Within PR it's become much less common to throw together an event, with many clients barely spending the budget to pull together an open bar let alone renting a location. That being said, increasingly some clients are returning to the olden day thought of the slightly impossible-to-prove value of an event at a real location that will impress people.
The reason? It's great to have an event at the Hyatt in San Francisco, or to shove something into a part of the Moscone, but as the real estate maintains the "location, location, location" philosophy, so does a great event or conference--and the location choices are getting really dull. When I ran my PR panel for example I deliberately organized it in the glitzy upstairs room in the W Hotel San Francisco--unlike the original plan of a simple room I'd rent at a startup or at, again, the Hyatt. In essence, boutique hotels, even when owned by big brands like Starwood, can offer more customization options, better event services and even more competitive prices. You should also know you can negotiate better rates, room blocks and other discounts--even from very, very expensive places.
It's all about getting people through the door and to remember what happened inside, and here are some that will at the very least get people to remember what you're doing. They're not necessarily the cheapest, but in the milieu of terrible conference locations, it's good to have yours stand out for more than just the great content.
1. London's Bulgari Hotel & Residences: Spending most of my life in London, I had no idea that Bulgari did more than fashion and perfume. The London hotel has lobbies with jewels and even a two-story spa. Considering other locations in London can be quite drab, with the exception of, say, The Landmark Hotel.
2. Southern California's Disneyland Resort: It seems like the oddest place in the world to have an event, but Disneyland is fairly reliable for food, for space and a mixture of affordable and luxury places for guests to stay. Somehow there's 180,000 square feet of event space in the middle of world-class hotel properties, and of course two giant theme parks. Stodgy corporate events can drain the soul of an individual, so Disney may be the place to fix that.
3. Las Vegas' Not-So-Obvious Strip Options: Too much happens in Las Vegas at the major convention centers (the LVCC and the Sands), and yet there're many hidden gems where you can throw things with a little more originality. Vegas' well known for the gambling, the entertainment, the food and the venues, but there are some like AquaKnox, Addiction Restaurant or any of the many glitzy hotel ballrooms (or other restaurants) for events that you want to be private yet, well, quite loud. I'd also recommend the Palazzo/Venetian's Public House for smaller get-togethers and events, as it's very near the event space you might be using. That, and the food's amazing.
4. Mumbai's JW Marriot Hotel: While some Americans sneer at the JW Marriot (seriously, I've heard them do it), Mumbai's is considered one of the best hotels and venues along Juhu Beach. You get the service of a Marriott (beyond it, from what I've read) in a significantly more beautiful location. The staff is multi-lingual staff and the suites are huge, meaning that this very much intricate expenditure for your event will be at the very least well taken care of.
5. Portland, Oregon's The Nines Hotel: I recently spoke at a conference at The Nines and I'd say it more-than-favorably compares to the treatment you'd find in any 5-star New York location, at a significantly better price. It's also two great restaurants--Urban Farmer on the ninth floor and Departure on the rooftop. The ballrooms are well-designed, beyond the strictly functional space you'd expect from a downtown hotel--I'd recommend it.
6. Manhattan's Crowne Plaza at Times Square: Though I'm loathed to recommend New York for any reason after the place burned me out, I'd say the Crown Plaza is a well-located place and fairly good bang-for-your buck, even with the Times Square location feeling a little claustrophobic. Though native New Yorkers may sneer at the idea of going there, out-of-towners will be thankful for the big, obvious place to go.
7. Costa Rica's Samasati Retreat: Company pow-wow? Celebration of a record-breaking year? Take everyone somewhere that isn't totally generic. Perched in the jungle and overlooking the Caribbean beaches, Samasati seems to be the exactly the right place to disappear to. There are impressive event spaces, the staff can get you (for picky eaters) both local and organic chefs, and your guests or teammates can stay in cabins surrounded by local wildlife too. While the EZPR party may not end up in Costa Rica as I'm afraid of the heat, I've heard this specific place recommended a few times.