We’re just beginning to emerge from one of the biggest industry shifts in recent memory, and no one quite knows what the future holds yet. For venue managers, the Coronavirus-related shutdown affecting more than 300 million people in the United States alone brought business to a screeching halt. Now that states are beginning to re-open, what’s next in promoting your venue and helping your clients plan their events?
The solution is not actually brand new. In fact, 360 virtual tour software has been a trend we’ve observed and reported on for the past few years. As we enter the next stage of this massive industry shift, it’s at once becoming more relevant and showing its staying power.
Virtual tours are desirable marketing and sales tools regardless of the situation. COVID-19 just made them necessary instead of an add-on. With the right implementation, and the right software in place, they can provide both virtual engagement and core planning opportunities for clients looking to find the right venue for their event.
The Newfound Allure of Virtual Tours
Let’s start with the basics. In the venue and event space, virtual tours have become especially popular in recent months for an obvious reason: they offer an approximation of a site visit, allowing event planners to visualize the space in which they’ll set up, host their guests, and execute the actual event.
At its simplest, a virtual tour is informational. It allows for visualization of the space, better than individual photos or videos could. Simply put, it’s easier to imagine your event in a space when you can turn around and see that space from a variety of angles, rather than looking at high-gloss images that offer marketing value but little informational insight.
Those photos and videos, of course, can still be integrated into the tour as secondary media. The tour itself, in all its 3D and virtual reality glory, offers a more narrative, linear opportunity to showcase your space.
Virtual Tours Make Great First Impressions
Beyond that informational value, virtual venue tours serve to make an impression:
Thanks to virtual-reality technology and 360-degree photography, hotels and convention centers are finding ways to immerse event planners in a space — without them ever setting foot in the building… Beyond being informative, interactive virtual tours can make a big impression on prospective planners.
Event planners, after all, are just human beings. They’ll be drawn in by the interactive nature of the tour. That informational value becomes much more powerful when packaged into a system in which you can highlight these details in a more immersive, technology-based way.
Those benefits are independent of the current situation, and a major reason why we’ve been advocating for virtual tours long before the impacts of the pandemic. But they become especially relevant now when physical travel and site visits are no longer possible. The virtual tour now becomes the closest possible approximation of being able to ‘see for yourself’ what the space is all about.
The Agility to Plan Events Ahead of Time
A second benefit of virtual tours is more practical in nature. Assume that, given the above advantages, the event planner has been sold or at least expresses vested interest in your venue. Now, it’s time to get specific. What exactly will the event look like? How can your space accommodate the vision and planning of your client?
Once again, virtual tours can offer a solution. That’s because, at their best, they’re not static entities or experiences. Far from it. They’re immersive through their ability to envision, manipulate, and adjust the space.
Chances are the space is multi-use and can be configured in a number of ways. A few simple pictures won’t do that justice. Instead, a planner needs to be specific about where what goes, and how the event will fit into the space they’re about to rent.
Imagine offering your clients the ability to easily edit the space. A simple click of a button opens or closes doors and moves temporary walls. A large ballroom transforms from an interactive workshop area into a keynote space with luncheon tables. The exhibitor hall shifts in size depending on the number of vendors expected at the event.
Not every virtual tour is that agile, of course. But those that do can provide significant help for planners looking to envision their event and think ahead. As a result, they become immensely valuable planning tools with benefits that go far beyond the current pandemic.
The Benefits of Virtual Tours During Events
Finally, don’t underestimate the benefits of virtual tours after the planning stage. In fact, especially in the age of COVID-19, this digital tool can become immensely valuable in offering a fully realized experience to attendees across industries and environments.
Most experts don’t believe that large-scale events will pick up until Fall 2020, despite the recent relaxations of rules. And even on that timeline, many members of the public likely won’t feel safe to attend until at least 2021. Hosting events in this day and age will need to be at least part-digital — which is where virtual tours once again enter the equation.
Here’s the secret: at their best, these virtual tours are immensely flexible. They allow for both approximations and enhancement of in-person events. Whether you use them to move your exhibitor hall online or to replace that conference altogether, they are able to accommodate either.
Of course, the experience won’t be identical to the fully in-person events that were the norm before the current pandemic hit. But through careful planning, event managers can still reach their core goals. Your venue’s virtual tour, in turn, can play a crucial role in achieving those same goals, making you a valuable partner for your clients as they seek to adjust to their own post-COVID reality.
How to Build Virtual Tours for Your Venue
All the above benefits, of course, are only conditional. Your virtual tour can thrive in highlighting your venue both now and in the future only if you follow a few basic pointers. These best practices allow you to maximize your opportunities in both attracting and engaging your potential clients.
1. Start With Your Business Goals
What, exactly, do you need your virtual tour to accomplish? At a high level, the goal likely revolves around awareness and promotion of your venue. But it pays to go deeper than that.
For instance, which type of event planner are you looking to reach? Large corporate vendors will need a very different tour than individual consultants working on behalf of consumers.
Connect your virtual tour to your larger business goals where possible. The closer the alignment, the more likely it will be to become a success as you look to reach and attract new clients.
2. Build With Accuracy Top of Mind
Virtual tours are more than just shine. Done right, they’re accurate representations of your venue in every way, and that comes down to the measurable indicators. Accuracy has to be a core consideration as you begin to plan your tour.
Think about it from your audience’s perspective. A planner will need to know exactly how many tables or chairs to fit in a given space. Only an accurate virtual representation of that space can accommodate planning at that granular level.
3. Allow for Some Stylistic Flourishes
Accuracy matters, but you’ll sell your clients just as much based on the flash. That’s why, at its best, your virtual tour should accommodate plenty of immersive, visual technology designed to keep your audience invested and interested.
Those flourishes could include integrated videos that showcase the space. They could be virtual reality opportunities for your audience to stand in the space just as they would in real life. These flourishes go hand in hand with the accuracy needed for planning to unlock the benefits of your tour.
4. Ensure Flexibility and Edit-ability
Chances are that your space accommodates multiple uses depending on your client and the occasion. Can your virtual tour represent those multiple uses in an accurate and engaging way? Moreover, is it flexible enough to allow your clients to visualize that space in its multiple potential uses?
That flexibility can be difficult to achieve. Static tours won’t be enough. For most venues, you’ll need to think through accurately representing multiple setups, movable walls, and even different types of stage setups. It’s a core feature for any venue manager looking to leverage virtual tours the right way.
5. Work With the Right Partner
These important components hinge, in many ways, on the partner you choose. A number of opportunities have presented themselves to a variety of industries over the years, promising virtual tours specifically designed for those audiences. Choose a partner who has extensive experience in highlighting venues like yours and who values the above best practices as much as you do.
Concept3D has been a leader in the virtual tour space for more than a decade and continues to advocate for venues to adopt these models. Let’s have a conversation about how our software and platform can help you attract more clients and engage them through the actual event. Contact us to start that conversation.