Foolproof Guide to Managing Event Bookings and Avoiding Double Bookings
If you are in the business of booking, reserving and managing event spaces - and your livelihood depends on properly managing your event bookings - this is for you.
This guide covers the best practices for making sure you don’t end up with an overbooked room or space and the awkward conversations and unhappy customers that follow.
The secret to flawless event booking is a seamless process
Overbooking or double-booking a space is probably an event manager’s worst nightmare. There is nothing more defeating than having to call a client to let them know the event room or space they reserved for their meeting/wedding/birthday party/shower/etc. isn’t actually available - insert a million apologies here and probably a discount or two.
Still, even if you are consummately prepared and organized, promising the same booking date to more than one person does happen, usually when venue and facility managers are relying on an outdated or disconnected event booking system or some sort of manual process or paper trail. It can also occur with meeting room bookings when multiple teams are vying for the prime meeting space.
The best way to safeguard your event booking process from selling empty promises to your clients is to create a seamless process with zero gaps as well as built-in redundancies for potential errors or bad data.
FYI ... Planning Pod provides easy-to-use, online event booking management tools that give you and your team a simple way to track your booking calendar along with room/space assignments, usage and availability. It helps you create workflows and processes so you always know what you've booked when and so you never, ever double book a client. Try it here >>
This process should include:
1. A single path and/or source for entering, editing and deleting all event bookings
Ideally this includes some sort of online booking system or event booking software tool that has a shared digital events calendar. This is vitally important because any introduction of manual processes (i.e., a combination of paper-based and Web-based systems or multiple, non-integrated online systems) will inevitably introduce errors because the flow of information has a gap that must always be manually maintained.
2. Controlled access to this event booking software system
Only staff members who are authorized to make changes to the booking calendar should be given access to this tool to avoid accidental changes by other personnel. You can consider this the chain-of-command for adding and changing bookings, as allowing unlimited users to access the bookings calendar can potentially introduce bad decisions by unauthorized staff that will have unfortunate consequences for all involved.
3. Clearly delineated steps and procedures for adding and editing event bookings
These are your own internal steps for designating when designated staff members can add or edit an event booking. For example, here is a sample series of steps leading to an authorized booking:
- Staff member speaks with prospect about event space/room needs.
- Staff member prepares proposal and modifies based on prospect feedback.
- Staff member places temporary "hold" on event date, awaiting prospect's signature on proposal/contract. (Note that this is not a booking but simply a hold that designates that a prospect is seriously considering the date.)
- Prospect signs proposal/contract and provides deposit/down-payment to hold the event booking date.
- Staff member adds the booking to the master events calendar.
- If client/prospect wishes to change or cancel a booking date or time, this first requires approval from owner/general manager and the client/prospect's signature on a revised proposal/contract.
4. Notifications and alerts for when there are scheduling conflicts
Because nobody is perfect and bad/inaccurate information can be introduced into even the best closed systems, the system you use should have a real-time notification trigger if the information being entered conflicts with a currently scheduled event or booking. This trigger shouldn't just flag you when the data is being entered but should remain with the data for as long as this scheduling conflict persists.
How to Set Up a Streamlined Booking System for Your Company
For starters, let's look at the event professionals who would most benefit from such a system for managing meeting and event bookings. They include:
- Venue managers who own and rent out rental spaces
- Facility managers who manage company-owned meeting and event spaces
- Independent event planners who manage clients’ event bookings
- Internal corporate meeting and event planners for external event spaces
- Catering services, photographers, rental companies and other external vendors
If you fall into this group, then the processes we will lay out here will help you balance the delicacy of a packed calendar while maintaining your overall event management processes, keeping track of guest lists and registrations and monitoring the disbursement of rentals and materials to reserved rooms.
So let's look at the two main steps you can take to streamline your current processes and systems...
1. Identify a software system that adequately meets your event and venue booking needs
Before you immediately do a Google search for "best event booking software", first take a moment to assess your booking needs - like what kinds of tools and features you require - and write them down in a prioritized list (like must-have, nice-to-have, not necessary). Who knows ... you may need more of an all-in-one event management software system or you may simply need a specialized event booking calendar tool that integrates with other applications you are using.
However, here is a list of options you may want to seriously consider when you get around to shopping for solutions:
These are required elements in any event booking software you should consider.
Shared digital calendar - This drag-and-drop calendar should prominently display both booked events and holds and allow for buffer setup/teardown time for bookings; allow for tagging or color-coding of different rooms and spaces; include scheduling for appointments and tasks; and offer email and text reminders for people assigned to items. Different day view options (daily, weekly, monthly) and PDF printouts are an added plus.
Task manager - Many electronic calendars have a task management tool already built into the app, and your booking calendar should be no different so that you can manage both internal tasks with staff members and vendors as well as external tasks and event details with prospects and clients.
Client portal - Instead of always having to inform your prospects and clients via email, a client portal allows you to post information and provide value-add features (like electronic signatures and online payments) to your clients, which can simultaneously save you tons of time and keep clients always in-the-know.
Permission-based user setup - You should be able to add multiple users to your account and manage tools and functions that these users can access.
Integrations with other platforms - Many organizations also use Google, Outlook, Apple or other electronic calendars as part of their business activities, so your bookings calendar needs to be able to seamlessly integrate with those or offer plugins or addons.
Web-based convenience - Online software solutions have become the norm, and for good reason. Multiple people can be using the software at the same time. It is usually mobile friendly and can be used on any device. And data is stored remotely to protect from data loss.
These compliment your event booking management tools and processes and allow you to integrate those tools across additional internal processes and operations, meaning that even fewer things slip through the cracks.
Leads manager – Taking potential clients on a walk-through isn’t always enough to keep them interested. Using a simple CRM (customer relationship management) tool can help you collect each client’s contact information in one place, make notes to the account and track correspondence - letting you know which leads are worth following up on.
Proposal builder – Once you’ve talked to your prospective client about their event wants and needs, they’ll probably want to see how it all adds up. Proposals help to wrap the vision up in a professional and organized document. Ideally, the proposal should be your final selling point. Instead of recreating one for each client, design a standard template that can be easily modified with client specifications. Templates ensure you don’t forget any essential details, and let you build a beautiful and professional design.
Electronic signatures – Don’t bog down your personal calendar by doing venue booking signatures in person. E-signatures can make finalizing agreements easier and more convenient for both you, your team and the client. Certain venue management software options like Planning Pod include digital proposal and contract tools that you let you customize contract templates, collect signatures and more.
Online invoicing and payments – Setting up automated pay schedules can notify customers when deposits and payments are due and let them make their payment right online with secure credit card processing. Not to mention, this also saves you from chasing down clients for payment. Look for solutions that can integrate with popular options like Square, Stripe and PayPal as well as payment gateways like Authorize.net.
Rental reservations and catering orders - For most venues, the room isn’t the only thing you’re renting out. With a fully integrated online system, you can add tables, chairs, electronics and more to each booking while automatically deducting them from your inventory. Similarly, you can organize food menus, track food and beverage orders, and bill for these services accordingly - with the ability to access all that information directly from your event booking calendar.
2. Align your software with your internal processes and personnel
This is where things might get tricky, mainly because your current processes may not fit precisely with many, most or all booking software applications available on the market.
However, the goal of this entire process is to ensure that your event bookings run smoothly with no issues, and so if you are willing to update your software, you must also be willing to tweak your processes too. Setting this up can include the following.
Create a prospect-to-client onboarding diagram - Similar to what we presented earlier under "3. Clearly delineated steps and procedures...", you should clearly spell out the steps that staff members should follow when moving prospects through the sales and onboarding process and exactly what should happen at each step. Although your software will help with this flow, you will need to write it all down so your staff and contractors are clearly aware of how the process works.
Set up rules and requirements regarding changing/cancelling bookings - When a client calls up and requests to change or cancel a booked event, every staff member should know what the next steps are and follow them to a "T". For example, you may require them to check the booking calendar to confirm the new day/time is available as well as the approval of the manager or owner, confirmation of availability of staff/equipment, the forfeit of security deposit or other matters before the date can be moved or cancelled.
Establish roles for the different staff positions - If you want just sales staff, managers and owners to be able to confirm or change bookings, you should spell this out in the job responsibilities for each position in your establishment and align these responsibilities with the user permissions in the booking software you choose.
Train staff on all processes and systems - Last but certainly not least, you should make sure that the staff responsible for managing your event and venue bookings are well trained on all booking processes and systems. This is because the best piece of software is useless if your users are inputting bad or inaccurate data or not using the tools properly. As database managers are wont to say, "Garbage in, garbage out."
Bonus Insights - Tracking Ticketed Events and Attendees
If you run an event management business or a venue that books and runs its own ticketed events, these tips can help you better manage your ticketed event bookings.
The only thing more tedious than managing room and venue reservations is managing an event where you are responsible for booking the entertainment as well as selling tickets or registrations to attendees. And whether you’re selling tickets to a music festival, managing event registrations for corporate meetings or fundraisers or just need to track RSVPs for smaller weddings, failing to take a proper headcount or making it difficult for people to purchase tickets can create some irritation.
If you’re managing event ticketing or just tracking the details of a meeting room booking, here are a few tips to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Sell. What are box offices? Virtually any event can (and should) have its own custom webpage and online registration form that directs customers or private invitees to register via the Web. Your website should include secure payment systems so people can pay online. Of course, you can still offer pay-at-the-door or in-person payment options if you’d like. If it’s a free event, attendees can use the site to submit their RSVP, share their dinner choice and provide other necessary information.
Advertise. If you’re hosting a public event, like a concert, convention, workshop, festival, etc., you’ll need to let people know it’s happening. And now that you have your landing page set up, you’ll have a place to direct them to for ticket purchases. Social media ads are a great way to hit target customers, and adding social sharing options during the purchase process can make it easy for attendees to share and invite others, too. Finally, email marketing can help you re-market to past customers.
Track. After someone reserves a seat, you’ll want to keep track of their information. This might include things like name, food choice and allergy information, age or even a song request to add to the DJ list. For meeting room bookings, you might want to ask for titles or team divisions to help with seating. With the right online registration form technology, you can ask your guests a variety of questions that will help you better organize and plan your party.
Check-in. Clear up the long lines at the door by creating a streamlined ticketing system. Providing tickets that have unique QR codes makes it super easy for door staff to scan and validate printed or digital tickets. There should also be a backup system if, for some reason, the QR code won’t scan - like name search or a unique code attached to each ticket.
Analyze. Depending on your event, you might want to track things like ticket sales, advertisement leads, headcount, etc. to determine the viability of your ticket sales process. Even if you aren’t looking into building a big data report, getting a quick snapshot at the headcount can let you know how things are looking.