Conduct a brilliant venue show round with top tips from Kelly Chandler Consulting
You’ve worked hard at your branding, at your website content, on your wedding offering, launched a wedding PR campaign, you’ve worked diligently and consistently on engaging social media content, hired help with your SEO, collaborated on photo shoots with bloggers, hosted a wedding showcase and now you’re getting great enquiries firing their way through to you. Juicy, perfect wedding clients who want to see and experience what you have to offer. Crack open the champagne.
You have done the hard work and now you have actual enquires and the chance to go face to face, but you have to make sure you and your team put your very best foot forward. This is your moment to seal the deal, it’s a real sign of interest when a couple wants to come and visit you, particularly if you have taken them through your gentle screening process to ascertain their needs and make sure they are a good fit (and I do recommend a screening process is put in place to protect and focus your time, but this will make up another feature, another time).
So how do you conduct a spot-on brilliant show round of your venue and spaces, and what things should you avoid?
> Get them there smoothly – Sounds obvious and you know your location inside and out but make sure that potential couples arrive in the best possible mood by giving them very specific instructions on how to find you. Lots of rural locations are particularly difficult to find and urban types (and young Millennials in particular) rely heavily and exclusively on sat navs, so really make it very clear if this is not the best route and send them instructions on how to find you and what landmarks to look out for. Send this out on confirmation, but a reminder the day before over e-mail is recommended.
If your location is particularly difficult to find, consider marking out some signage at the driveway end or tricky points, particularly if you have lots of viewings on one day. You want to avoid grumpy clients who run late and get lost and may struggle to reach you by phone in places of poor mobile reception. Ensure that couples do have a contact number to reach you on and, if mobile signal is not good, suggest they text you.
> First impressions –it goes without saying that you’ll want your venue to be in the best possible state and the most presentable. You may well be showing round while set up is ongoing for an event that day and that’s fine; it can be a positive thing as it’s often nice for couples to see some of the items they might include in their wedding, particularly if you are a ‘blank canvas’. You should make sure the venue is as tidy and clean as possible; inviting clients to visit before the cleaners are in for the party the night before isn’t the best option and never sets a good impression.
Aim to switch lights on ahead of time and unlock key doors if you can – it’s never ideal as a potential client if you enter a cold, dark location; that first impression can stick with you.
While I’m suggesting you’re neat and tidy, do try and show the genuine atmosphere of your location – if you’re a working farm for example, couples are best to know and experience that in all its guises (so let the animals loose). It’s best to be authentic and genuine to attract the very best weddings for you, but by putting your best foot forward always.
> A hearty welcome – One of the simplest things to start off a successful meeting in my book is to make the visitor comfortable. I am still shocked by how rarely I’m offered a drink on arrival at a show round. It may not be practical to have a fully stocked café or bar to hand, but anyone can have a fridge or kettle to whip up a simple coffee or a cold drink. Try to think of something quirky and fun and ‘on brand’ for you either with the choice of drink (botanical soft drinks are very on-trend currently) or perhaps by using gorgeous mugs in your company colours, or featuring wedding-related quotes.
Don’t forget to ask if coats or bags can be stored – particularly if it’s really not necessary for the visitors to keep their coats with them. Comfort is key here and this simple indicator of attention to detail and service goes a long way.
> No rush – As you show round your spaces be sure to give clients time to take it all in – you work in your venue each day so some of the magic of the first view of such a space is lost. I see a lot of show rounds conducted at huge speed which doesn’t always allow the couple to stand and appreciate the space – allowing them some time at the end alone gets around this problem. I know that security issues may mean you can’t do this but if you can, allow clients just a few minutes to look, discuss and consider without your presence.
> The story – Be sure to point out not just the key areas and what they are used for in a logistical sense (although this is really important) but key features too. If you have historic features, keep the history lesson short but interesting. Wedding couples, far more than any other type of client, want a venue with a story and somewhere they can connect with. Although the focus is on spaces they can use, don’t forget to sell the quirkiness and interest in your venue; a couple marrying are choosing a location that they will remember forever and will become a part of their personal story, so make sure that past famous events, people or interesting facts are peppered amidst your show round’s practical facts. Describe your team, describe what other clients have done with your lovely spaces, this is all very useful information.
> Photographic features – Every wedding cares about photos so where in your venue is an obvious backdrop or amazing feature or features? If you’re not sure, ask some of your professional photographers where they like best and talk about and show those areas in other great images. Point out these features clearly; couples need to be very obviously shown where creates great shots so they can imagine themselves in the spaces on their own day.
> Bring it to life – The iPad is the best invention for bringing a venue to life and many of you use these I’m sure in your show rounds. It is unlikely that many of your spaces will be set for wedding ceremonies or dinners when clients visit, so bring your iPad round on the tour with some amazing images of the rooms, marquees and locations set up. Show them as you are in the spaces to help couples envisage their event, particularly if they show a specific interest in something or ask a question. Remember that you are dealing with largely an inexperienced audience who do not naturally possess the experience or imagination to visualise how those spaces may look all set up so you need to show them.
An extension of this is if you have the opportunity to showcase some kind of more permanently dressed area, even if you are able to dedicate a corner of your barn for example to host one dressed dining table showing a range of chairs, linens, tableware, paper goods and stationery – it all really helps bring things to life and helps couples imagine their day in a more realistic sense. This is great exposure for your supplier partners too who should be keen to help here.
> Plan your route logically –Try to plan the route so that you take visitors from space to space in a logical sense – wedding ceremony to drinks reception to wedding breakfast to evening party. It can be really helpful for a couple to move as the wedding guests will on the day; they are more likely to feel at home in your space and see how it works for them. While the natural layout of your venue may not allow this, I’d suggest a verbal recap for them of the key spaces at the end of your tour and an offer to revisit key spaces. Often it’s only when they have seen the whole venue, that people can then start to look at things like ‘Where do I as the bride arrive?’, ‘Where do the guests enter?’ It’s these things which they need to leave with a clear idea of so they can really see the whole day working for them and imagine themselves living it.
Don’t forget to show them some of the less important spaces, even if you think they might not need them. If you have a fully kitted out Bride’s Room I am sure you will show it, but even if you have some less exciting but functional options, point out what they could be used for – such as storage of gifts, supplier/band changing areas, crèche areas, quiet zones for elderly relatives – these things may be something which crop up for couples at any point in their planning journey and often before they will confirm their ideal venue.
If you’d like more on this topic and on perfecting your wedding offering generally you might like to attend one of my group training days for ambitious wedding venues. For more information, visit www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk/wedding-market-training/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly Chandler is a long-term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw on prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 13 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of trade body, the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business. www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk