By Luiz Mazzari, deputy general manager, 30 Euston Square
From roller coaster rides to immersive computer games and trainings in surgical procedures, virtual reality has made its way into a number of sectors. However, is it really that beneficial to the venue industry and does it really add any value to organisers as part of the venue selection process? Here at 30 Euston Square [a London-based venue and home to Royal College of General Practitioners] we certainly think so.
Yes, a venue has to have a well-trained team to answer all queries over the phone and yes your website should deliver a plethora of useful information to organisers but as any sales team will confirm, nothing beats a site visit. That is when a venue can demonstrate all the space, facilities and services, whilst answering any additional questions. Most importantly, the site visit gives the organiser the ability to visualise all the potential that a venue has to offer.
As we know, not all events are the same. Location of registration desks, foods stations, exhibitor stands all vary from client to client so a site visit is a must when it comes to choosing the right venue for your event.
What does all this have to do with virtual reality? We understand the importance of the site visit and how invaluable it is for the organiser to immerse themselves in the venue. However, with busy diaries, some organisers tend to carry out their visits in a hurry, cramming it between meetings or when commuting to and from work – which doesn’t leave sufficient time for a thorough visit.
Whilst the industry has for a long time produced videos or photographic walkthroughs to showcase their venue, they are little more than glorified brochures. In fact, in some instances such imagery can distort the shape of a room, changing perceptions when it comes to capacity and capability. That’s when VR can offer something much more useful and powerful, something that adds real value to organisers.
Busy venues, especially award winnings ones, may not have availability to accommodate site visits at a convenient time for equally busy organisers. This is when VR can become an organiser’s best friend. In addition to seeing the physical space in 360 degrees, they put the user in the heart of the action, amongst the guests of past events from the comfort of their desks. Isn’t this what organisers seek? To be able to put themselves in the shoes of their delegates? To be reassured the venue can deliver a successful event?
The plus side of VR is that you can revisit the venue as many times as you like, reminding yourself of the possibilities and re-energising your own creativity. Additionally, it is useful when you need to obtain final sign off from a decision maker or stakeholder who may not have the time or availability to visit the venue themselves.
Finally, we expect national and overseas organisers to find such technology a boon – they might already be sold on the city of London as a whole but hidden gems and previously unknown venues can suddenly be brought to life, no matter how far away they are based.
Virtual Reality is just the first step in such technological growth – augmented reality will not be far behind. It is a tool with many applications, but it clearly has a benefit to organisers. Like all emerging technology it has its limitations, but I would urge organisers to make the use of it where available as it can truly enhance the venue search and planning process giving you a true understanding of what is possible.