Today 18th of May, the global museum community comes together for the International Museum Day. This global celebration was created with a clear objective: “to promote museums as an important means for the development of mutual understanding” Suay Aksoy, ICOM President.
The ICOM has provide some fantastic resources for museums during Covid19, take a look here.
It is however sadly predicted that many independent attractions and museums may not survive the current lockdown as they do not have the financial reserves to weather the storm. Tending to be run as businesses relying on entrance receipts and shop sales, revenues have been slashed to virtually nothing. Whilst many were in a healthy financial position, this period of little to no income, means reserves are being severely depleted.
This time of closure though perhaps does present an opportunity for not only reflection but for future planning, looking at ways in which existing income streams can be maximised and potential new revenues explored.
The use of museums as event venues is for some nothing new, especially for larger institutions such as the Natural History Museum and the V&A. However, for smaller operations too, considering making the museum available for private event hire can also be a viable proposition.
Whilst of course, the hosting events is not something for the immediate future, it does represent a great prospective opportunity to not only generate income but also raise awareness of our independent museums to a wider audience.
So, if you are the Trustee of one of our country’s rich mix of museums celebrating our history and culture what should you be considering in order to either open up for this type of business or to make the most of the opportunity you have perhaps already identified.
Where can you host events within the museum? Can every room be used, or will you need to designate certain areas in order to protect precious exhibits? Don’t forget of course that it is those very exhibits that are part of the appeal of the museum, allowing not only exclusive access but also creating a truly unique backdrop for the event.
As well as indoor space, are there grounds that could be used to attract larger groups by erecting a marquee?
What type of Events?
Does the museum lend itself to particular types of events? Evening cocktail receptions perhaps, rather than daytime meetings. How many people can you comfortably hold in the space, with social distancing rules and beyond?
Open for Events
Are there times that would work better for events; evenings when the museum is usually closed for example? Or do you have the capacity to host daytime events also?
Organising and Running Events
For museums for whom events has been identified as a core revenue stream, then hiring a dedicated Event Manager to handle enquiries and run events is likely to be the best route to choose. However, for those properties with limited capacity to run events or a small team, working with local freelance event planners is a great option. They can be hired on an ‘as needed’ basis, along with caterers and other preferred suppliers who get to know the venue and become an extension of the museum’s own team.
Marketing to Attract Events
Attracting events business requires a specific marketing plan to sit alongside campaigns to attract visitors;
- Website – the addition to the existing website of an easy to find page with well-written and presented content. Images are of course key; not just of the museum but the museum being used for events to paint the picture for potential clients;
- If you’re new to events and don’t have images already, then simply stage some spaces to suggest how they might be used.
- Social media – event specific content needs to be incorporated into the overall campaign plans.
- Engage with local businesses – invite PA’s to visit the museum to show them how the space can be used. They are often looking for new venue ideas, especially for client events.
- Networking – assign a member of the team to get out there and talk to people about what makes the museum a great event space. Online networking via LinkedIn is also a great way of attracting corporate events.
- Use existing data – partner with your chosen preferred suppliers to create an email campaign to announce their collaboration with the museum to their previous event clients.
- Host a launch party – make a big splash about being available as an event venue. Invite local businesses, event industry professionals and the press to a showcase event.
- Exhibit-specific events – for museums with visiting exhibitions, why not host your own invitation-only events and also offer out exclusive opportunities to businesses to hold client events with a guided tour or talk?
- Advertise – showcase the museum and why it is a great event venue on online directories to help drive event enquiries from a wider audience.
Recognising that the venue is a vital component of a successful event, many event planners are actively seeking new and unique venues for their teams and clients. This is likely to be combined with an increased demand for exclusive hire spaces in future as planners look to ensure the safety of the attendees.
ICOM, representing the international museum community, calls on policy and decision-makers to urgently allocate relief funds to salvage museums and their professionals, so they can survive the lockdowns and continue their vital public service mission once it is over, for the generations to come. By considering museums as event venues in the future may just help these vital communities survive.