With the challenges of budget and funding cuts (The Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s funding for national museums will have been cut by 30 per cent in real terms since 2010 to 2015 with higher percentage cuts in many local museums), commercial directors from the sector are under greater pressure to increase revenues from their facilities.

One of the key income streams often overlooked and certainly under-valued is what can be generated from the often unique attributes of the venue itself, whether from corporate hospitality hire or hosting other commercial or private events throughout the year.

Naturally the raison d’etre of the average museum or gallery is not focused on events, but on the exhibits and/or buildings themselves, but it is sometimes surprising to hear how little importance is given to what can not only bring in additional funds for new collections or refurbishments, but can also help to boost visitor numbers. To have ‘dinner by the dinosaur’ is indeed a memorable experience and one that will be spread through word of mouth to others.

Realise your potential

So how can museums raise their game when it comes to promoting their unique venues and in turn maximise the untapped potential they present? Firstly, you need to assess how this is currently run. This may be determined by your size or the number of spaces that you have available. Secondly you need to analyse how you might optimise the occupancy or volume of events that are achievable and finally you need to understand whether you can meet these targets with the tools and/or human resources you currently have. Typically if you have a single space then you can achieve most of the day to day management using applications such as Excel or Outlook. However, if you have more capacity or are looking to increase the proportion of events, then it makes commercial sense to invest in technology that can help automate and more efficiently manage the whole process.

Capitalise on new opportunities

Many museums and galleries are already beginning to see the bigger picture and recognise the growing contribution that venues can make. Stacey Hammond, Head of Business Development at National Museums Liverpool Trading that runs multiple venues across Merseyside said that they had seen a significant growth in its corporate hospitality and events business over the last few years. This is echoed by others such as The National Museum of the Royal Navy who like National Museums Liverpool has invested in new technology to support and optimise occupancy levels and returns. So what difference can dedicated venue management software make?

Get your head in the cloud

With the right IT on board, the events team can increase their overall efficiency resulting in a higher number of bookings and events. The areas where you will see the largest improvements are likely to be in time-savings, enhanced communication (with both the end customer and suppliers), less administration and in-depth reporting.

The principal time-savings are associated with training as many of the new breed of software are web-based, and like an ‘app’ are simple to pick up so if new staff join or new functionality is introduced there is minimal additional training required. Also, if the software is able to integrate with a museum’s website, even booking information can be entered by the customer themselves on-line, avoiding duplication, double bookings or other errors.

Be more proactive

By spending less on administrative tasks, staff can focus on more valuable activities such as speaking with clients and being more proactive in securing new and repeat bookings. With the help of intelligent reporting on occupancy, profitability and types of events that prove popular it also becomes easier to understand key trends, so that the venue team can then react accordingly.

For example if some spaces are under-utilised then this can then be reflected within the sales and marketing effort. This detailed level of reporting can also highlight where there is scope to expand revenues. One instance of this relates to the quality of food served during events, often a hotly debated subject that can sometimes determine how delegates rate their overall experience. If you can meet or exceed expectations, this can have a really positive effect on spreading the word and increases the chances of repeat business.

What many museums fail to realise is that if they outsource this element to an outside caterer with top notch credentials, they can always ensure the quality of the menu and they can also benefit from commission. Relying on a network of assured and reliable third party suppliers can collectively make a big difference to the bottom line, especially as the volume of bookings rise.

Silver linings

One of the fringe benefits of choosing a cloud or hosted solution is that you can easily support external suppliers, giving them controlled access to the venue management system, regardless of their location. This means that they have access to all the information they need and it’s always up to date, because all the data is held in a centralised place. Managing all your contacts in a single system again saves on needless administration. Such a system also enables you to ‘up-sell’ more items as part of the entire events package – from providing a tour for VIP guests to a special exhibition through to suggesting a cocktail and canapés reception.

Equally, using technology that can be accessed anywhere means that it is ideal for museum groups or indeed those that are looking to share resources to save money. If a solution is managed in the cloud, there is also reduced burden on the IT department, resulting in year on year cost reductions.

Visible contribution

So if you want to generate additional funds for your museum or gallery then start to consider how you can begin to really capitalise on your unique venue’s assets. With the right technology and staff you can more proactively promote your range of facilities resulting in huge dividends that will make a visible and considerable contribution to your annual budget as well as showcasing your venue to future new visitors.


By Duncan Hilliard, Senior Systems Specialist at venue & event management technology provider, Priava

For more information on cloud-based venue management solutions visit: www.priava.com

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