You know you have planned a successful party at your fitness facility when each member who walks through the doors says, “What is going on tonight?” If you invest a bit of time and just a few pennies on a well-planned member appreciation party, you will see a huge return on investment in retention.

Setting the stage means a bit more than just setting a date. Once a date has been set for your event, brainstorm how you want the environment to feel as the doors open on party day. Coordinate the placement of balloons, which are the number one low-cost party decoration. Carefully place signage throughout the facility after removing all existing fliers, posters and advertisements three days before party night. Pick a color for the party and make sure it is seen in all marketing materials, invitations, staff uniforms and table decorations.

Why are you holding the party anyway? Empower the sales staff, the fitness team and the support employees by communicating your vision and ensure that all understand the purpose in planning such an event. Set measurable goals to hit in lead generation and revenue sales. Make it clear that the real theme of the night’s event is to create a fitness party atmosphere that members will want to bring friends to in the future.

If there is to be a party in the house, the whole family must play. Those who have planned events over the years agree that the parties that stand out in their memories were those in which they got all departments to participate fully. Introduce yourself in each group fitness class, personally inviting students to bring their buddy to the party. (No one likes to party alone.) Decorate the group fitness studios, change formatting for the evening and create a dance-off or contest at night’s end. Ask instructors to put together an instructor demonstration team and plan mini performances by the team throughout the evening.

Delegate duties and inspect what you expect. Assigning a task may be the norm, so why not have staff pick from a hat or choose a teammate to partner with when duties are assigned? Create a countdown board checking off as you go and assuring deadlines are met. At a recent successful event, staff members actually announced throughout the club when a task had been completed in preparation for the big night, including the member base in the energy that a countdown can create. Another team set up “party central” near the member check-in, assuring that with each and every towel or water handed out, members received an invitation to or a reminder of the big night ahead.

Personal invitation is the only way to go. Although the stage has been set and the halls have been decorated, remember that a personal invitation is what will bring the members in on party night. Write phone scripts and keep the message uniform. Have all staff wear lanyards stuffed with written invitations and add cardio tags inviting the regulars days ahead. E-blast, text and use social networking to assure that everybody knows the party is one they should not miss.

Take the hint from the hospitality industry and plan a station in each corner of the club. Set up refreshments and water stations throughout and include vendors, sponsors and cross marketing partners to assure expenses remain within budget. Assess the traffic patterns of your members when in the club, and highlight the areas as seen in large reception halls or party rooms.

Don’t leave out the obvious. Don’t forget that the party can start outdoors. Set a meet-and-greet team in the parking lot. Use dry erase boards to announce the next exciting class or demonstration. Set up simple fitness games, scavenger hunts, fitness fact tests and kids events in the day care areas.

How will you measure the night’s success?

  • Increased guest traffic
  • Increase in group fitness usage
  • Increase in personal training revenue
  • Promotion of your menu of services

Has it been a while since the last party? Revisit the parties of the past, rework the ideas to fit your 2011 environment and brand, and remember how contagious the smiles and laughter were at your last success.

BIO

Ann Gilbert, executive director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Shapes Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at annfitt@verizon.net or anng@shapestotalfitness.com.