How to organise an Early Bird Opening
COVID-19 update: Not all of these tips might be relevant at the moment while individuals isolate and practice social distancing. Something you can do is to make sure your disabled access information is listed online, on your own website and on Euan's Guide. It is also important to regularly check this information to make sure it is kept up to date. This is a great step in assisting anyone considering visiting your venue when it is safe to do so.
Whether you manage a museum, science centre, art gallery or attraction, not all visitors will find words like ‘popular’ or ‘bustling’ appealing. Many people prefer to experience these kinds of places when the atmosphere is a little calmer, more relaxed and free from the overwhelming hustle and bustle of peak visitor times!
What is an early bird Opening?
For those who prefer quieter visiting times, quite often an attraction’s standard opening hours don’t give enough flexibility to avoid the queues and over-excitement that lots of visitors can bring to an attraction. That’s why many more places are beginning to slot in early bird openings: days when the doors are opened an hour or so earlier than usual, so that guests can avoid the stresses of busy crowds and loud noises. These events are also known as quiet hours, relaxed openings and autism friendly openings, and are often designed for children or young people with autism or who have additional requirements. The good news is, early bird openings are growing in popularity as more places realise that too many potential guests avoid visiting them because of overwhelming environments.
If you’re thinking about holding an early bird opening, here are a few things to consider!
Let people know it’s happening
Early bird openings are wonderful events and are a great opportunity for lots of people to try something new. Make sure you advertise your event well so that people can join in the fun! It’s also a good idea to let other visitors know that opening times haven’t changed in case they see activity going on earlier than they anticipated.
Make adjustments to the environment
Don’t forget, early bird openings are designed to be relaxed environments. This means you might consider toning down extremes in lighting our sounds and set aside a comfortable ‘chill out space’ for visitors to use if they feel over-stimulated by what’s going on.
Prepare fun activities
With many early bird opening events tailored to young people, it’s a good idea to come up with fun activities to keep visitors engaged. You might organise a craft workshop in a quiet space, or inclusive storytelling with tactile props. Whatever you do, keep it relaxed and let people join in and leave as they like!
Create a visual story
Surprises can be overwhelming for many people, but a visual story can paint a picture for your visitors of what to expect before they arrive. This is particularly helpful if you have organised activities during your early bird opening! Here is an example of a visual story created by Seven Stories in Newcastle.
Limit the number of visitors
You might not be used to hearing this, but this is an occasion when you might want to limit the number of visitors you attract! This doesn’t mean don’t advertise, but you can encourage guests to pre-book and monitor numbers this way. If you fill up fast, why not organise your next quiet opening even sooner?
Have friendly staff ready to welcome guests
Make sure your staff are clearly identifiable and ready to help whenever visitors have a question. Help your staff by providing disability awareness training, and make sure your guests are given the warmest welcome bright and early!
Make it a Night Owl Opening instead!
If early bird openings aren’t possible for whatever reason, you could always open at night instead! Extend your hours a little beyond closing to create a relaxed night time atmosphere for your guests.
Example: Relaxed and quiet events work best if you find a time that works for you and your visitors. The Deep in Hull regularly holds Tranquil Tuesdays and dedicated Quiet Days for visitors where the audio turned down and the aquarium is lit up brighter than normal.
If you decide to hold an Early Bird Opening, don’t forget to add your event to your listing on Euan’s Guide!