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updated: 10/10/2017 2:40 PM

Venues gain market share with interactive corporate group activities

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  • The Hard Rock Café Chicago and Escape Room formed a partnership to offer interactive events.

    The Hard Rock Café Chicago and Escape Room formed a partnership to offer interactive events.
    Courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe

  • Jim Grillo

    Jim Grillo


Event venues and restaurants with group and private event space have an opportunity today to gain market share by simply creating some form of interactive group activity. If you don't have one, I suggest implementing one if you want to generate supplemental revenue and gain more market share. Right now, if you don't have one, based on my experience, it's a lost opportunity and lost revenue.

I have seen a recent surge from our meeting & event planner visitors that are visiting and requesting information from our venue listings that provide unique, interactive group activity options for corporate groups. Out of 5,000 meeting planners that sent inquiries to our listing members in the last 12 months, almost 50 percent of them sent information requests to those venues that offer some type of unique, interactive group experience.

Be creative and partner with other suppliers to come up with the wildest group ideas.

For example, one of our restaurant listing members on partnered with a team-building venue down the street. Once we featured their interactive partnership on their listing, they immediately booked two corporate groups, which resulted in $17,000 in revenue. This venue has been in Chicago for many years and set itself apart from all other venue options in Chicago just by offering an interactive group package.

I cannot stress the importance of offering unique corporate activities as an option for event planners.

One of our restaurant listing members with a small private event space offered a simple pizza tossing class. This activity resonated with planners to the tune of 139 group inquiries for that restaurant's pizza tossing class, a buffet and a beverage package.

Planners love to be unique and love finding new ideas for their events. You can come to the rescue and become a "hidden gem" that makes them look good to their clients and bosses. I always hear from my meeting planner colleagues that they "need to beat last year's event" due to it being a huge success.

You can make this happen for them easily if you can provide a unique experience as an add-on to what your venue already offers. Think of it as helping ease the burden for the planner and creating an event that can beat last year's event.

What are some in-house ideas that you can think of to provide interactive group activities? Can you think of something that would be unique to your venue? If not, can you partner with an activity provider and offer up a package?

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Look around a two-block radius of your venue and see if there is a restaurant in the area that you can partner with.

Attend industry events. You'll likely meet a ton of group activity providers. Have a discussion with them and really brainstorm creative partnerships.

Planners love unique group activities, therefore, put some work into a creative package offering. If you're a restaurant, why not partner with a poker table provider and offer a themed package with a charitable give back and have a "party with a purpose."

How about producing a package that includes a team talent show as one of your venue offerings? Corporate groups love fun competition. This activity could set your venue apart from the others not offering any type of interactive offerings. At least it's a starting point to convey to the planner that you are open to having creativity in your venue.

Table tennis, scavenger hunts, indoor sky diving, bowling, high-tech games, escape rooms, improv, customizable projects like clock making, wineglass painting, interactive cooking events, indoor/outdoor golf, competition-based activities and bike building are extremely popular, interactive group activities that encourage team-building among groups.

If you don't yet have an interactive group experience offering, I would suggest brainstorming on your own or with a team member. Walk through your venue and look at each corner, wall and room in the venue to think of ideas. Think of what type of interactivity you could offer in your venue. Think of creating something uniquely remarkable. Think of the wildest activity and scale back from there.

I look forward to hearing what you're doing to gain more market share or what you came up with to set yourself apart from the competition. I welcome your emails at and will post your unique group offerings on our Facebook and Twitter wall.

• Jim Grillo, CMP, is the founder and president of, Chicago's online event & meeting planning resource, viral social media & branding platform and Hospitality

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