Friday, 13 November 2020
How Virtual Tours Can Help Event Planners With Their Next Event
In the age of COVID-19, shelter-at-home orders, and overall lockdowns, organizing in-person events has been on many event planners’ back burners. But events will come back, and event planners need to be ready and start venue sourcing as soon as possible.
For a long time, when it came to venue selection, the only option for organizers was to visit dozens of venues to find the right one for their next event. It was a time-consuming and costly process.
With the pandemic and large gatherings being canceled in most countries, event planners had to turn to virtual events, which do not typically require a venue selection phase.
However, after months of virtual meetings, it became apparent that attendees crave face-to-face interactions, and many have experienced what has been dubbed “Zoom fatigue.” Most people are eager to go back to meeting in person, and planners are already sourcing for future events, but how to do that when on-site inspections are out of the question?
Well, if the pandemic had one positive outcome for events, it might be the proliferation of online tools these past few months. Among them, virtual tours of venues seem to have a bright future as they can be of help right now and also reduce the time needed for venue selection when on-site visits are allowed again.
In this post, we will explore how virtual tours can help event planners prepare their next event.
What are Virtual Tours and How can They Help Event Planners?
Virtual tours are not a new concept, but they have become a lot more important since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to Wikipedia, “a virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of videos or still images.” There are several options, both in terms of technology and convenience for the planner.
Virtual reality is one of these options. While virtual reality has been mainly used in games and entertainment so far, the benefits it can bring to the events industry are real. Some planners have already started using it to improve audience engagement during the event, and exhibitors are taking advantage of it for product demos, especially in the case of bulky products that can’t travel to the exhibition venue or fit in the tight space a booth usually offers.
One of the new areas of interest for virtual reality is venue selection. While on-site inspections will always be the best option, they are also time-consuming and expensive to organize. A virtual tour of the event venue could provide a suitable alternative by giving the event planner an accurate idea of the venue’s size and space distribution, the facilities’ convenience, and, overall, if the venue would be a good fit for the event the organizer has in mind. However, you need specific equipment to experience VR, and not all planners have access to VR headsets yet.
This is why a more accessible option for venues is to provide 360-degree and 3-D videos that can offer an immersive experience on any computer or mobile device. Planners can now select their venue without leaving the comfort (and safety) of their home and when it’s most convenient to them.
This brings us to the live vs. pre-recorded options for virtual tours. Some event venues are now offering live Zoom tours of their facilities to provide an interactive and virtual walkthrough of the event space. This necessitates a quite thorough process ahead of time, where the event planner has to share with the venue as many details as possible about the event. These live tours also have to be scheduled with both planners and venues.
On the other side of the spectrum, pre-recorded videos or images can prove more convenient for the planners, especially when they are in the first stages of venue sourcing. Organizing live tours will be more tailored but also more time consuming while browsing through a gallery of photos or 360-degree videos of the facilities can help narrow down the options when there are still many. Furthermore, pre-recorded options offer the planner the convenience to source venues on their own time, regardless of the venue’s scheduling constraints.
Why They Help Venues as Well
While planners need to find the tools that will help them organize future events, it’s even more critical for venues to offer all they can to support event organizers in their quest for the perfect event space. By doing that, they are really helping themselves as virtual tours seem to be the only way to source venues for at least a few more months. On-site inspections have become quasi impossible with travel plans canceled, lockdowns orders, or other social distancing measures. Venues who want to secure future business need to provide organizers with the vital information they need as they start planning upcoming events and help them envision the possibilities offered by the venue. Virtual tours can be of great help in that respect.
More and more venues are offering this kind of service, and most virtual tours are available on-demand. Planners can, for example, get a 360-degree view of the Noura Ballroom at the Convention Center & Royal Suites of Kuwait, explore the possibilities offered by the Burgan meeting room at the Hilton Kuwait Resort, or immerse themselves in the Amazing Room of the V Hotel Dubai, anytime they want, from the comfort of home.
Offering live videos can also serve as an interactive conversation where the venue can answer live questions from the event planner. But live walkthroughs, just like on-site inspections, can prove difficult to organize due to scheduling issues and require as much work as a regular on-site inspection as each visit will have to be customized to the planner’s specific needs.
In a normal (i.e., pre-COVID) world, one of the most crucial and time-consuming tasks of planning an event is selecting the proper venue that will provide the perfect environment and help make the event memorable. Finding that ideal space usually means organizing many on-site inspections. Fortunately, virtual tours can help speed up the process without sacrificing the thoroughness of the venue’s review. They also offer a cheaper alternative as they cut on travel costs.
While virtual tours can’t entirely replace meeting the people in charge of the venue face to face (just like virtual events can’t completely replace in-person meetings), they certainly provide a good alternative to visiting dozens of sites. Event planners can use them to narrow down their options and see only the last two or three contenders in-person. In this pandemic world, it has become reasonable to use them as a replacement for on-site inspections. It seems the most efficient and safe way to start the event planning process and begin organizing and booking events into 2021.
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