Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre officially reopened in February 2020 (previously known as the Hawke’s Bay Opera House) following a multimillion-dollar refurbishment and earthquake strengthening. They have since opened the newly refurbished Municipal Building adding retail, hospitality and various performance/conference facilities under their umbrella.
Operating with 16 employees and 100 casual staff, they deliver a diverse and rich programme of local and international shows, festivals and corporate events. Their versatility, alongside strong community ties and focus, make them a unique force in both Hastings' and New Zealand’s arts, entertainment, culture and corporate services.
New venues, staff and objectives gave Toitoi the opportunity to approach ticketing from a fresh perspective. This set them on a path towards finding a system that could provide the flexibility and data focus they needed, as well as the most user-friendly customer and client experience to succeed in their new era. Toitoi and Eventfinda became partners in late 2021 and they’ve not looked back.
A new era brings new challenges
With the refreshed theatrical and corporate spaces, Toitoi faced unique and new challenges.
“We needed to build our reputation within the community so they would use and participate with our spaces in a cultural and holistic way. Toitoi is much more than our buildings. It’s a place to share with our community and a place to experience the arts,” said Glen Pickering, Presenter Services Manager at Toitoi.
The significant investment in the buildings was matched with the right people to bring it all back to life for the local community. This marked a clear change in how venues like theirs were being viewed, both by councils and the public. Pickering remarked,
“How do you make the buildings and resources have a direct and meaningful contribution to the community? We do this through our programming and with the way we work alongside and invest in our community as a whole.”
When the venue reopened in early 2020, the Toitoi team quickly realised their ticketing requirements had changed dramatically and they needed to identify the best way to deliver on new expectations.
The key frustrations they experienced included the failure to deliver prompt and reliable responses, slow on-sale turnaround, and a lack of flexibility and usability with their software.
After only a few weeks in operation, they were thrown into the Covid-19 lockdown and the world of cancellations, postponements and promoter agreements. This experience made the Toitoi team realise that they would have to look at ticketing more holistically. Pickering summarised their requirements,
“Two things were unique to us. The first was the huge variety of events we put on — from international shows and performers, festivals, conferences and hosting many community groups. Our eclectic events needed a ticketing partner and system that could work across them all, both internally as a client and in the promotion of said events out to the community and audiences.
Secondly, we have a variety of different venues from a 900+ seat Opera House to a 30-seat venue room. We can cater for theatre, dinners or smaller shows, so we needed a ticketing partner to be able to work with all of these and do it well, offering things like collecting ticketholder information e.g. dietary requirements. Eventfinda was a great choice for us due to their experience of working with such a wide range of event types and spaces. Plus, they were so well-established in New Zealand.”
Identifying Toitoi’s unique needs
Being a council organisation, there was a procurement process to go through to select a new ticketing partner. During the Covid-19 restrictions, the team were able to have discussions with their current ticketing provider and it was mutually agreed they would not be the best fit going forward.
“We had to look at all our options to achieve the best outcome for our community and the business. We did full consultations with our community, key stakeholders, clients, and promoters and explored our business needs” said Pickering.
They identified four key requirements:
- The promotion of free and ticketed events, and the ability to create consistent communications across both
- The ability for their clients to upload event info directly onto their website
- To work with a New Zealand-owned and operated business as they’d recognised through the Covid pandemic that buying local was important and allowed for better direct conversations
- Integrated ticketing, including vaccine pass scanning on scanning apps
“We really needed much faster response and communication times and to get things on-sale quickly. We didn’t have the luxury of waiting a week to get things on-sale. We needed direct communication with our audiences now. Our ticketing needed to be able to see things from each angle — the clients, the venue, and the events — and provide the best outcomes for each. For example, our free community events still need promoting. Finally, we needed to have the most user-friendly experience for us, our clients and our customers,” recalled Pickering.
Eventfinda had the whole package
Following industry-wide research on the options available, the decision was made to go for a direct appointment with Eventfinda. Pickering said,
“We knew Eventfinda well, alongside all the other options, and we’d only ever heard great things about them. We’d worked with so many clients who had recommended Eventfinda to us. This was a consistent trend. Everyone uses it so it’s hard not to know about Eventfinda’s excellent reputation.”
Eventfinda’s strong reputation across the country, and being locally-owned and operated, was the icing on the cake to the user-friendly system and superior reporting. A refreshing change from what Toitoi were used to.
The Toitoi team identified their main motivator was to be in control of all the processes and data gathered around ticketing.
“The reporting in Eventfinda is amazing as you can delve so much into your audience. We wanted everything at our fingertips and now we’ve got it. Our clients always wanted to have more control over the process too. As it’s all online, and anyone can just log in to list events, it’s all just far simpler now,” said Pickering.
A fresh start
Once the procurement process was completed and the final decision was made in December 2021, Glen and his team wanted to take their time implementing Eventfinda to get things just right.
“The great thing about Eventfinda is there is no hardware so everything can be set up remotely as it’s all online. So we knew when we wanted to get going that it would only take a week to get started. The tools we needed to provide services to our clients and venues could all happen very, very quickly.”
After all their hard work, Glen and his team had high expectations,
“I had huge expectations and 100% Eventfinda met them. We are very happy with how it works for us and our clients,” he said.
The Eventfinda team went above and beyond to accommodate what was needed. Even working directly with the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival (which takes place at Toitoi) to build specific tools and provide constant and consistent communication. Pickering said,
“The best thing about working with Eventfinda is if we find something that needs extra work or attention, the team will always find a system or solution to work it out.”
Data at your fingertips
Glen and his team can now focus time elsewhere due to Eventfinda's efficient and data-driven system. This helps them day-to-day online, in person and in their overall digital customer experiences. He said,
“The ability to have reporting at your fingertips is one of the best tools we have, as it gives us the ability to do a whole load of work that we couldn’t do before. We easily view how ticket sales are tracking on a beautiful graph. That means we can see how our marketing, PR and comms have worked. You can see it live.”
They can dig deeper into where their customers are from, gain valuable data to support marketing in different areas and segment their audiences if they choose to.
“I can pull reports very quickly and send them back to promoters and clients so they can view ticket sales, revenue, or charges. I live on the reporting pages, I couldn't do without them. I love that I can find everything I want by event, by a whole tour, or view a full Arts Festival. I can’t live without it!” said Pickering.
Since using Eventfinda, the Toitoi team has seen a reduction in complaints and query communications from their clients, promoters and community groups. He added,
“The best feedback is no feedback. Overwhelmingly, people are very happy with the whole experience.”
So, would they recommend Eventfinda to other venues and promoters? Pickering said,
"100% we’d recommend Eventfinda! Eventfinda systems are amazing and the ability to be in control of the whole process is fantastic. The people are brilliant, too. From the start, they’ve jumped on board. It’s been a remarkable experience."
Toitoi is looking at how they can work closely with Eventfinda around promoting festivals and tours and using the platform to communicate better with their audiences.
They plan to use Eventfinda to upskill their community groups so they can now have more control of the ticketing process. Pickering said,
“It’s so simple and user-friendly. We want them to be able to find the info themselves so ticketing isn’t another thing they have to worry about.”
They have a big year ahead planned. From big-name comics, festivals, music awards, family and community shows, to the Hawke's Bay Arts Festival, Toitoi’s programme is thriving.
“Working with Eventfinda has been one of the best experiences over the last three years. It's given us the ability to deliver on the things we have set out in our strategy; to be community-focused, have the best experiences for all stakeholders and champion a diverse programme of the arts,” said Pickering.