Although digital promotion is great for the masses, it’s difficult to create a personal connection between you, your studio and your members. One perfect way to make lasting impressions and a real impact in your local community, as well as creating fresh useful content, is through events.
Organising your first event is a fantastic new skill you’ll be able to master even after the first time. A lack of experience isn’t an issue as long as you’re organised, focused, and creative with your planning! After their many successful events, we asked Flex Studio in Hong Kong for their insider event tips and where they recommend you start!
Planning an event works best when things are kept simple and started early. Flex Studio co-founder Heather Thomas Shalabi explained, “For something as big as a 10 year anniversary event, it can take six-nine months (especially if a separate venue needs to be secured – there are limited seasons in Hong Kong when outdoor events can take place, so securing a coveted weekend slot is key), but most events have a three month window. We need to be relevant to what is going on at the time, so equally, we can’t prepare too far in advance.”
- Need a food provider? Work with someone you know and trust
- Panicked about getting the RSVP? Plan a promotion schedule and start splashing the invite on your studio’s Facebook, Instagram, emails and Twitter page. If you have time, create a sign for your reception desk and ask your staff to inform members as they check in!
- Don’t know what to do during the event? Create a theme around one of your most popular classes or trainers.
“[A] lesson we learned was that you can never start planning too early…there are always lots of little things that crop up last minute and you just never feel like you have enough time to get through everything. Especially when your staff is also trying to simultaneously keep doing their regular jobs.”
Defining your market
Who do you want to come to the event? Is this a public event, or do you want to promote it directly to your target market? Before you can start organising what your event includes, or what it won’t include, you need to ask yourself these questions. If you’re a new studio, you should be looking at promoting this event to your entire local community, gaining as much attention as possible. If you’re a popular studio, you can afford to be more selective e.g. holding a special pre-natal yoga event just for pregnant woman.
“Our demographic is very broad – mostly female, but more and more men are finding Pilates to be a huge benefit – and the age group ranges from 6-60 and beyond, depending on the class or event. We also work with key media partners to spread the word, as well as create Facebook events and Instagram posts to spread the word to our target demographic.”
The maximum number of people for your event will greatly depend on the space, product and resources you have available. If you’re a small studio (i.e. 1 room, 10 people max per class) be cautious about how you promote your invite as well as how many people confirm.
A good way of managing this is to set an RSVP date to confirm attendee numbers. Also, creating a Facebook event and inviting your community is a great way to actively manage the number of attendees.
If you’re a larger studio (i.e. 2-3 rooms, +15 people max per class) you still have to be weary about how many people could turn up to your event. Promoting across your social media platforms is a must, making sure there is an increase in promotion in the few days leading up.
As you get closer to the event, have a contingency plan if there are more or fewer people than expected.
Will you have extra goody bags? Can some of your friends join if you don’t have enough bodies?
If your event is free? If so, you may get more RSVPs but people are more likely to drop out on the day. If you are charging for a ticket, less may RSVP, but you can rely on them a little bit more to show up.
“Flex turned 10 years old in 2015 and as part of the celebrations, we held our 10th Anniversary Yogaslackers Festival at Cyberport in November, of which Guava was a sponsor. We were pretty well prepared, but if I had to say a lesson learned from it, more people came than had said they would – the mats were pretty full! It was a major event with wellness vendors, performances, free public classes, food, etc.”
Creating a theme
Formulating a theme for your event should be founded on what your audience wants. In every city, there is a different market that wants different things from their favourite studios. Hold a brainstorm session with your team and collaborate on the styles that they know members find interesting. It’s up to you to find an event theme that is a mix between what is familiar to your members, as well as something that’s interesting and brand new.
“We discuss events as a team and look at such things as new methods/classes we have coming up, the time of year (summer, post-Christmas, visiting Pilates trainers and so on) and what is coming to Hong Kong or trending, such as Evolution – the Asia Yoga Conference [NR1] – which is held in the city every other June.”
Always think about the content
One of the main benefits of an event is the opportunity to produce unique and powerful content that will further promote your brand. Not only should you have someone with a steady hand in charge of snapping photos or taking videos during the event, but make sure you have things laying around that members will find are worth sharing. For example, offering a cute goodie bag for members, selling special discounts for class packages on the day, laying props or even a polaroid camera will engage your audience and indirectly help build brand awareness.
No matter the size of your studio or the number of events you’ve done in the past, getting support from local businesses and community members is a must. Bringing in more people to the planning process allows a greater exchange of ideas and exploration of possible obstacles, as well as physical support and product sponsorship for your event.
“Our most successful event] would have to be in late 2015, when we did the Yoga Slackers event in Cyberport, which was designed to reach out to the entire HK community and passers-by. It involved so many people – over 20 vendors. Plus we had respected guest artists from Yoga Slackers doing performances and leading classes and workshops. It was the most comprehensive event we have done.”
“Guava has been a great sponsor of our events and those we’ve been involved in…We are also now hosting Guava-pass-only classes at Flex’s One Island South studio. One of our fave yoga instructors, Abishek Agrawal, ran a Find Your Flow yoga class at the W Hotel for the Sweat it Out event in March.”
Expecting the unexpected
There are a lot of things that can go wrong during an event, and a well-planned event is one that foresees these potential problems. Have backup options for every external provider of services of products on the day – this includes food, instructors, delivery services and photography companies (if you can). Definitely keep the weather in mind too!
“Because HK is so last minute, it’s sometimes hard to secure precise numbers in advance. I guess the other thing is mother nature. For example, with our 10 year anniversary – at Cyberport – the weather the day before was terrible; thunderstorms, windy and cold. But by some miracle, by the next morning, it was clear for the event. Then, as we were closing down the tent, it started raining again. It must have been our karma. Even if you plan something during a notoriously sunny season, you don’t always have control.”
How will you know how to improve or what went well if you don’t ask for feedback? One of the easiest ways to do this is by sending a simple post-event survey to every group that was involved. This includes not only your members but the trainer that was teaching and any other external members that were involved. Typeform is a great survey tool that already has templates with questions build in for you. We highly recommend it!