Virtual Tour technology is proving to be a useful tool in supporting the venue booking process, according to a recent panel discussion that took place at the Lime Venue Portfolio ‘Beyond’ conference. The panel, which featured Skevi Constantinou, Founder of The PA Way and Letty Hill, Events Manager at the Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), gave two contrasting opinions on the use of virtual tours.
The debate followed Lime Venue Portfolio’s decision to implement virtual technology across the venue group, and organisers were keen to discuss the impact of this technology on event and venue selection. Skevi represented the PA sector of the event industry, and was more open to the use of virtual tours, whereas Letty, who represented in-house event organisers, was more interested in personal relationships, built through face to face interaction.
Firstly, the panellists were asked if they still need to visit venues in the run-up to selection: “Sometimes we have to trust our instinct and rely on virtual tours to capture what the venue looks like, perhaps supplement this by speaking to other assistants who have booked the venues,” commented Skevi. “Virtual tours are a great tool when you are initially starting to make a shortlist, you can view time and time again until you make a decision. But I would also try my best to visit venues pre-event if I can.”
Letty commented: “Personally, I would much rather do site visits than virtual tours. It’s more than just ‘seeing it for myself’, the interaction and relationship with your contact is also really important. Equally, you may find something that you wouldn’t see on the virtual tour, some venues could make the space look amazing online, but then in person it isn’t that special.”
Skevi, agreed with the limitations of the technology, “Virtual tours can only show you so much, sometimes there are snug areas that are ideal for one to one catch ups, or there may be another area that would be perfect for refreshments that isn’t situated near the room but has a great view of the scenery. You need to try and blend both so that you can make an informed decision.”
“At Lime Venue Portfolio, we’re advocates of both approaches,” commented Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio. “The venue tour is a really useful tool when perhaps looking at a new venue for the first time. Taking a more interactive look could persuade an organiser to then visit somewhere new and that’s what we are about at LVP, introducing new and different options into the selection. They can also serve to help cut down the amount of venue visits an organiser needs to have before making a decision. However, we would always advocate a show round; there is so much more that can be found before you arrive including travel and area infrastructure. We do firmly believe that it’s crucial to have a great relationship with the venue team before choosing the venue and perhaps that is the single most important factor… however with technology that doesn’t always have to be face to face.”
The idea of time and resource was one that resonated with Skevi: “Where time is limited or location is not feasible, virtual tours are brilliant. If I am planning an event in Scotland, and I am based in Birmingham, a trip represents an expense to my company and we have to make a judgement call. It is here where a virtual tour would help alongside other research and planning.”
So, from Letty’s point of view, how far can you get in venue selection just through virtual tours? “If you need a venue last minute and don’t have time to leave, then they can be helpful. I do like to take the time to visit venues though whenever I can, so going forward I will always be able to say ‘oh yes I have been there before, and not be reliant on virtual experiences.”
Jenner Carter, Head of Marketing at Lime Venue Portfolio, commented: “It’s great to hear from colleagues in the sector about the positive impact virtual tours are having when it comes to venue booking. As technology improves, virtual tours are able to provide great initial feel for the look and scale of a venue where time or distance prohibits teams from carrying out a visit. It means clients can also look at a wider range of venues that they may not have considered before.”