If there is one lesson learned by the senior living industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that virtual tours are a must-have. Still photos alone are great, but there is simply no replacement for a video virtual tour that provides an in-depth look into each area for visitors to explore. From common areas to apartments and rooms to outdoor amenities, a virtual tour is the next best thing to being there. The best part is that creating a virtual tour has never been easier! Here are the basics for creating a senior living virtual tour that’s available online 24/7, 365.
While it is possible to create a virtual tour with still images and video clips recorded on an iPhone or android, a high-definition digital SLR camera that can take panoramic shots on a tripod will usually render more professional looking images and videos. For the most professional tours though, a 360 degree camera is another great option, particularly one that can be operated remotely while based on a tripod which allows the operator (and their shadow) to remain out of the shots.
Another possibility, although one requiring a bit more knowledge and expertise, is a drone, which is especially great for outdoor videos of the grounds and areas like patios. To learn more about 360 degree cameras and drones the PC magazine article “The Best 360 Cameras for 2021” is a great place to begin. For insights about digital SLR cameras, the tomsguide.com blog, “The best DSLR cameras you can buy today” provide comparisons based on features and price.
Next, virtual tour software will be needed to take the video and still images and knit them seamlessly together for a beautiful virtual tour. When reviewing software packages, keep in mind other assets like mapping, voice/audio, image enhancement (such as lighting, color correction, etc.), ease-of-use, and auto-scaling (so the tour fits different browsers on different devices) and multi-media for background music. A great comparison of software packages available can be found in the comparecamp.com blog, “Best Virtual Tour Software – 2021 List of Top 10 Virtual Tour Tools.”
Make a plan
First, review your website to ensure every asset the community has to offer is listed and plan to align the virtual tour to best represent those assets. For example, don’t forget the little things like hair salons and barbershops that are so important to seniors. Also, decide if filming will include residents and staff and if so, make sure each person who agrees to take part has signed and returned a photo release form. Next make a list of each area to be included and prepare in advance to have that area neat and clean for the day of filming.
Before the day arrives, it’s a good idea to plan each room and area to be included, right down to bathrooms, closets and other small living spaces. To be sure you have a complete list to follow, check out the pre-printed shot template from templatelab.com. Another great overall resource is the fitsmallbusiness.com blog, “How to Create a Virtual Tour in 8 Steps.”
Set the stage
Just as you would stage a home for an open house, staging a senior living community is equally important. Open space versus clutter is essential, as seniors need to know they can move around the facility safely. Thus, it is necessary to be sure all needed repairs are complete, furniture and flooring is in excellent shape and everything is spotless.
While staging in a home basically means moving everything out except the barest essentials, staging in a senior living community is more centered on creating a feeling of community, comfort and cleanliness. If people will be included in the tour, take time to practice with them. For example, several residents playing a board game or walking on community trails can be great contributions when everyone knows their part to play.
Also important to double check is lighting. Make sure all areas to be included have adequate lighting, that bulbs are replaced if necessary, and that natural sunlight is utilized when available. That may mean shooting different areas at different times of day to take advantage of natural light as the sun moves from east to west. If making physical changes is too difficult, the fixthephoto.com, blog, “7 Best Virtual Staging Software” can help.
At SiteStaff, we help our senior living clients promote their virtual tours every day via live chat. Find out how we can do the same for your senior living community! Contact us today to speak with a live chat professional.