COVID-19: why wedding venues should be offering virtual tours, and how best to do them

There have been some brilliant, thought-provoking conversations happening over on our UK Wedding Venues Slack Group. One of the most popular topics people have asked for advice on is virtual tours. Hamish Shephard, Founder of Bridebook & Hedsor House created an educational video on why all venues should be offering virtual tours through the coronavirus pandemic, and how best to create them – here’s a summary of his advice. 

Why are we encouraging virtual tours?

Over the last few years here at Hedsor House, we have been doing some amazing things with video tours and have seen great success. To give you an idea of how well they work for us at Hedsor, over the last 10 days we have booked 3 new weddings for 2021 using virtual tours

Video tours are going to become extremely important for your venue over the coming months, as couples are not going to be able to come to your venue for showrounds. The absolute best way to get ourselves out of the sticky situation we are all in, with not being able to host weddings in the immediate future, is to keep bringing in new business for next year and beyond. You do not want to get through this storm, and then find you have to weather another one due to an empty calendar with no new revenue!

Our experience with virtual tours, and why we love them!

A lot of people think virtual tours will not be an effective sales tool, and that you need to be IN the venue to get a proper feel for it. Believe it or not, I used to be one of these people! Due to our incredibly busy summers at Hedsor, a couple of years ago the team came up with an idea (that I thought was bad at first – they soon proved me wrong) to put a touch screen TV in one of Hedsor’s outbuildings, to host virtual tours.

So, if a couple wants to do a show round when we have an event in the main house, they are still able to enjoy the drive up to the house and are then taken down the hill to a gorgeous room in our old stable block, where they are taken through a virtual show round. We have sold A LOT of weddings this way. We also have many couples from other countries wanting to book with us, so we do a Zoom screen share and take them through the same virtual tour. 

Why do virtual tours work so well?

A lot of people think that show rounds are the couple coming to look at the fabric of the building, just to see what it looks like. However, our Bridebook data consistently shows that the number one deciding factor when booking a venue is the team. The couple want to know that you are genuinely nice people, that they can trust you and have confidence you are there to give them the greatest day of their lives. 

This is where being able to talk someone through your venue tour with genuine enthusiasm and excitement, really helps the couple to have confidence in you – even if they can’t physically come to your venue and meet you. 

Since we are in lock-down, perhaps it’s easier than ever to be doing virtual show rounds – if you have a quiet day you could be doing them back to back! All you need is your laptop / phone. The tours can be as long or short as you and the couple want them to be. There also isn’t that intensity when someone doesn’t turn up – I know this is often the bane of our lives in the industry! Luckily, should this happen on a virtual tour, you can jump straight back into other work at home. Though I am sure this won’t be the case – I hope!

What are the best ways to create a virtual tour?

There are a few different ways you can create a virtual tour, depending on budget, whether you have access to your venue and of course, how confident you are with technology! 

  • The absolute best way is to offer a 360 virtual tour – Matterport is a great software for this, however will cost you £1000 or more and takes some time. Your venue will need dressing, and this likely be possible to do right now if you haven’t done it already. 
  • The next best option, is to do a live ‘facetime’ tour when you’re on a video call with a couple. You’ll only be able to do this in the short term if you are based at your venue. 
    • You walking round the venue, being able to talk into the camera and show the best bits of each room off is a much more natural interaction. This may take a little longer, but will be much more personal. 
    • Do make sure you have a good internet connection if you’re doing this live with a couple! 
  • Simply walking round the venue with an iPhone is great too, especially if you have access to a recent model. If you have an iPhone 11, use the ‘wide angle’ lens, and take a video tour from your point of view!
    • If you can get someone to be your cameraman and follow you on the tour and record this is great, as it will be much more interactive than just a voiceover
    • It doesn’t have to be perfect! You can retake clips if you need to
    • You can edit this on a free software like iMovie for example, which is incredibly simple to use and knit multiple videos together into one.
    • Put some music over the time / speed up boring bits if you need to (e.g. walking up lots of stairs!)
  • The most basic option for creating a virtual tour is simply putting a slideshow of photos together. You can do this on Powerpoint, or iMovie again, Google Slides etc.
    • Just drag and drop photos!
    • Do this in your ‘tour order’ – you’re doing to be talking to them through these photos, so start outside the front door and work your way through your usual tour.
    • You can either record your slideshow as a video and then add a voiceover of you talking them through it
    • If the couple want to do it live on a video call, you can send them the slideshow / share your screen and take them through the virtual tour

Recommended next steps

  • Record one of these videos, in the manner that most suits you. Whether it’s walking round your venue with your phone, or a photo slideshow, it will be hugely impactful in securing new business during these strange times
  • Upload this onto your Bridebook profile as a video, and let us know. We will do our best to promote it to our couples and support you as much as we can.
  • When new couples enquire and interact with your venue over the coming weeks (even if they have only requested a brochure), ensure you ask if they have 15 minutes or less in the next few days, and let them know you’d love to take them through a virtual tour.

Virtual tours really do work and you WILL be able to create a fantastic one. Whilst we are all stuck at home, let’s step outside the box, get creative and secure some amazing sales for 2021 and beyond! Video tours may be something you actually want to keep doing after lock-down is over, we use it very frequently at Hedsor and get lots of bookings as a direct result. Millennials are our new target audience, and they want instant access to everything – whether it’s real estate, fashion…and wedding venue tours!

Virtual tours give couples not only a taste of your venue, but of you and your team’s sparkling personalities. Hopefully this has provided inspiration and helps, we very much look forward to seeing all your wonderful videos. Have a watch of the video I made 8 years ago for Hedsor, using iMovie, here! I have also linked to some great video examples below. GOOD LUCK!

360 videos: 

Guided tours:

Slideshow videos:

We hope this advice has provided you with the confidence you need to create your own virtual tour. If you have any questions for the Bridebook team, please feel free to message us on the UK Wedding Venue Slack group. Have a browse through our other educational articles created to support wedding venues during the pandemic, for example how best to handle postponements. Stay strong everyone – we will get through this together!