When you manage an entertainment venue – be it a stadium, arena, performing arts center, museum, or other venue – there is an ongoing need to generate revenue by maximizing space utilization. On non-game or non-performance days, you want to book special events when it makes sense for your booking policies, such as fundraisers, community events, corporate meetings, weddings, field trips, camps and more. How do you know if your venue is equipped to handle non-traditional events?
Look before you leap
Before you dive into the task of attracting new, non-traditional event customers, you need to make sure your venue is prepared to handle them. Drawing from the best practices I've noted in my work with managers from a variety of entertainment venues including stadia, arenas, and performing arts centers, I’ve assembled a list of 4 S's to evaluate before marketing to non-traditional event customers: Space, Scheduling, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and Systems.
Space: Do you have the right place for non-traditional events?
Luckily for you, a lot of times when people approach your venue to hold their non-traditional event, they are attracted to your venue because it is out of the norm for their type of event. But, you still need to consider exactly how your venue tailors its accommodations for each event.
If non-traditional events for your venue mean corporate meetings, what types of needs do corporate meeting managers have and how are you accommodating their requests? Furthermore, are you equipped with the supplies needed for productive business to take place uninterrupted by problems, like paper and pen shortages, A/V challenges, etc. Is your building set up to facilitate communication at business events? Simple adjustments in venue layout might help promote better communication amongst meeting attendees, which will satisfy the meeting planner.
If non-traditional events for your venue mean weddings, how are you making sure the bride sees her vision realized within your venue's walls? This is such a special day, and your venue needs to be able to offer an unforgettable, incomparable ambience.
Scheduling: Does your venue have a booking and scheduling policy that allows you to target non-traditional events effectively?
A lot of major market venues have set policies stating that special events can only be booked in short term windows, like 6-8 weeks in advance of the event date. If that's the case for your venue, this means you need to know which types of events align with your lead time or come up with alternative options.
For instance, weddings are typically booked well in advance. Your venue might provide a couple with a really unique ceremony or reception option, but you can't risk passing up a more profitable last minute booking, like a major concert. Does this mean you should forego the market altogether? Possibly, but you should do an analysis of inquiries. How many short term holds did you get for major events versus long term inquiries? What would the impact have been on the bottom line had you reacted differently? You will want to know how many of those smaller events you need to sell to make the venture profitable and set targets accordingly. You should factor the risk of not getting a big event into the analysis. You may come to the conclusion that for significantly less risk, you could still have a positive impact on the bottom line. Then it is a management decision as to which approach to take.
Another way to manage smaller, non-traditional bookings from business customers is by using a model similar to many hotel chains. In this model, a hotel makes space available to corporations to reserve online for meeting rooms and last minute accommodations. Your venue could follow a similar approach, opening space for online reservation by corporations who have small, late notice events.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): Do you have the right people to work with non-traditional event customers?
Your staff probably knows so much about your traditional clientele that they can provide answers before questions are even asked. However, athletes and artists are very different from brides and businessmen. Some of the entertainment venues who appear to have the greatest success securing non-traditional event customers do so by having employees specifically trained and dedicated to serving this market segment.
When you have a SME at your venue who understands the nuances of non-traditional events, you have a better chance of asking the customer the right questions and ensuring their needs are met. If you nail the details and create a special experience for your customer, they will be more likely to think of your venue for their next fundraiser, meeting, or conference, or even recommend your venue to others who want to hold similar events.
System: Do you use the right technology to manage events at your venue?
If you want to get incremental special event revenue, you have to get a handle on what space is being used so you can identify what’s available and sell it. Does your venue management software do more than just book space? The best event and facility management software will serve as a central hub where all venue employees can orchestrate events, capture customer data, manage financials, and access a wide array of reports.
Your software needs to help you manage your relationships by tracking all communications and automating follow up activities so you are nurturing valuable relationships. What are these customers telling you, or more importantly, what are they not telling you? Your reporting should empower you to anticipate customer needs. Especially as it relates to your local market, this business is all about maintaining and leveraging relationships to build your credibility.
Your software should help you simplify and streamline management of event operations to keep events running smoothly. It should give you access to critical event-specific financial information. Your system should expand your peripheral vision so you can track equipment, services, and other event details in one place so nothing slips through the cracks.
When it comes to targeting non-traditional event customers for your entertainment venue, it's all about ensuring you are set up to exceed expectations and provide memorable experiences. Having the right space, scheduling policy, SMEs, and systems in place sets the foundation for success.