Technology is enabling changes across the event industry and nowhere is this more apparent than in the trend towards transparent venue availability and instant booking. Will Swannell, Co-founder of Hire Space, says live availability is the ‘holy grail’ of the events industry that could enhance the venue booking process for event organisers and venues. If you need a bit more information on what live availability is, you can also read our case study.

At EventLAB 2019, we delved into this topic with a panel of event industry experts to discuss live availability and its promise for the future. Speaking on the panel was Will Swannell, Co-Founder of Hire Space, Mike Holmes, Head of Meeting Room Partnerships at IWG, Michael Jeanes, Head of Sales at Priava and Nell Flint, Operations Director at Capita Travel and Events. The panel was moderated by Caleb Parker, Founder & CEO of Bold workspaces. Read on for our key takeaways.

Live Availability Panel Discssion at EventLAB
Industry Experts discuss live availability on a Panel Discussion at EventLAB 2019

First things first, what actually is live availability?

Live availability is the term for venues displaying which dates their spaces are available, and has been the subject of extensive debate within the industry.

A really important distinction to make is that of live availability and live booking. Live booking enables a customer to book an event there and then, whereas live availability simply displays availability. The customer still makes an enquiry and speaks with the venue via the usual booking process, allowing the venue to retain complete control.

What are the benefits of live availability?

- Venues can increase their bookings and these will be more qualified and relevant. Event managers are busy - they are more likely to book with a venue where information is readily available, especially in a digital age where information is already much further up the buying cycle.

- It saves a huge amount of time and money, not just for the event managers themselves but also the venue managers too. This time can be spent on the bigger, more complex enquiries, account management and business development, therefore hugely improving efficiency.

- Nell Flint says that live availability creates ‘simple meetings utopia’ - for uncomplicated enquiries, it allows quick options to be presented to busy, challenging clients.

- Never say no again! Will Swannell tells us that the technology is built to think like a human - it never says ‘Not available’, it will instead generate answers such as ‘How about these dates instead?’ so as not to create a negative impression but to keep venues at the forefront of the booker’s mind.

Nell Flint
Nell Flint discusses 'simple meetings utopia'

However, venues are still hesitant about live availability, and that’s due to one thing:

The Fear Factor

The fear factor essentially comes down to a loss of control. Venue managers are hesitant to give up control of their spaces and subsequently shut off opportunities: if potential clients can see their desired date is unavailable, they will likely go to a venue that is available.

However, that’s not necessarily the case -  using this function puts venues to the top of the pile if their spaces are available for the client’s dates. Even if spaces aren’t available, simply being on a platform with this function exposes them to higher demand and traffic they wouldn’t usually have. In addition, Nell Flint points out that event organisers are likely to go back to their clients and suggest alternative dates if they can see when the venue is available, so actually opening up opportunities.

In terms of control, venues have complete control over which spaces they show. If there is a particular space that would greatly affect their yield (usually the largest), then they can simply avoid showing it. Venues can also retain control via dynamic pricing - Michael Jeanes suggests assigning different rates to different types of customers.

Another element of live availability raising debate is the question of whether we’re losing the ‘human touch’. However, again this is not the case. Mike Holmes informs us that 40-50% of IWG’s venue bookings are made online. It is evident therefore that venue bookers are still calling or arranging face to face appointments to make their bookings, demonstrating that live availability is simply providing an option for people, it is there for people who want to use it and if people want to talk to a human they still can.

A key quote from Michael Jeanes summarises the ‘faith’ aspect of live availability and the benefit for venues this carries: “It’s an extension of your brand - if the booking process is simple online, customers will have faith in your services as a venue too.”

Michael Jeanes
Michael Jeanes discusses the faith that live availability can carry for bookers

The Outcome

The resounding result of this panel discussion was that live availability is an extremely useful tool that can position venues much more favourably in today’s saturated market, saving event organisers and venues alike a huge deal of time and money that is better spent on larger, more complex enquiries. Hire Space will be rolling out this function across many more venues, so watch this space!

If you want to watch the full discussion, then you can catch the video here.