Outdoor weddings

Outdoor Weddings

The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Outdoor Weddings Are Here To Stay – The Government announce a permanent extension to licensed wedding venues.

After a robust campaign by members of the wedding industry, interfaith community and wider public, the Government have announced that outdoor civil weddings and partnerships at licensed venues will be made permanently legal in England and Wales from April 2022.  

This legislation will be a permanent extension to the temporary measures that were introduced in 2021 to enable couples to safely marry outdoors during the pandemic.

A government consultation found that 96% of respondents backed this permanent change.  93% also supported extending it to religious ceremonies.*  This change currently only applies to civil ceremonies and partnerships however further reforms to religious ceremonies are planned due to overwhelming support from all major faith groups.  

This is exciting news for the wedding and events industry and opens the door for couples to plan their dream outdoor summer wedding.

Outdoor weddings

What does this mean for couples?

Couples are often looking for more meaningful ways to personalise their wedding and this change will give them greater choice and freedom to create a more authentic ceremony.  The legislation will allow couples the ability to exchange their vows in the open air surrounded by nature.  They must still book an approved venue but the venue licence will be extended to include all outdoor areas.  A woodland glade, a lakeside jetty, on a roof garden or a clifftop field overlooking the sea.  So many more possibilities!     

Before visiting wedding venues, couples should think about whether they want an indoor or outdoor ceremony.  If an outdoor ceremony is attractive then examine what outdoor space the venue can offer and whether it is suitable for the ceremony.  Consider seating space and accessibility as well as the aesthetic qualities of the site.  If the weather forecast is poor then what alternative ceremony venues are available?  Are they equal to the outdoor setting?  Could a temporary structure such as a tipi or marquee be erected to provide shelter and enable the ceremony to continue outdoors?  

The ceremony will still be required to be officiated by a Registrar and couples must adhere to the legal preliminaries including giving notice of their marriage or civil partnership and providing identification documents.  The ceremony must also include specific vows and be free of any religious influence.     

Outdoor Weddings

What does this mean for wedding venues?

Lots of calls from couples who have already booked the venue and are now thinking of changing their plans from indoor ceremony to outdoor ceremony!  

The venue will still be required to have a licence to conduct civil weddings and partnerships on their premises but the licence will no longer be restricted to indoor spaces.  The licence will be extended to include all outdoor spaces provided that the areas are ‘seemly and dignified’*.   This will be determined by an assessment undertaken by a Registrar from the Local Authority.  ‘Ceremonies will now be able to take place fully outdoors or under a partially covered structure.’*   

All venues should consider what outdoor spaces they can offer for wedding ceremonies.  The more outdoor wedding options venues can offer their couples the more value they add.  Venues that can offer a larger variety of outdoor spaces with multiple appeal will stand-out.  Larger estates may have endless options from formal gardens to more bohemian wild woodlands but urban venues can also compete with courtyard gardens and rooftop vistas.  

Think about the aesthetic qualities of the space you are offering.  What is the appeal to couples wishing to marry outside? Does it offer the romance of a showstopping view, a unique or unusual setting or breath-taking beauty.  Venues should consider investing equal time and money into developing their outdoor areas as they do their indoor areas.   

As well as creating the wow-factor, also ensure your outdoor spaces are accessible and suitable for ceremonies.  How many guests can you safely and comfortably accommodate in the outside space?  How will guests get to the space?  Does the space offer privacy or is it overlooked?  Will you need to pacify any neighbours fearful of outdoor weddings?  Are your gardeners worried about the flowerbeds?  Will you need to leave a field fallow to enable alternative usage?    Remember that requirements for public access will also remain.    

Outdoor weddings

What does this mean for Registrars?

Please bear with your local Registrars.  No doubt they are still learning about what the change in the law means and how best they can support venues and couples.  Speaking to my local Registrar this week, they had only found about this change when we did and are catching up on the ramifications themselves.  If you are planning to offer outdoor spaces alongside your approved indoor venues, please do inform your Local Authority well in advance.  If you are a couple planning an outdoor civil marriage or partnership ceremony then also let your registrar know as soon as possible.  They may need to come and visit the site to ensure it is suitable.  They will also likely be inundated with similar requests from couples and venues so be prepared to wait for a response.  

Outdoor Weddings
Robin Goodlad Photography / Hope Farm Dorset

Future Wedding Law Reform.

This change in law is also encouraging news ahead of the publication of the Law Commission’s report into the proposed reform of the Marriage Act.   A final report is expected in July and is intended to provide recommendations for a ‘reformed law of weddings that will allow couples greater choice within a simple, fair and consistent legal structure.’**  Principally we hope that the reform will remove any unnecessary regulation and increase choice for couples.  Consideration is being made to the legal preliminaries required before the wedding, removing the restrictions on where a wedding can take place, who can solemnize a marriage, if specific vows are required and how marriages are registered.  

The anticipation is that a reform will offer couples more freedom and inclusivity than ever before to choose how and where they conduct their marriage or partnership ceremonies:

  • Instead of venues being licensed, an officiate could be registered with the Local Authority.  This could be a humanist or independent celebrant, church minister or civil servant who can meet certain stipulations.  A similar officiate system is already in place in Australia and New Zealand.  
  • Couples could be able to choose a meaningful place to conduct their ceremony rather than an approved venue.  This could be anywhere; at home, on a beach or in a church.  
  • Couples could be able to decide a style of ceremony that reflects them and not the state or church and choose authentic words, personal to them.  
  • Couples could also have the opportunity to combine a secular ceremony with a religious ritual.  This would be an important and inclusive change in our multi-faith society.  Families become joined through marriage which can often create complications if each family has a different faith or belief.  
  • This reform may also help make weddings more affordable as couples are saved the cost of hiring an approved venue.  

The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 will come into force on 6thApril 2022.  

For more information about outdoor weddings visit:

*https://www.gov.uk/government/news/outdoor-civil-weddings-and-civil-partnerships-made-permanent

** https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/weddings/

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Venue Design

Biophilic Venue Design

How to connect your venue with nature.

Biophilia is a term used to describe our instinctive human attraction to the living world and has recently become an important aspect in venue design.  The term was first used by Erich Fromm in the 1960s to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.  In his book Biophilia (1984), American biologist Professor E. O. Wilson hypothesized that humans possess ‘an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life’.  ‘Because the living environment is what really sustains us’.  

Since the industrial revolution and mass migration to urban centres, our connection with nature has gradually diminished.  We travel to work underground; to artificially lit, grey, airless, windowless boxes; to spend hours staring at a screen; in towns and cities where the value of green has become outweighed by the value of real estate.  This man-made existence fights against our biophilic tendencies rooted in our human biology and could explain why so many seek to escape their urban lives for the sanctuary of the countryside or coast.   Work related stress and anxiety is the leading cause for ill-health and sickness absence in Britain.  Stress, depression and anxiety accounted for 17.9 million lost working days in 2019/20.  

Venue Design

Our need to embrace nature and the associated benefits have been discussed widely.  In 2021, a report by the Mental Health Foundation surmised that ‘Our relationship with nature – how much we notice, think about and appreciate our natural surroundings – is a critical factor in supporting good mental health and preventing distress’..

There have been numerous studies into the positive impact that having close contact with nature can have on our physical and mental health, wellbeing and performance.   Reduced stress and anxiety, increased happiness, relief from mental tiredness and improvement to our focus and attention span.  A relaxing walk in the woods, an invigorating run in the park or a refreshing swim in the sea can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart rate. Research by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in 2009 concluded that ‘an environment devoid of Nature may act as a discord’ (ie. Have a negative effect).  

Venue Design

But for those of us who do not have regular access to large green or blue spaces, how do we connect with nature?  

Throughout human history we have had a predisposition to nature; bringing plants into our homes, displaying landscape paintings and drawings of the natural world and coveting ownership of green spaces.  Artists and designers have drawn on nature for inspiration for many thousands of years and there have been widespread campaigns since the nineteenth century for the need for greenspaces in urban landscapes for health reasons.  

As the biophilic design movement has gathered momentum architects around the world have developed structures and interiors incorporating natural elements that bring their inhabitants closer to nature in their life and work.  Natural lighting and ventilation, living walls, roof gardens and organic materials often feature in modern architectural design.  The simple inclusion of a garden and windows in a venue design scheme can enable inhabitants to access daylight, helping our circadian rhythms to function.  Consideration of airflow and temperature and incorporating water and plant life into interior design can all positively influence feelings of comfort and relaxation whilst reducing stress and fatigue, promoting healing and encouraging focus, creativity and concentration.  

If you lack the budget for a ‘Grand Designs’ abode, introducing pot plants to your living and working spaces, switching off artificial lights and enjoying the natural light from windows, incorporate features such as natural wood and organic fibres and stepping outside everyday can all help you achieve a happier existence.  Nature is everywhere, even in concrete jungles!  

With wellbeing high on everyone’s agenda after the last two years, how do we incorporate Biophilia to hospitality and events?  

Biophilic Weddings and Events

For many couples an outdoor wedding is their dream.  A warm Summer’s day, within a verdant garden surrounded by fragrant flowers; a woodland setting immersed in bird song and tree creatures; or on a beach, sand between your toes, listening to the waves lapping the shore.  A multi-sensory experience of natural views, scents, textures and sounds.  

Venues that can offer a direct connection to nature are in high demand.  Draw attention to your garden or woodland ceremony spaces, natural vistas, proximity to water and any near-by wildlife.  

Urban Garden Venue

Indoor or more urban venues can also create a connection with nature using the natural textures of stone and wood in their interior venue design and furnishings combined with plenty of natural light, good air flow and thermal balance.  

Wildflowers and foliage, potted trees, rustic furniture, reclaimed wood, natural fabrics, fire and candlelight all add to indoor biophilic ambience.  

Wellbeing events are becoming more popular than ever.  Organisers want to create a successful event and will be looking for venues that ideally offer the benefits of outdoor spaces and connection with nature.  Outdoor yoga workshops, mindfulness retreats, and wellness festivals will actively incorporate aspects of biophilia to their programmes.  

Companies wanting to unite their workforce again after lockdown and homeworking are looking for inspiring venues and activities that will rejuvenate their team.  Outdoor pursuits that offer them the opportunity to bond in nature are highly coveted.

Biophilic Venue Design

Temporary canvas structures such as marquees, tipis and yurts all offer a biophilic advantage.  A portable venue design that can be erected in any outdoor space, offering direct contact with nature and the opportunity and freedom to create a totally immersive natural experience.  

Tipi Spaces hire ivory-white tipis and tents for weddings and events in the West Country.  Director Shane Martin says, “The idea for creating outdoor wedding venues was born out of our own love for outdoor adventures, gatherings and celebrations.  At home in the garden, at festivals or remote spots around the UK and further afield.  We have lots of happy memories of spending time with family and friends outdoors, playing music, telling stories and sharing a meal around a fire and beneath a starlit sky.  Uniting all these experiences has been the element of space in nature and freedom beyond the confines of indoors.” 

Wedding Venue

Permanent venues can also offer a deep connection with nature.  The Gillyflower at Elmore Court is a “future-rustic” dinner and dancing venue that has been designed with biophilic principles at its heart.  Walls made from Rammed Earth, timber sustainably sourced directly from their own woodlands, floor to ceiling windows that frame the countryside views and a meadow roof that blends the building with the surrounding nature.   

Wedding Venue
Rob Tarren

In-Spira are innovative company based in East Sussex specialising in the design and manufacture of garden rooms.  Their venue design is based on biophilic and organic principles that compliment the natural landscape.  Their original design is based on Fibonacci’s sequence which is used to describe certain shapes in nature such as shells, sunflowers and galaxies.  Their rooms are flexible and can be designed to make any shape or size to fit a specific purpose or location whether it is a home office or art studio, sleeping accommodation or meeting room.  The curved walls wrap around you creating a cocoon and providing a feeling of security.  The timber interior and exterior blend into the natural environment providing a visual, tactile and olfactory connection with nature.  The room captures natural light from the roof-light above and the windows framing the views outside. Chief designer, Brian Martin: “Biophilic design allows us to create working and studio spaces that take cues from nature, natural forms and environments and instil these qualities in the room itself promoting wellbeing on a number of metrics and leading to better focus and creativity”. 

Garden Venue

Biophilic Accommodation.

Camping and glamping accommodation come in all shapes and sizes offering guests the opportunity to connect with nature and detach from the artificial world.  There have been some extraordinary and inspired biophilic design developments in the past few years from hanging tree pods to floating cabins and earth burrows.  

Secret Water at Hippersons Boatyard in Suffolk are the first luxury floating glamping pods in the UK offering a unique biophilic experience.  They provide direct access to the Southern Broads for you to immerse yourself in river-life.  

Biophilic Glamping

The Glamping Burrows at The Quiet Site in the Lake District are large underground living spaces with views over the Ullswater Valley.  Energy efficient, secure and virtually invisible, they offer true sustainable accommodation for the most discerning eco-hobbits.  

Biophilic Accommodation

The Tree Tent at Pennard Hill Farm in Somerset is a suspended spherical structure strung between two trees overlooking the Mendip Hills, enabling you to truly get amongst the birds in this beautiful woodland setting.

Biophilic

Biophilia and Sustainability

The best thing about Biophilia trend is that it goes hand-in-hand with sustainability.  By adding more nature to our lives, we reduce our reliance on our man-made lifestyle.  By embracing the natural world and enabling more human connection with nature we are creating opportunities for people to be inspired to help preserve the natural world whilst supporting their own wellbeing.  As E.O Wilson proclaimed, ‘Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction’.

For more helpful ideas on how you can transform your venue, please do get in touch.

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Hope Farm Dorset Wedding Venue

Venue Marketing: How to create a venue website that works well.

Recently I have been helping a wedding venue identify opportunities to develop their business, increase bookings and increase their revenue.  One of the areas for improvement we identified was their venue website.  

creating a venue website

Venue Marketing in the Digital Age.

I started my career when digital media was still in its infancy and websites, online listings and social media barely existed.  

Nowadays, for most of us, life without a digital presence is unimaginable.  Our marketing purpose has always been to create engagement and build relationships but social media and web marketing have revolutionised our marketing strategy and made reaching and engaging with a distant audience much more achievable and straightforward.

For good or bad, the immediacy and visual nature of the digital age means that we need to regularly maintain our presence and appeal.  This means refreshing your online content regularly and listening to and understanding your audience to be able to position yourself and enable them to find you. 

Your social media activity acts as a conduit to your website.  Your website acts as a sales channel.  Your social media is the street crier voicing encouragement for passers-by to visit your website.  Your website is your digital shop front virtually displaying your venue and enticing those prospective clients to visit you and make a booking.  The two work together.  You can spend hours every day uploading engaging content to your Instagram account but if your website is out-of-date then it could be thwarting all your efforts.  

creating a venue website

So what elements do you need to incorporate to create a venue website that works well?  

1. Research and Development

In a busy marketplace, creating a venue website that works well and helps you stand-out from the crowd is a must.  It pays to do your research and have a clear strategy.  Review your competitors’ websites.  Which one is your favourite?  Why?  Be very clear on who your audience is, who you are aiming to reach and how your want them to perceive your venue.  What sets you apart from other local wedding venues?  What is your identity?  Do you have a distinctive brand?  How will you incorporate this into your website?  What functions do you want your website to perform?  Is it going to be a simple brochure style website or would you like visitors to have access to an up-to-date availability calendar?  Set a budget.  As with many things, you pay for what you get.  An off-the-shelf web template is fine and a more affordable option.  There are so many different styles available now that you will find one to suit you and your venue.  Beware of any limitations and consider the longevity.  A bespoke website from an experienced and talented web designer offers the most flexibility both in design and functionality.  It can also sometimes be more cost effective if it is designed with the capacity to adapt as your business develops.  It also enables you to stay focused on the business of running your venue and not web designing!  

2. Visual Content

A picture is worth a thousand words.  We process visual information far more quickly and easily than text information.  This means that when your audience visit your website they are looking for images that will give them the information they need to make an informed decision.  They want to see key elements of your venue and be able to picture themselves marrying there.  Your pictures need to appeal to your ideal audience.  They need to be up-to-date and of high quality.  It pays to be on good terms with your couples and their photographers.  Ask them for permission to share their photographs on your website and social media.  Most will be very happy to accommodate in return for a mention and credit.  Tell a story with your photographs. Consider adding video content.  Ask your couples to share their wedding film.  Their videographer may even provide you with edited highlights.  A virtual tour is also a great investment particularly for venues that regularly attract couples from further afield and may not be able to easily visit your venue in person.          

create a venue website

3. Text Content

Sadly these days, many of us are time poor and wedding planning is yet another time thief.  Make it as quick and easy as possible for your audience to gather information about your venue.  Text that is quick to scan and easy to digest is a winner.  Speak to your audience.  What tone will you use?  Relaxed and familiar or formal and professional.  Use short paragraphs that give specific, essential information such as location, capacity, facilities and costs.  Quick bullet points listing what’s included in the venue hire.  Don’t go into too much detail.  Save longer explanations for your brochure.  

4. Simplicity

Keep your website simple.  Your audience is at the start of their relationship with you.  They don’t want to be overwhelmed by too much information.  Remember your website is the introduction and the tool that your audience is using to decide whether to book a viewing.  Remember couples look at hundreds of venues online but only choose a few to visit.  The website should serve to help your clients make a choice and choose you!

create a venue website

5. Emotive Experience

How do you want visitors to feel as they navigate your website?  Confident in you as venue operators?  Awed by your appearance and facilities?  Inspired by the options available?  Curious to visit and find out more?  Determined to book?  

6. Strategic Direction

Your website should have a strategy.  Your ideal client has found your homepage.  Now what?  Your website should take visitors on a journey.  You are the guide.  What path do you want them to follow?  What do you want them to do next?  Be explicit.  Your audience is not stupid but they do need you to be clear to the point of obvious.  They are busy people and don’t want to spend precious time decoding your website.  Don’t hide methods for them to contact you.  Actively encourage them to call or email you.  Make it easy for them to book a site visit.  Share availability calendars.        

SEO
How I can help your venue.

7. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

With over 1 billion websites in the World you would be remiss to spend money investing in a shiny, new, brilliant website and not giving any consideration to SEO.  The intricacies and subtleties of SEO are unending but having a basic understanding of how SEO affects your web presence and a few tools to enable your audience to find your website are invaluable.    If I am speaking a foreign language then there are plenty of resources available providing more information and training as well as numerous SEO experts who can help you get to page one of Google.  

If you need further help to create a venue website that works well or any other aspect of marketing or venue management then please do get in touch.  I offer a free, no obligation, 30-minute introductory call. To find out more about how I can help your venue please click here.   

*Featured image courtesy of Laura Dean Photography and Hope Farm Dorset

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venue website

The future of UK weddings and events.

The past 18 months have been unprecedented and the hardest any of us working in the wedding and events industry has ever known. I am proud of our perseverance and resilience to adapt, finding new ways to operate under the restrictions, keeping our staff and customers safe and ensuring a return to some normality. It has been heartwarming to see venues re-open and witness the return of full size weddings and events as our industry slowly bounces back. We are an industry used to evolution and change. We are not adverse to trying new things. In fact we embrace innovation and novelty, always looking for the next unique experience and opportunity. New trends come and go, advances are made in technology and with them the needs of our customers. As we continue to adjust to life with Covid and make plans for the future with more certainty, what does the landscape look like for weddings and events?

future of weddings and events

Virtual Technology

Before lockdown #1, I had never heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams.  I had a familiarity with Skype and Facetime from my years living overseas and welcomed then, as I do now, the opportunities it created to maintain face-to-face contact with people from a distance.  Virtual meetings are now the norm and, although not necessarily liked by all, they have enabled venues to maintain client contact and engagement throughout lockdown.  Many of us are raring to embrace (literally!) the opportunity to meet in person again but for many, time poor or unable to travel easily, this opportunity to meet face-to-face remotely will continue to be invaluable. 

Many venues have already been capitalising on virtual-tour technology and this has been crucial in enabling sales activity to continue throughout lockdown.  This will also continue to be a valuable sales and marketing tool, enabling venues to be accessed by customers based overseas or further afield.  Make sure your tours are up-to-date and show your venues at their very best with crisp clear imagery.  

virtual weddings and events

I have also been impressed by the technology available for creating virtual events.  Venues, production companies and entertainment suppliers have collaborated to create some innovative virtual event platforms enabling all manner of events including exhibitions, conferences and parties to be successfully transferred into the virtual arena.  Venues have been recreated digitally to create an immersive experience without guests having to leave their house.  Food and drink can be couriered to your home so that you can enjoy a live culinary experience, guests can network with each other remotely in chat-rooms, guests can participate in live presentations from 1000s of miles away and watch live entertainment from their sofa.  Whilst it is not cheap, this technology negates the problem of managing social distancing and enables a much larger guest list and participation.  This technology also has the capacity to be used to create hybrid events allowing guests the choice to attend in-person or remotely but still participate fully.  Corporate events organisers will be keen to continue to access this technology to reach overseas customers and associates, particularly whilst travel remains limited.  Now is the time for venues to reach out to their technical suppliers and continue to explore virtual event opportunities. 

As we become increasingly geographically spread out, the ability to unite people wherever they are is very powerful.  So many couples miss the opportunity to have overseas friends and family attend their marriage celebrations yet now we can livestream the day for all to see.  Venues with the technology and connectivity to enable this will be increasingly in demand as travel restrictions continue. 

streaming live weddings and events

Outdoor Spaces

For many, the ability to get outdoors for exercise, gardening, working or socialising has been a lifeline over the past year.  Outdoors is safer, less-restricted and confined, with more space to circulate and breathe fresh air.  The outdoor creates a feeling of wellbeing.  If your venue offers outdoor spaces, make sure you promote it as much as your indoor spaces.  Value and maintain your outdoor spaces as much as your indoor spaces.  Show clients how they can optimise their weddings and events with use of your outdoor spaces.  An outdoor wedding ceremony, a picnic or BBQ, garden games, alfresco music.  The great British weather will always require us to make a ‘Plan B’ but enabling people to take their event outside whenever they can will be worthwhile.

outdoor weddings and events
Venetia Norrington/ Tipi Spaces

Planning laws have been relaxed this year lengthening the usual 28-day period for temporary structures without planning permission to 56 days or longer in some circumstances (speak to your local council).  This has sent the demand for marquees and other temporary structures through the roof.  Not only do they enable hospitality venues to open under current restrictions in all weathers but they also enable smaller venues to increase their capacity.  A small country home with limited indoor capacity but a large garden can considerably increase their capacity and develop their share of the wedding market with the addition of a Summer marquee. 

Landowners are increasingly exploring ways to diversify and may not yet be prepared to convert a farm building into a wedding venue.  This is a great opportunity to put up a tent and test the market.  This also opens opportunities for venues to provide overnight accommodation in the form of glamping.  Or glamp-sites to offer a party venue for their glampers.  Speak to your local marquee suppliers about a collaboration or maybe it’s time to invest in your own marquee structure?

accommodation for weddings and events

Anticipated changes to the marriage laws are also likely to create more freedom for venues to utilise outdoor spaces for marriage ceremonies.  The Law Commission has proposed reforms to the current laws that will enable more flexibility for couples to marry how they wish without the constraints of a registered or licensed venue.  No date has been confirmed but the pandemic has certainly identified the need and increased public demand for this change.      

outdoor wedding ceremonies

Overseas Travel

Sadly we will have to wait a while longer before we are able to travel without restriction again.  This gives the UK wedding and event market an advantage.  An inability to plan overseas weddings or corporate events means that there will be an increased demand on the domestic market.  Many people have been working remotely and whilst for some this has worked well, I foresee a need for companies to bring their teams together to raise morale, restore mental wellbeing, team-building workshops, corporate away days and conferences.  Businesses will be looking for unique experiences for their clients and teams.  What experiences can your venue offer onsite or off-site nearby?  Orienteering, archery, sailing, survival challenge, treasure hunt, escape room, obstacle races etc.  Do you have the technological capability to facilitate conferences?  Screens, PA systems, projectors etc. 

With tropical beach weddings off the cards for now, couples not prepared to wait, will also be looking for unique and unusual UK wedding venues to fulfil their dreams.  How can you inspire a couple with wanderlust to book your venue?  An intrepid menu? A waterfront ceremony?  A yurt in the garden? Exotic entertainment?     

exotic wedding cocktails

Micro Weddings and Events

The economic consequences of the pandemic are also likely to have an impact on consumer spending around weddings and events.  There will continue to be a strong desire for people to meet and get married however it is likely that they may continue to embrace the smaller, more intimate nuptial event.  How can your venue continue to meet this demand for micro weddings and events?  Do you have a smaller space that you can offer to more intimate gatherings which would otherwise be lost in a vast barn or hall?  Couples are also recognising that micro weddings create an opportunity for more extravagant wedding plans.  Instead of limiting their spend to essentials they can incorporate more luxurious styling elements, expand their Wedding Breakfast menu, upgrade their beverage choice etc.  What ways can you enable your couples to enhance their wedding at your venue?      

micro weddings and events
Venetia Norrington / Tipi Spaces

Digital Agility

The biggest outcome of the pandemic is the realisation that we are living in a digital world.  We still need personal interaction from time-to-time but technology has created the convenience of being able to take action remotely.  Venues must make sure that they are up-to-date with their digital communication methods to access their remote audience.   Up-to-date websites and communication methods, digital booking processes, a strong social media presence and continued investment in digital technology is required if you are to continue to find an audience in an ever expanding and advancing wedding and events market. 

digital communication

Our world is constantly changing and our customers ever evolving.  Being able to adapt, change, pivot and flex is crucial if we are to keep up with changing consumer demands.  Venues must continue to work with their customers, listen to their needs, compromise where possible and adapt when necessary.  The customer is king and only by acknowledging this will we truly be able to ensure we give them the best experience.

More information about how I can help your venue to adapt in this changing landscape can be found here.

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Outdoor Events

Outdoor Events: Business development opportunities for landowners

If you are fortunate to sit on a significant piece of land then the opportunities for outdoor events are boundless but before you start planning your very own Glastonbury Festival there are a few considerations you must make.

As with any new business venture it pays to do your homework and make a PLAN!  Planning a public event is definitely not for the feint-hearted but it is a lot of fun and the euphoria at the end of a successful event is hard to beat.  Do not underestimate the amount of work that goes into planning any size of event.  Administration, sales, marketing, coordination, operations, security, health and safety, legal liability, infrastructure etc.  The larger the event the bigger the workload but smaller outdoor events do still require plenty of planning, particularly if you have not hosted a public event before.  How much involvement will you make?  Do you have the capacity to take on an event yourself or should you consider hiring a professional event organiser?  Should you consider simply renting your land to an event organiser?   

Outdoor events

1. Choose your business model.

Before you start you need decide on your business model.  Renting your land to an events organiser is certainly the most simple route and will be preferable if you are already very busy and are just looking for a straightforward income supplement.  The income you achieve from renting your land for outdoor events will be determined by a number of factors.  The size and type of event, the attractiveness of your event site, the location, what existing facilities you can offer and the competition.  Before you enter into any discussion with an event organiser, decide how much you need to derive from each event to make it worth your while.  Speak to other local landowners about their experience and find out their hire rate.  You will still carry some liability for public safety but essentially you are simply the host and the event organiser is responsible for everything else. Agree a hire fee for the use of your land and consider adding a refundable damage deposit.

If you are hosting and organising the event yourself then you may achieve a better income; however, with this comes increased investment in both time and money.  It also brings increased risk.  Outdoor events are notoriously high risk.  The British weather is increasingly unpredictable and it can often take several years for new events to turn a significant profit.  

You may want to consider profit share with the event organiser though this partnership also carries similar risks.  

If you are entering into a contract with a third party, find out as much as you can about the event organiser beforehand.  As the landowner you still carry liability and duty of care over members of the public visiting your land.  It is also your name attached to the property and your reputation as a future events holder that you need to protect.   Who are they?  What experience do they have?  Where have they worked previously?  Do they have all the correct licences, insurances, policies etc?  Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference from another landowner.  If you are already in possession of a Premises Licence then it may also be wise to ask the event organiser to make their own licensing arrangements.  You do not want your future license jeopardised by the activities of another event organiser.     

Before entering into any formal arrangement, I strongly advise seeking legal advice and asking a lawyer to help you to draw up a Licence To Occupy.  This is a contract for an events organiser to use your land for a set period and purpose under specific terms and conditions.  Make sure your contract defines limits of liability and obligations of responsibility relating to health and safety.  It should also specify required insurances, indemnities and recovery of costs in case anything goes wrong.   

Outdoor events

2. Business interruption

Outdoor events are seasonal; spring, summer, early autumn and Christmas.  Will the event interrupt any other business activities such as weddings or holiday letting?  Will your other business activities have an impact on the success of the event?  

Are you farming the land?  How long can you feasibly set-aside land?  No-one wants to be dancing in cow-pats or sitting on stubble!  A freshly mown, soft, grassy, dry meadow is ideal! 

How can you partition your land or premises to ensure that one activity does not infringe upon the other?  How can they operate in tandem?  Can you temporarily cease one activity to allow for another?  Do you have the acreage to isolate activities from one another?  Consider health and safety as well as simply the enjoyment of visitors and guests.

3. Field fit for a festival.

Assess the suitability of your land.  Does it have a steep gradient?  Though hilltops can supply amazing vistas, they are not always ideal for building temporary structures. What happens when it rains?  Does the field turn into a lake or do you have good drainage?  What is going on overhead?  Trees and overhead power lines are not helpful for large temporary structures.  Likewise, underground utilities need to be avoided.  A plan of your land showing the location of the event site in relation to power lines, trees and any water pipes is vital.  

What existing infrastructure do you have in place for outdoor events?  Do you have access to mains water? If not, then you will likely need to hire additional fresh water.  It is also likely that you will require an additional temporary power supply from a generator.  You will need to speak to everyone involved and calculate their power requirements in advance to gauge the power supply needed.  You will also likely require a contractor to remove excess waste.  

If you are intending to promote a ‘green’ event then you will also need to look at ways to minimise waste, discouraging the use of plastic and looking at ways to separate materials for recycling or composting.  

Conduct a site risk assessment.  Are there any hazards that could impact the safety and wellbeing of visitors, event staff or suppliers?   

 

Outdoor events

4. Play to your event audience.

Who is your audience?  What’s their demographic?  Where are they coming from?  How long will they be on site at the event?  What will they need whilst they are on site? Answers to these questions will impact the facilities you will need to provide.  

If visitors are coming from far away then they may bring a car and will require parking.  Do you have good road access?  How close are you to public transport?  Can you offer adequate car parking space?  Can you offer on-site accommodation?  Camping, holiday cottages, glamping, hotel, bed and breakfast?  You will certainly need toilets and drinking water.  

You should also consider the type and timing of the event.  Daytime events are a different animal to night-time events.  Daytime events are more family friendly and attract a broader demographic.  They are less likely to attract the risk of alcohol related incidents.  Night-time events are less sociable for your close neighbours, particularly if there is loud music involved.  They also require additional infrastructure in terms of lighting after dark.  

Outdoor events

5. Outdoor events admin.

Organising public events requires plenty of administration in terms of licences, insurances, assessments, plans and preparation.  Make a detailed plan early on.  Include what the event is, what will be needed to organise the event successfully, who will be attending, who will be involved in delivering the event, when the event will take place and any other deadlines, where will the event take place including a detailed site plan, how you will deliver the event including any actions that you will need to take to prepare the site or your business for interruption and impact.  

It is a good idea to speak to your Local Authority early at least six months before the event to check what permissions and licences you will need.  Depending on the nature of your event, you may or may not need a Premises Licence.  A Premises Licence is required for all licensable activities including the sale of alcohol, live and recorded music, the performance of a play, film screenings and indoor sport.  

If the event is a one-off, you can apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN).  This allows you to temporarily conduct licenced activities for up to 499 people including the sale of alcohol.  Please note that you can only apply for a limited number of TENs each year.  More information can be found on your local council website.  

Other licences you may need, depending on the nature of the event, are an Entertainments Licence which allows you to play live or recorded music, Single Title Screening Licence which allows you to screen films and an alcohol licence for the sale of alcohol.  

Before granting licences, the Local Authority may want to know about your event.  What activities you have planned, what Emergency Planning is in place, your Health & Safety Plan, Risk Assessments and Insurances.

All events and activities involving members of the public will require some form of Public Liability Insurance.  If you are directly employing staff, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, you will also require Employers Liability Insurance.  

It is good practise to notify the emergency services of your event in advance and also provide Advance Notice to the public.  If you are intending to stage fireworks then you will also need to make an application to the Fire Service.

Event Admin

6. Event legacy.

If you are planning on holding successive events then make sure your neighbours enjoyed the first one!  How close is your nearest neighbour?  What impact will the event have on them?  Are there any covenants on your land which may preclude the Local Authority granting permission or give your neighbours cause to frustrate the event.  It is wise to keep an open dialogue with your neighbours from the beginning.  Listen to and acknowledge their concerns.  What measures can you put in place to mitigate their disturbance or inconvenience?  They have the right to object if the event is deemed a nuisance and this could cause the council to limit the scope of the event or even revoke your licence in the future.  

Who else could the event impact?  High traffic volume in an otherwise quiet part of the countryside can cause immense problems to all road users.  Plan how visitors will access the event site.  You certainly don’t want frustrated visitors arriving (or not arriving!!).  If narrow roads surround your property, can you put in place a one-way system to avoid congestion?  Is there good access to public transport?  Can you encourage people to walk or cycle to your event?

How will the event impact your land?  Is there risk of damage to good pasture or arable soil? What environmental impact could it have on waterways and other fragile ecosystems?           

Outdoor events

7. Tell them and they will come.

Last but not least, sales and marketing.  An event is nothing without a crowd of people, small or large.  Amidst all the planning and preparation you will also need to be talking about the amazing outdoor events you are planning.  How are people going to hear about your event?  How will they book tickets?  Having an event website is a good idea as it gives credibility and authenticity to your event.  It is also a great communication device for answering questions, providing information and helping people find you.  Social media is also very powerful at helping to tell the World about your event.  Choose a platform suitable for the audience you are trying to attract and focus your attention here.  Make sure you set aside the resources to manage sales and marketing, whether this is your time or anothers, it is fundamental to the success of the event.  

Equally if you have decided to go down the route of hiring your land to other event organisers don’t expect the phone to start ringing as soon as you have made a decision to do it.  You will need to go out to market and tell people.  Build a website, add photos of your event site, highlighting all its attractions and virtues.  Communicate what types of events are best suited for the site, give people an idea of the cost of hire, explain if there are any specific hire conditions eg. no fireworks.  Also, use social media targeting the audience you are looking to attract eg. festival organisers.  It is also worth reaching out directly to events organisers and inviting them to visit your site.  The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a great resource for finding festival and event organisers and also seeking advice and support.     

As you can see, there is plenty to consider when deciding to open up your land for events but there are certainly rewards. The first event is always the hardest but like most businesses, once you have a good system and process in place then it will become easier.  You will also encounter unexpected problems which are usually solved with a supportive team around you, calm, patience and good humour.  

I offer new and existing outdoor events venues business development advice and support. For more information about how I can help your events business, please click here.

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Venue Sales

Venue Sales: The art of telling a story.

One of my favourite parts of my job is the site visit or show round.  And I don’t mean the perfunctory operational aspects of venue sales: how your event will flow or the best places to put a flower arrangement, or where to put the band, or where to put the bar or any other functional event needs.  This stuff is important of course.  You want your client to be able to visualise their event in your venue and know how you and your venue operate. 

Venue sales is about engagement

More fun was seeing my clients arrive at the venue for the first time, their first impression, their sense of arrival, their experience of the location and the atmosphere.   Giving them a warm welcome before beginning my show! Venue sales is about engagement and how successfully you can immerse your client into the opportunity you are providing them.  Giving them an emotive experience is gold.  When they get a shiver down their spine as something sparks an emotion: joy, love, wonder, awe, intrigue; then you have them hooked. 

Enthuse your clients

I have always had a fascination for history (I even got a BA in it!) and I am very fortunate to have been able to combine my passion for the past with my passion for parties and events.  Having the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, imagine what their experience would have been like and hear stories of their lives.  These stories became a large part of my venue sales patter.  Reeling off names and dates, stories, anecdotes, mysteries and intrigue helped me enthuse my clients and compel them to fall in love with my venues as much as I did.  By taking the time to share my excitement and enthusiasm for the venue, telling the story, the history, how it came to be and perhaps sparking their imagination of how their event can become part of the story of the venue I would win my clients hearts and minds and bookings!

Venue Sales
The Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. Stunning venue and also the place where Queen Victoria was christened in 1819.

Express the uniqueness of your venue

Sadly we haven’t been able to do much face-to-face interaction lately and have had to find more remote ways to engage our clients and share the wonder of our venues virtually.  Our words are more important than ever for expressing the uniqueness of our venues.  Because no two venues are the same.  Each has a unique location, a singular view, an aspect that sets it apart from the rest, a history and an experience that nowhere else can provide.  Each has humanity: the people who built and designed it, the people who lived and worked there, the people who have partied and dined there and the people who poured their heart and soul into transforming it into a wedding and events venue.  Learn their stories and your venue ceases to become just a beautiful shell but a place with a past purpose and a future legacy.         

Venue Sales: Government House Sydney
The Dining Room at Government House Sydney. Place of many Vice Regal dinner parties and also a makeshift operating theatre following the attempted assassination of Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, in Sydney in 1867.

Every venue has a story

Even the most modern and industrial of buildings can tell a tale.  One of my favourite venues is Cockatoo Island.  It has a chequered history. Originally as a convict penitentiary for repeat offenders, then a quarry, a shipyard and finally a naval dockyard.  It is now one of the most important cultural sites in Sydney hosting the Biennale, art and music festivals and various Hollywood film crews.  It’s ugly, grubby, dilapidated, utilitarian and difficult to get to (you need a boat!) but it has an amazing $MILLION Sydney Harbour view and 100s of storys! 

Venue Sales: Cockatoo Island
Cockatoo Island, Sydney. Beautiful? Mm. Intriguing? Absolutely!

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a palace or a barn or a factory.  Everywhere has a story to tell. Find that unique quality that only your venue possesses, share your passion, tell your story, weave magic, intrigue and instil a little humour.  How you articulate that story can help you engage with your clients and leave a lasting memory in their hearts and minds.  

(And, as my husband often likes to say to me, never let the truth get in the way of a good story!)

If you need help weaving your stories into your sales patter or any other venue sales advice, then please do get in touch.  More information about my experience and expertise can be found here.

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Win Venue Bookings

Marketing for Venues: Building relationships with your customers.

Marketing for venues is about reaching out and showing up.  It is about making your venue visible to the people you want to see it.  It is also fundamentally about building relationships with your customers.   It’s about making your venue stand out from the competition and be memorable (for the right reasons!).  It’s about telling a story that creates an emotional response.  It’s about showing your audience that you understand them and their needs.  It’s about giving them an experience.  It is about persuading an audience that your venue is so desirable that they have to book it.

Marketing for venues
Stephanie Stevens Photography

Marketing for venues is about reaching out to your customers.

I moved to Devon from Australia nearly five years ago.  I didn’t know anyone in the small village we settled in.  I could have stayed not knowing anyone, remained invisible and made little effort to make any acquaintances.  But this would not have fulfilled me or helped my family settle into our new home.  For my sake and theirs, I knew I would have to make the effort to make some friends, so I set about finding ways to meet people and introduce myself.  Gradually I got to know a few people, talked to them, listened to them, found some likeminded individuals and we became friends.  I have spent lots of time with these people over the past five years and now count them as some of my best friends.  They know me, I know them, we hang out and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a transformational relationship.  Each fundamentally benefitting from the other.

I have told this story to demonstrate how by reaching out and making your venue visible (marketing) you can form relationships with people.  Not everybody you reach out to will become your friends (customers) but unless you make some effort, you won’t find those worthwhile relationships.  If you simply sit and wait for the phone to ring, chances are it won’t.  If your ideal customers don’t know your venue exists then how will they find it?  You need to go out into the world and introduce your venue.    Once you find those ideal customers then you need to maintain the relationship.  Don’t just turn up once and expect a call back.  You need to keep showing-up regularly and consistently to make a lasting impression.  Then the party invitations arrive and you know you’ve made it into the inner circle! 

Marketing for venues
Stephanie Stevens Photography

Marketing for venues requires forming transformational relationships.

In business, relationships can be purely transactional.  I need something, you’ve got something, you’re willing to sell it to me for a price, I am willing to buy it at that price, I pay you, you give me, we each go our separate ways, happy that we each got what we wanted from the relationship (eg. Tesco).

However, venue sales relationships can be a lot more complex.  Understanding your ideal customer; what they want, what they need, who they are, where they come from, what they like, what they dislike; helps you develop a stronger relationship with them and ultimately wins you their business.  Many business transactions are made on trust.  How do you build trust?  You show up regularly and on time, you deliver consistently and to a high standard, you are responsive and flexible.  You build a transformational relationship which ultimately becomes much deeper than the basic transaction (eg. Apple).  Your customers are convinced that by booking your venue their wedding is going to be the best wedding ever! 

Methods of marketing.

The world of marketing has changed massively in the last twenty years.  When I started in my career, the world wide web was still in its infancy.  We were using email but a lot of business was still done over the phone and by snail mail.  Businesses were beginning to recognise the importance of websites but social media was unheard of.  Most of our advertising was in print.  We invested much more heavily in PR, networking, exhibitions, word of mouth and brazen sales calls.  My clients knew little about me personally but trusted my business services based on my reputation and consistency.    

Now in a digital era of social media, reality TV, blogging, vlogging influencers, our potential reach is infinite and affordable.  You don’t need a multi-million pound marketing budget to gain traction.  Marketing for venues can be highly effective with a basic understanding of social media platforms and website optimisation. 

The fundamentals of marketing for venues hasn’t changed.  It’s still about reaching your ideal customer, developing a relationship and persuading them to buy from you.  It’s just been made a lot easier thanks to complex algorithms that help you target more accurately the people you want to meet.  You still need to show-up consistently and frequently but it is now much quicker to find your ideal customer.  No more blanket wedding magazine advertising in the hope of finding that perfect customer.  You can hone your venue marketing strategy to target the demographic who you know your venue will appeal to. 

Online content and social media give venues the opportunity to get in front of their ideal customer and build relationships even if they’re in another part of the world.  You can show your customers that you are like-minded, you understand them, you can meet their needs, you will exceed their expectations and that you are trustworthy.   Just keep showing up! 

marketing for venues

I have over twenty years’ experience managing venues in London and Sydney and have transformed venues from good to great.    If you need help reaching your ideal customers, maximising sales opportunities, increasing profitability, establishing an effective team or streamlining your venue operations then I would love to hear from you.  My vision is to use my expertise to support you to success. If you would like to find out more about how I can help with your marketing, or any other aspect of your venue business, then please follow this link for further information

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flexibility

Clients need flexibility in 2021!

Bridelux Symposium

Learning from the Bridelux Symposium – 27th – 28th January 2021.

Last week some of the great and the good from the wonderful world of weddings came together virtually for the Bridelux Symposium. Two days of animated discussion about what, how, where, who and when weddings will happen in 2021 and beyond. Colleagues from across the industry shared their experiences and insights, not just from the UK but from across Europe and the US. Covid travel restrictions may have made the rest of the World seem very far away but I was reminded last week how uniquely close we are as a community with a solidarity built on mutual respect and shared experience. The outlook was overwhelmingly positive and optimistic which I took great heart in. I took away a lot but what I heard most was that clients need flexibility! I thought I would share a rundown of my biggest takeaways from the event:

Weddings and events will return.

The world is never going to be the same but weddings and events will return.  They are usually the first thing to recover after a crisis and when it comes, the bounce back will happen quickly so be prepared. 

Upton Barn
Nova Wedding Photography

Look and plan ahead.

Use this time now to look ahead beyond 2021.  How are you going to handle the inevitable mass influx of weddings when the market opens up again?  How will your organisation look?  Will you need to re-structure to meet demand?  Can you sustain remote working?  What mechanisms do you need to maintain close communications within your team, with suppliers and clients?

Remain visible. 

Let everyone know you are still here and ready for business.  You may not be able to afford the same marketing budget as before so this will mean being more creative in how you reach out. Collaborate with others, use social media platforms, stay active on your website, share imagery from past weddings and seek editorial opportunities with other online and print publications.  Are you able to facilitate virtual tours of your venue?    

Champagne
Nova Wedding Photography

Effective communication.

The continued uncertainty is a big challenge for all of us so keep in close communication with all your clients and suppliers.  Keep them up-to-date with any changes to the Government guidelines.  Stay agile, ready for change at a moments notice.   By providing empathy, flexibility, transparent and comprehensive communication you can create more meaningful relationships and raise confidence.  Listen  to your peers too.  Learn from them and share good practice.  Look for ways to support one another and create mutual opportunities. 

Clients need flexibility more than ever.

Can you afford to offer more flexibility in your cancellation terms or offer reduced deposit?  How easy is it for clients to re-book their event?  Are you able to balance availability for your existing clients with potential new business?  How can you adapt to meet their changing needs?  How can you prepare to manage their expectations?    

Your professional experience is your clients’ greatest asset.

The biggest challenge for couples is stress and discomfort around uncertainty and indecisive direction.  Your professional experience is their greatest asset.  You can help them cope with the changes by keeping them focused.  Try not to let them overthink matters and worry about what ‘might’ happen.  Keep a plan B.  Expect the unexpected.  Your clients need flexibility so provide it and prove that whatever happens they will have an amazing wedding.  Support and reassure them.  Follow the guidelines.  There are great opportunities for Wedding Planners to help take the pressure off beleaguered couples.       

Love
Nova Wedding Photography

Keep up to date with guidance and regulations.

Are you compliant?  The guidance and regulations are constantly changing.  How regularly are you checking your risk assessments?  Are you auditing processes and procedures?  Have you hired an external auditor to verify your practices?  Are your staff up-to-date with the latest information and training? 

Small is beautiful.

The consensus seems to be that weddings will look a lot like they did in 2020.  It is unclear exactly what restrictions will be in place but there will certainly still be some restriction on numbers.  Key for everyone across the wedding industry will be to persuade clients that small is still beautiful and micro weddings bring a wealth of opportunities that you forego with a larger wedding. Opportunities to upscale your wedding are abundant – spend more time with your loved ones, place more emphasis on the food, drink and décor and create an imaginative, bespoke event.  Smaller numbers mean there are more venue options available, unique opportunities that simply wouldn’t be available for larger weddings.  Single day events are turning into long weekends or events staged over multiple days. Elopements are also proving popular and an opportunity for the tiniest of venues.  Cabins in the wood, beach huts, lake houses…  Couples are doing the legal bit at their local registry office then escaping for an intimate and more personal celebration of their love.   

How can you create a turn-key solution for your couples? 

Expect short lead times this year.  Covid and the Government response has made it very hard to plan ahead.  Couples may be looking for instant gratification when lockdown eases and a wedding at short notice to make up for lost time.  Packages can help your clients make decisions and help you make the arrangements.  Clients need flexibility too so wherever possible offer to meet their requests.     

Revel in the Recovery

Above all be brave, get out there and stay positive!  This time will pass and we will recover.          

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Event Admin

Business plan for 2021: Learning from 2020

Happy New Year(?)

If you are an events business and have survived 2020, firstly well done.  We weren’t expecting that! No doubt you have pivoted multiple times, tried alternative revenue streams, invested, streamlined and adapted until you are blue in the face amidst a sea of cancellations and postponements. A what point did you throw your business plan for 2020 in the bin? If nothing else, 2020 has certainly been a learning curve. What learning have you taken from it and how will these shape your business plan for 2021?  

Setting goals for 2021.

Have you set goals?  Do you have a vision of where you want your business to be in 3, 6, 12 months time? My goals are not as ambitious this year.  Life has always been unpredictable yet Covid has taken this to a new level.  I thrive on making plans and setting directions. I can still do this but like all of us I have had to adjust to the fact that survival is based on our ability to flex and adapt.  Acknowledging that sometimes the best laid plans can come to nought and somethings are outside of our control.  Being too fixed on an end result opens the door for disappointment.  Building resilience and being prepared for set backs can help us recover more quickly.         

https://www.stephstevens.photos/

Learning from 2020.

2021 is going to be bumpy but this time we are prepared.  Learning from 2020 and setting the ground work now will help you to ride out another unpredictable year. 

In order to create a business plan for 2021, you first need to audit where your business is now: 

  • What went well last year?  What didn’t go so well? 
  • What external factors are affecting your business now? 
  • What internal factors are affecting your business now? 
  • What opportunities are available? 
  • What resources do you have available? 
  • What is the state of the market now?  How is the market likely to change over the next 12 months? 
  • Are there any known events that are likely to affect your business? 
  • Will you need to make any investment this year? 
  • What actions do you need to take to achieve your goals?

Write your business plan for 2021.

By thinking about these questions and answering them, this will help you to construct a business plan for 2021; a workable strategy that will support your business to achieve its goals and see you through another turbulent year.

Document your plans, display them, review them regularly and adjust if necessary. Don’t flog a dead horse. If it’s not working then go back to these questions and ask them again. The most successful entrepreneurs have all suffered setbacks and failures so there is no shame in admitting defeat and going back to the drawing board.       

Good luck and god speed! 

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Marketing: Building brand awareness through great brand photography

I used to think a brand was just a snazzy logo with an attractive colour scheme and font.  But it is so much more.  Think of a famous product.  Why is it well known?  What makes it memorable?  What makes it stand apart from all the rest?  What has the company done to build brand awareness so successfully?  We have all seen the taste tests on TV.  Consumer Brand A verses Consumer Brand B and C.  Everyone says they prefer the taste of Brand A but then they do a blind tasting and they actually can’t tell the difference between any of them.  Humanity is a fickle beast and the trust we place in a product’s quality is often just based on familiarity with its visual identity.      

How do you create your brand identity?

Think about your business. Who are you? What’s your history? What’s your ethos? What do you sell?  What makes your product or service unique? Who and where are your customers?  What customer needs do you or your business fulfil?  By answering these questions, it will help you develop a brand identity that expresses what your business is, resonates with your target audience and makes you stand-out from the crowd.  You can then go on to build brand awareness.

The importance of images in building brand awareness

As consumers we are drawn to images far more than text.  An image speaks a thousand words.  An emotive image on the front page of a tabloid will often tell a story before the headline and help sell newspapers.  A great image sells ideas, creates desire, inspires, sparks curiosity, engages customers and persuades them to buy.    In this digital age of fast paced consumerism and snap purchasing decisions, digital media, particularly social platforms, are a valuable tool for building brand awareness.  Digital media can be a cost effective method of targeting specific audiences, anywhere in the world, at any time of day, on any day of the week and as frequently as you like.  But whilst digital algorithms require text to operate effectively, we humans are far more simplistic.  The earliest humanity relied on images for communication long before any form of alphabet and written word was created.  Words rarely make us stop and think but an eye-catching image has the power to draw us in instantly before the accompanying words hit home.  Think about your own use of digital media.  What makes you stop scrolling?  What makes you click that button?  Is it a long paragraph of well written text or an attractive image?  Is it because you have seen the same image repeatedly for the last few weeks and it now holds a comforting familiarity?  We are all similar and what draws your attention likely works for the next person or at least people of like mind.

Why brand photography is a worthy investment

Think about your brand identity.  You have written down what your brand is but how can you convey that brand in an image?  Are you a whizz on Adobe Illustrator?  Are you a talented artist?  No I’m not either.   Photography is the most straightforward way to convey your brand.  We are all photographers these days.  All of our phones have in-built cameras of reasonable quality.  Taking, storing and sharing photographs is so easy but it does require some thought and expertise.  A hasty selfie on a Saturday night is possibly not how you want your brand to be associated.  Nor is a badly focused, poorly lit, product shot.    

If you have any kind of digital platform; a website, Instagram, facebook, pinterest etc, then you need some good quality images to convey your brand identity.  Do-it-yourself photography has its place but if you really want your brand to be taken seriously you need professional brand photography.   So my advice is to invest in great photography.  Hire an experienced brand photographer.  Someone whose style you admire, which resonates with you and sits comfortably with your brand.     

Don’t just dive in and take a lot of random photographs but have a pre-meeting.  Discuss what images you want and need.  Go back to your brand identity and construct images that best convey your brand.  Think about the location.  Where do people use your product or services?  At home?  At work? On the beach?  Up a mountain?  Do you need people in the photograph?  Will they be models wearing or using your products?  Will it be you at work making the product or delivering your service?  Will it just be the products themselves?  Where are you going to use these images?  Take advice from your photographer.  They are experienced in developing brand images.  Look at their portfolio.  See what your competitors are doing.   

This is not a one off investment.  You need to keep your images up-to-date.  We all evolve and what was relevant two years ago may not be today.  Regularly refresh your portfolio as your brand develops. 

Stock photography can be helpful but creating a strong portfolio of images personal to your business is invaluable for developing your brand awareness.   By creating brand images unique to your business you can create consistency and with frequent use can help imbed your business in your customers minds.

Thank you Steph Stevens* for encouraging me to think about my brand and arming me with some amazing photography to help me build my brand awareness.  I have never felt very comfortable in front of the lens but somehow you made me feel less awkward, put me at ease and helped make the experience a pleasure and not a pain! 

I chose Exeter and Exmouth for my brand shoot locations as I am based in Devon. I am mobile so work wherever I can find a space for my laptop, a phone signal, a bit of peace and quiet and a good coffee (NB. not always at home!). I quite often find myself at the beach with the dog. A walk along the shore and a breath of fresh sea air is a great mind booster if I’m ever struggling. Steph gave great advice. The best light for outdoor photography is often at the start or end of the day. The beach shots were taken at sunset which also happened to be when the tide was coming in so kept us on our toes! I got my hair done (can you tell?!), considered my outfit choice (smart but not too formal), took a load of props (magazines and books, note books, business cards, blankets etc) most of which we didn’t use but I like to be prepared! Also the obligatory celebratory gin and tonic, in a glass over lime and ice, as I like to do things properly wherever I am!!

If you are based in or around Devon and are looking for a great brand photographer then get in touch with Steph. 

My name is Charlotte and I am a venue consultant based in Devon.  I have been in the business of organising events and managing wedding and events venues for over 20 years.  This has given me a tremendous breadth of experience in customer relations, sales, marketing, PR, business development, risk management, change management, event planning and coordination, budget management and team leadership.  I help venue owners get the most out of their business.  With a reputation for consistently exceeding expectations and a passion for delivering exceptional events and customer service, I can help your business survive and flourish beyond 2020.

For further information, please get in touch.

*All photography featured here is by Stephanie Stevens Photography

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