “out there”, targeting agencies, companies and associations ready to “take risks”, who want their meetings and events to be “confident and courageous”.


The Bold model involves meetings and events spaces with truly inspirational designs and lay-outs for 2  to 8 people that can be booked by the hour or day. All  rooms include free WiFi, giant whiteboards, espresso machines, big screen TVs and plenty of power. You source and book the space direct from your SmartPhone, Tablet or Laptop and then use your phone to unlock the door to your private space when you arrive on-site.

On location you have everything you could possibly need to get the creative juices flowing – provocative  visuals and furniture, great flow space, whiteboards, comfy chairs. With Bold, Caleb is playing in a similar sandbox to the truly excellent Convene and etc.venues although his spaces are boutique, more targeted to smaller meetings, more focused on the last minute market, on meetings on-demand.


Venues for meetings and events have certainly broken out of the beige banalities that defined them in the past. These days we depend on the venue to deliver on some of the meetings’ objectives, particularly in the areas of motivation, inspiration, provocation and these are core elements of the experiences you’re destined to have at venues like the Stella Theatre or the Bold venues in London.

Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick M Delaney, Aoife McCrum and associates are SoolNua. We offer advice to destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training.



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