In the last edition of On-Air I wrote an article about the installation of new equipment in both of our Glasgow city centre studios. Part of the feature briefly mentioned that we had used a free on-line tool for presenters to book training sessions. A few people have been in touch to find out more, so for them and anyone else interested, here are some details.
Since installing the new studio equipment, we’ve switched all studio bookings from our old process of a note in a diary at the studio, to being totally on-line.
There are a number of booking tools available with many offering free trials. However we quickly decided to use simplybook.me as this site is an ongoing completely free service provided that you are using no more than fifty bookings per month. You need to renew the free subscription monthly, but this quite literally takes only a few seconds to do.
Even if you did occasionally exceed fifty bookings in a month, it’s easy to purchase an extra batch of booking slots for a few pounds, and as these don’t have a ‘use-by-date’ they can last a very long time. Alternatively you can have an increased quota per month by paying a regular monthly fee.
The first step is registering a new booking service by logging on to www.simplybook.me and answering nine simple questions. This will give you a customisable site for your organisation, allowing you to create booking options for your studio(s) and if you want, you can also add other bookable items such as portable recorders, meeting rooms or OB equipment.
Each bookable option can be defined to show for the available hours for each day of the week while specific dates can be blocked out using the ‘non-working day’ option which can either be done globally to prevent booking of all facilities or against an individual studio. It’s also easy to change the availability hours of a facility on a specific date, over-riding the standard settings for that weekday. This all means that it’s really simple to block out times that a studio is used for live programmes and when you’re having a fund-raising broadcast marathon, blocking the whole weekend is a breeze.
We opted for configuring booking slots to be a standard length of 1 hour, though the start time is in fifteen minute intervals. Super-users can book sessions of any length, but standard users wanting to book longer than an hour would have to book consecutive one hour slots.
System configuration allows emails to be sent to the person booking plus the service provider (studio email account). The user gets an immediate confirmation email of their booking, as does the studio email account. We’ve decide to have reminder emails sent to the user 24 hours in advance, while the studio email account gets its reminder a two hours beforehand.
The text in each email type is completely configurable, so you can set up messages that make sense to your situation.
Booking can be cancelled or modified with additional email types being sent when these changes are made. Text messages are also an option, but there is a cost for signing up to this so we have decided just to keep the messaging to email.
We opted for bookings able to be made up to six months in the future and also up to just one minute before the start time of a booking slot.
Since implementing this booking system, recording and training sessions have increased as it’s really quick and easy for people to now check and make sure that a studio is available, and more importantly for them to be able to immediately reserve an hour of studio time in the knowledge that they aren’t going to run the risk of heading into the radio station to find that someone else has claimed the studio time for themselves.
As you’d expect, the system has a number of reporting options, so you can keep tabs on how much use each facility is getting.
In the six months that we’ve been using simplybook.me we haven’t had any problems with availability of the booking tool, and have found it to be really intuitive so people get the hang of it within minutes.
As it’s pretty simple to configure, I’ve created a special demo site. This took just over thirty minutes to create and should give you an idea of the experience that a user gets.
Bookings are made in three quick and simple steps.
The demo site is at http://hbaonair.simplybook.me Happy booking !!!!