Tony Santomauro is owner and president of The Santomauro Group, a health, fitness, martial arts and sports consulting and management company. Santomauro, a 35-year health and fitness veteran, was co founder and former president of Can Do Fitness Clubs in New Jersey for the past 12 years. He has extensive direct/corporate sales and marketing experience as well as expertise in advertising, public relations, martial arts and kids programming, equipment layout and design, class and fitness programming and all operational aspects in the field. He is an internationally certified Kukkiwon black belt.He can be contacted at tonysantomauro@thesantomaurogroup.com or 973-396-2100.

Special events are a cost-effective way of generating referrals and bringing new prospects to your club. By implementing and maintaining a monthly special events calendar, many clubs can not only increase the number of referral opportunities, but they also can improve their retention rate, increase revenue and gain more exposure for their club.

1. Planning. The first step for starting your special events program is to develop a plan, which includes establishing a monthly budget. Decide what it is that you want to accomplish. Do you want to:

  • Generate guest traffic
  • Increase member retention
  • Generate additional revenue
  • Introduce new profit centers
  • Receive additional club exposure
  • Give back to the community
  • Increase club branding
  • All of the above

The answer as a whole would be all of the above, but each event serves its own role in achieving the overall goal.

2. Organizing. Once you decide what your main objectives are, you need to organize your assets. You should develop an annual special events calendar. Start with seasonal events and charitable causes. For example, October offers some valuable opportunities, such as:

  • Halloween—You can do a Scary Spin class in which you decorate your spin room, have your Spin instructor dress in costume and play scary music during the class.
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month—You could request charitable donations to participate in a class or hold a fashion show.
  • Winter Coat Drive—You could collect new or slightly used coats for the homeless.

Add events to achieve your monthly objectives. For instance, if one of your goals is to increase guest traffic, hold an event in which members are invited to bring guests.

Once you have planned your annual events, you need to:

  • Design your event board, master poster and flyer
  • Develop standard operating procedures
  • Purchase the necessary supplies, equipment and accessories

3. Staffing. Special events are determined by the services and programming your club provides. Staffing your events with existing personnel is the easiest and most cost-effective way to manage them. Large clubs with large budgets can afford to create a special events coordinator position, which can be a 20-hour-a-week position. Owners of smaller clubs must add this job task to a department manager’s responsibilities. The group fitness manager is the most likely candidate to assume that role.

The key to a successful program is communicating monthly events to the staff, who in turn promotes the events to members. Every staff member should be involved in special events. Department heads should develop their own departmental monthly events and submit those to the events coordinator in a timely fashion.

4. Implementation. Proper lead time is essential. The events coordinator, working off of the annual plan, must be at least two months in front of the actual events planned to ensure proper implementation. The coordinator must:

  • Set up the calendar of events on one large poster (color) board by date and display on large centralized bulletin board, as well as at outreach partners.
  • Create individual flyers. Use color flyers for bulletin board displays, and use black and white on color paper for distributing to members and outreach partners.
  • Store flyers in clear, plastic hanging bins that make them easily accessible. Replenish flyers when needed.
  • Create a special events book and place it at the reception desk. The book contains each event with a page dedicated to pre-registration. Pre-registration is necessary to determine the number of members/guests participating in each event. The log will describe the event, list member/nonmember names, include their phone number, date registered and whether they’ve paid if the event is fee based.
  • Meet with department heads to review events at weekly departmental meetings. Confirm instructors, times, etc.

5. Execution. Every step of the way in preparing your special events is as important as the next. However, the execution step is the most crucial to the success of the program. Just like in a coach’s week-long preparation for Sunday’s football game, the execution of the game plan on Sunday will determine the outcome of the contest.

Every team player must know their specific role and function, then must deliver. The event coordinator or “coach” is responsible for the accountability of all team members performing their individual job functions. The coordinator also must measure the results of each event and make adjustments accordingly for future events.

Controls must be put in place to insure the proper execution as well as to measure the results. If you follow through with these steps, you can have a successful event.