Meet EventDraw: An Australian made revolution in event floor planning
Event floor planning gurus Visio Group have quietly launched their new cloud-based floor plan software application EventDraw which revolutionises the cost and efficiency of their existing system, used by thousands of clients in Australia and around the world.
Despite being critical for ascertaining optimal set-ups and maximum capacities — and therefore revenues — and vital for best practice in client service, event floor planning software can be a murky area. Should you use CAD? Will AV do it for you? Do you even need it, really? Let’s just get out the tape measure.
“Often we hear, ‘we have or need CAD software,’” says Visio Group Director Jay Laybutt.
“This is absolutely misleading — CAD software is used for designing an Airbus A380, a Boeing Dreamliner, building a tunnel, designing a building or designing a new car.
“CAD software is unbelievably complex.
“The major difference between Visio and dedicated CAD software packages is the ease of use.
“Our clients are creating detailed floor plans with approximately 30 minutes’ training.
“CAD software requires hundreds of hours in training and cannot do a fraction of what our software can do.
“And the venue has to be set up properly in CAD as well, so some people try and give CAD a go and … they go and do a floor plan and realise that they can fit 1.5 times the number of what it should be but they [don’t] realise that the whole plan’s been set up incorrectly.”
Mr Laybutt says venues often underestimate their maximum capacities, sometimes by up to 30 percent and this can have a significant impact on revenue — for example, just one extra table, seating 10 people, at a venue hosting an average of four events per week could generate an extra $270,000 a year.
And forget the tape measure — it takes much too long, it’s not all that accurate and you’ll have to do it again. For. Every. New. Event.
A floor plan for Doltone House | Image supplied
Instead, meet EventDraw — six and a half years in the making — Visio Group’s in-house designed software which takes the best of the Microsoft Visio based product the company has been refining for over two decades and puts it in in the cloud, making it more accessible, more efficient, much cheaper and faster to boot.
Better yet, you can try the software here.
“We do have the best software out there but turning it into a mass scale is quite difficult because you’re always tied into that Microsoft licensing. That’s been a massive stumbling block. It’s not anymore,” says Mr Laybutt.
Visio Group’s previous software relied on a $500 Visio license per user, which adds up quickly for organisations like hotel groups with multiple employees in each property and hundreds of properties across a single geographic region.
“In the past that’s a phenomenal quote,” says Mr Laybutt. “Now, we just say, ‘Well, just tell us the plans [you need].”
With EventDraw priced on the number of templates an organisation needs, rather than the number of users, Mr Laybutt says the cost has plummeted to “about .07c per user”.
The cloud-based nature of the new software has also seen the set-up time to get clients up and running plummet.
“Generally what takes maybe 20-25 minutes per PC [using the previous Visio product] would probably take around about, I guess, 4-5 seconds now,” says Mr Laybutt.
“In the past with the existing system, we would log into their systems remotely…we’ve got to run through either IT or the user and get all that installed and make sure it goes on properly. Now what happens is that they will get a user — let’s just say it’s your profile — now if you go in your profile, you can create your own users yourself, so if you have ten staff members, all you do is just put in their first name, surname and email address and hit ‘add’ and they’ve got instant access.”
And efficiencies for users only begin there. With the simple user-interface, millimetre accurate plans and an inventory of around 3,900 furniture items direct from suppliers like Sydney Prop Specialists and Decorative Events and Exhibitions, Mr Laybutt says outsourcing floor plans to the AV department is no longer necessary.
“When we start looking through our client list, generally it happens three ways — they either have our software in place, they don’t have anything or they have an AV Department,” says Mr Laybutt.
“What happens with an AV Department is that they’ll assign some AV technicians at the venue or the hotel, and if you’re an event coordinator and you get a phone call [requesting a floor plan], you’ve got to send an email to AV saying, ‘Hey, can you create me a floor plan, I need 80 tables and I need to have a dance floor at the front…and the client’s name is…and can you make sure that the table numbers go left to right and don’t include number three for [superstitious reasons]…
“They will write an email and [in] the time it takes them to write that email, they could have just opened EventDraw, done the floor plan, sent the link to AV, AV could have just gone, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll put my lighting and equipment over the top’ and away they go.
“The system is so smart, a wedding venue can even send a link to the bride and groom so they can assign their guests to seats on a live electronic floor plan — no more back and forth with the venue on “who is seated where”.
“Why we get so much work from hotels or AV companies is [because] the event coordinator, while she’s talking on the phone, she’ll quickly do that mock up, because she’ll probably open an existing plan and just do that table numbering, and there’s a button there that says ‘Email clients’, so when she hangs up the phone, the client’s already got the floor plan — it’s done and dusted, she doesn’t have to wait for AV, back and forth, or them to say, ‘I’m too busy, I’ll do it tomorrow’.
“It’s going to affect your client reputation — people can’t be waiting around — if they ask for something, you’ve got to have it,” says Mr Laybutt.
Visio Group’s software can also be used to create floor plans for outdoor spaces | Image supplied
When ASE checks in with a few of Visio Group’s clients, they back up a number of Mr Laybutt’s assertions. One was using Word before moving over to the Visio software; another wasn’t even doing that.
“If any of our clients were asking for [floor plans], we’d just do a really quick sketch — just drawing it out on a piece of paper and just letting them know,” says Lorena Garofalo, who works at Quay West Suites Melbourne, a boutique Accor property on Southbank with meeting space for just under a hundred cabaret style.
“But then we had a client actually come to us and say, ‘We need a proper software PDF floor plan’,” she says, and Visio Group came into the picture after a recommendation from another of Accor’s properties in Melbourne.
Quay West Suites has been trialing the software for a month or two and is hoping to sign up for the software in the new year.
“It’s fairly easy, fairly simple, fairly straight to the point. Anyone can use it if they’re not tech savvy,” says Ms Garofalo.
“That’s the one thing I was really scared about – I didn’t want to get a software that I had to really think much for.
“I just wanted to go into the website or the program, do what I had to do and just print it off or send it to the client straight away and not really have to think about it.”
On the other end of the size scale sits Sydney Showground which has been using Visio Group floor planning software for at least a decade as a “crucial” event delivery tool, but also to assist with way finding and as a value-add for their sole operator clients.
“If you don’t have a floor plan you can’t really deliver the event,” says Natalie Luzi, one of the Event Managers at Sydney Showground.
“You could say, ‘I want…14 trestle tables or 14 chairs’ but where do you put them, how do you set them up?”
“It’s also imperative for us to use it to direct people to where they need to go,” says Luzi’s fellow Event Manager Melissa Goodman.
“I don’t use it as much for drawing up room layouts, but in order to say, ‘Okay, you need to walk from P1 to the front of the dome.’ To say that to someone that hasn’t been here before, they’re like, ‘Well, where is that?’
“Whereas if you can just quickly mock it up on Visio and send it they’re [like], ‘Oh okay, yes, that makes sense’.”
Ms Luzi says floor planning software is also essential for understanding what can fit into a space.
“You can come up with a million ideas but everything’s to scale, so once you drop it on a floor plan everyone knows exactly what fits and what doesn’t.”
“One of the other things is, we deal with a wide range or clientele — people that do draw in CAD and send us plans all the way down to people who don’t have anything to put a plan together,” says Bernie Serone, Senior Manager of Venue Operations at the Showground.
“So sometimes the girls will put that in onto one of our plans through Visio — simple stuff — so we’re doing that service for them.”
At the luxury end of the venue scale is Jane Saliba at The Venues Collection, who uses Visio Group software in her current role and has used the software in her previous role at another venues group since 2011.
The Venues Collection boasts venues like Campbell’s Stores on Circular Quay as well as a number of other high end venues around Sydney, servicing the wedding and corporate markets.
Ms Saliba says Visio Group work well with The Venues Collection which takes over venues quickly and requires floor plans with equal promptness.
“What we love about them is we take over quite quickly these spaces and as soon as we contact them we’ve got the floor plan within 24 hours.
“That team, I think they’re well and truly part of our furniture.
“Their floor plan requirements in their software is exactly what we need. We haven’t ever had to step outside of that or use someone else’s services.
The impetus for using Visio Group software over less sophisticated methods lies in the detail and the professionalism necessary for the kind of clients The Venues Collection services, says Saliba.
“We needed more to-scale event and floor plans. Each one of our venues is so different and unique — they use different shapes and our clients require to-the-tee measurements of the floor plans and the shapes that we have onsite.
“Our sort of style [of] events and weddings do not allow you to be complacent or lazy when it comes to their floor plans.”
Like the other Visio Group clients ASE speaks to, Saliba highlights the software’s ease of use and customisation alongside the customer service provided by the team.
“They’re a credit to the industry and we’re certainly lucky to have them as part of our contacts for our floor plans because they make it so easy.
“It can get extremely stressing, especially with the sort of services and requests that we require — they’re always onto it and nothing’s ever an issue for them, which is great.
“It does put us on a level of professionalism when we can produce a proper floor plan and certainly one to scale, so quickly, especially with quick turnovers and takeovers of venues, it just goes to show how much we truely care about our [clients] and our floor plans and making sure that whatever the client wants within the space can fit,” says Ms Saliba.
“Especially the sort of style events that we do, we have to make sure and illustrate to the client that it can actually fit on the plan.”
Try EventDraw here.
A sample plan for Merivale | Image supplied