Don Jones, Ph.D., is the executive director of The Fitness Centre & Day Spa at Florida Hospital Celebration Health in Kissimmee, FL. To reach Jones, you can e-mail him at donald.jones@flhosp.org.

Are your members creatures of habit? Do they do the same things day in and day out? Do they use the same treadmill or the same elliptical? And, when you do a survey and ask them if they have tried a new service, such as massage, personal training or maybe a new group exercise class, do they reply: I didn’t know you had one of those?

If you are like most club or membership managers, you are all too familiar with the above scenarios. It’s very hard to get members—and even nonmembers and guests—to try new services. Most of us like to stay in our comfort zone.

But take heart. There’s a way out of the forest. Instead of the traditional open house that most clubs hold from time to time, consider hosting a “sampler” event that gets members exposed to the many other services your facility offers. Here is a quick description of the event we held at Florida Hospital Celebration Health in Kissimmee, FL:

Structure. Our sampler event was held on a Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most of the mini events were held on our basketball court, kind of like stations at each corner of the court and at the mid-court line. Fast pass registration (just like at Walt Disney World) was held at center court.

Participants could go to a color-coded area and register, for example, for a 10-minute chair or table massage in the blue area. They were then given their fast pass that gave them the precise time they could go for their massage. If they wanted a 10-minute personal training session, they went to the orange area for their fast pass.

Offerings. In addition to massage and personal training, we also offered private 15-minute dietary counseling sessions, an individual 10-minute golf video swing analysis, 20-minute resting metabolic testing, healthy cooking demonstrations and food sampling, as well as yoga preview classes.

In addition, we offered a full range of our usual Sunday group exercise classes and aquatics classes. We also brought in our director of sports medicine to discuss sports injuries, and a dietitian spoke about healthy fast-food options.

Results. The event drew more than 200 participants, and we signed up 11 new members. We sold 24 personal training sessions, booked 10 new massage appointments and sold more than $700 from our pro shop.

During the event, the 10-minute massage appointments were the most popular offering, followed by the 15-minute dietary counseling sessions and the 20-minute resting metabolic testing.

The results didn’t end after the event, though. Two weeks later, the sampler event was still being talked about, and we continued signing up new members and booking new personal training appointments and massage appointments.

Price point. We charged $10 per member if they pre-registered and $15 the day of the event registration. Nonmembers paid $15 for pre-registration and $20 for day-of registration.

Lessons learned. Like most first-time events, we learned from experience and will do some things differently the next time we hold a sampler event. For example, we would require those interested in metabolic testing to make an appointment in advance. Although we used fast passes, we quickly ran out of appointments. We would also require advance appointments for those interested in dietary counseling. Although we had two dietitians on hand, we still had participants having to wait until the end of the day to get an appointment.

Other suggestions:

  • Don’t make the event last all day.
  • Make sure your volunteers are well-versed as to what is going on and where.
  • Make announcements throughout the day to keep participants informed about activities.
  • Hold more screenings. These help direct participants into personal training, dietary counseling, and other areas of your club.

All in all, our Get Fit Sampler Event was a huge success. We plan to hold it again. However, instead of waiting a year to do so, we will hold smaller quarterly events to regenerate interest in our other programs.

So instead of holding your usual open house, try getting your members to have an open mind with a sampler event. You’ll be glad you did.