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Diversity, flexibility, profitability

Venues will have to learn to be flexible if they want to overcome business lost to twats*, reports Peter Heath, founder, Venue Performance

We are settling into a patten, with conferences in the Spring and Autumn and Christmas parties coming back, but the sector is still being frustrated by the short booking lead times, which are making forecasting very hard. You need full transparency in your numbers, because there are no precedents any more, precedents went out with the pandemic.

Conferences and meetings are going ahead, but the size is still down - budgets are being clipped - but prices are going up and inflation is not dampening enthusiasm for face-to-face meetings. Looking ahead to next year, there are uncertainties around interest rates and then the uncertainty and disruption around the general election. So 2024 is going to be a tough gig around forecasting and budgeting.

Another growing issue that we have at the moment is the twats, which have meant no business on Mondays and Fridays. There is no point offering special rates to lure people in: there’s no one around. So you either close down on those days and reduce your costs, or you can diversify. People could use your spaces for co-working, or as private office space, they could use it for transient meetings. The events industry has to diversify, because otherwise they're just going to have four empty walls.

But they can only do this is if the sector takes a leap of faith and starts using instant booking. Technology is something of a slow burn in meetings and events, which historically has an excruciatingly long RFP process, almost as long as booking a meeting or event can be, whereas the hotel sector has realised that basic products should be available online, with no need for human interaction.

If you just want a meeting room for 10 people with a projector and a flip chart, coffee and sandwiches, you should be able to do that online. It’s a way of bringing your costs down at a time when all businesses are looking to do just that. If you can automate some of your processes, then you should at least look into it.

There is resistance around making that investment, but also around the consequences for service. If you book online don’t expect to be met with a red carpet, but I think people can easily come to terms with this, if they are getting a more convenient product. There is also the issue around staff training, which will mean shopping around for an intuitive product which anyone can pick up and use.

Technology is coming. And if you don’t want to be running a part-time business, it’s time to start researching.

*The rise of flexible working has meant the rise of the twat - the employee who is only in the office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday


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