Take a Risk: Think Outside the Four Walls of a Ballroom

Think outside of the ballroom!  This week we are challenged to take a risk on venue choice, picking something exciting and unique.  Ashley from the Driskill, a community loved hotel in Austin Texas joins Charles and Lisa to talk about managing a unique venue and brining in meetings and events. 
Tell us about you.
Like a lot of people that end up in hospitality, I kind of stumbled into it. I had a passion for events, all the way back to high school, planning my prom, being social chair in college. I would not want to have to plan events with me then knowing what I know now! I wanted to make it a professional career, stumbled into my first job at the Hyatt and the rest is history.  Been here since, moved to five different cities.  It’s been a wild ride, never would have expected that.
Tell us about what you’re doing now.
I’ve never worked at a hotel like this 189 rooms, part of our unbound collection, 133 years ago. It is always been a cornerstone of the community.  In the 60’s it was going to be torn down, the community put together a bake sale and sold bonds to save the building. We feel an obligation to our community to stay true to the history of the hotel. 
Our audience is about events and ideas around them. What does non traditional spaces mean and give us ideas and examples of things you’ve seen and done.
Every hotel has something non traditional they can use for meeting spaces.  Whether its a patio or terrace, think of it not just as a reception venue.  Could you use it as a break out?  Get outside of the boring four walled ball rooms, and have fun with your events in non traditional ways. We use just about every space in the hotel.  We are small so we have to get creative. We infuse touches of history so every space feels important and important to what you are doing.
I love how you mentioned spaces that help you to think outside the four walls of a ballroom.  Tell me some of the experiences you’ve see happen.
We cater to much smaller programs, depending on the scale of the meeting, our customers come here because they want an intimate environment so they can idea share.  There is a lot of wellness and purpose discussion that happens at meetings at our hotel. We have a lot of natural light, unique architecture. For a lot of our customers its not just sitting in a general session, there are breakouts and networking and we have spaces that serve all that.
What tips do you have for people looking to get into the hotel and hospitality side of the events industry?
It depends where they are in their career.  I saw a lot of planners got their experience in hotels, so I did that. Don’t be afraid to start from the ground up.  There is no position too small. If you tackle it with energy and creativity you can move up quick.  Reach out and connect with others, directors of sales or events at hotels.  
What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
The thing that I’ve surprised myself with is how comfortable I’ve gotten with resolving problems.  A lot of our job is anticipating problems, but you can’t anticipate everything.  Trust yourself to be able to problem solve on the spot. No problem doesn’t have a solution. 
What is the advise you give to people that are new?
I wish there was a manual for how to do events! Keep your eyes open absorb and learn everything. Ask questions.  I’ve been able to work with seasoned teams I’d spend a lot of my time observing. You have to be patient, you can’t beat yourself up after making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to come to me and tell me you made a mistake I’ll be more upset if you don’t tell me. 
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About the Author
Event and Video Production

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