The H. Chambers Company

Perspectives from the Other Side
5 Ways to Enhance Your Private Club Events

 

For many clubs, summer is the best time to engage members with fun activities. Hosting unique events that cultivate connection is one of the best ways to create a sense of community and belonging at any private club. Such events allow members to mingle with friends and family in a new environment, while also meeting new people.

However, simply gathering a large group into a room isn’t enough to create the sense of community and “fun” that most members desire. Times have changed—and so have the ways members enjoy their clubs. Here are a few tips to ensure your private club events aren’t just well attended, but also beloved and valued by your membership!

 

Communicate Through Multiple Channels
Before we discuss the best way to refresh the events themselves, we need to think about how members learn about the activities occurring at their club. After all, an event can’t be a success without getting the right people to attend—and by “the right people,” I mean members that will find value in that specific event. To do so, club leaders must communicate in a way that resonates with the right target audience.

Most club managers, at one point or another, have heard members claim they missed a club event that they would have liked to attend, had they known about it. Rather than responding with, “We sent out multiple emails” or “It was posted on the locker room bulletin board,” club leaders should view these moments as opportunities to ask your members when, where, and how they want to hear from you. Of course, different groups of members will have different answers to that question. Younger members may respond well to social media communications, while more seasoned members may appreciate a printed newsletter or event bulletin.

To continuously capture the attention of your membership, keep your communications fresh and innovative. For example, some clubs have begun utilizing unique services like Newstation to communicate to their members. These newscast-like updates are extremely beneficial and effective for club communications because they take a familiar idea that more seasoned members can relate to, but present them in a fresh, interesting way that will turn heads.

My point? When it comes to communication, there’s no magic bullet. Such efforts need to be as diverse as our multigenerational and multicultural memberships themselves. Now more than ever, there is a vast array of communication tools at your disposal—just be sure to utilize them thoughtfully and with intention.

 

Target Member Niches
Today’s marketing trends are all about pinpointing the exact group of people that are interested in your offerings—the private club industry is no different. It’s important to incorporate niche celebrations into your events arsenal. The traditionally well-attended President’s Ball and grand New Year’s Eve parties are still an important aspect of private club culture; but today, it’s more about hosting smaller celebrations that target the varied interests of different demographics.

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that every party has to include 300 people or more to be deemed a success. Instead of worrying about a head count, focus on how much your members enjoyed themselves, how much a particular event spoke to their interests, and how much it enhanced their lives—whether it’s a party of 20, 50 or 300. Identifying niches within your membership will help you plan events and programming that resonates with these targeted groups.

 

Embrace Community Vendors
Part of a private club’s appeal may be a feeling of exclusivity, but it’s still important to create connections with your community—especially when it comes to hosting events. When I was managing the Country Club of St. Albans, we would organize casino nights where members could play various games for play money as donations for local charities. To accomplish that authentic casino feel, our team would get in touch with a local props vendor who could provide all of the Vegas-esque decor, fake money, and more. When our team at Nakoma Golf Club threw a fun murder-mystery night, we reached out to a local theater company that could provide actors, props, and costumes to act out the play “Dead in the Rough” and create an immersive experience for members. The resources lying outside of club walls is nearly limitless if you dare to look for them.

When members or outside parties would book the club for a celebration and bring in their own event planners, our team would often learn new tips and tricks and try to incorporate their ideas into our own celebrations. For some club events, we’d even team up with other clubs in the area to throw a party for the ages—all while introducing our members to new people, offering them new experiences, and building a strong local club community.

Always be open to inspiration wherever you can find it. Ultimately, reaching out to your community vendors and other resources will keep your events fresh, exciting, and invigorated with new ideas.

 

Thoughtfully Schedule Events
Timing is everything. Private clubs are always entrenched in a battle for their members’ time. To optimize the success of your events and activities, it’s important to consider when you plan to host them. In order to select the perfect time for an event, you need to have a deep understanding of your members’ habits, utilization patterns at your club, and what’s happening in the community. You never want to compete against member vacations, seasonal ebbs and flows, or big events going on in the area. Your events should always supplement and work in coordination with the lives of your members.

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t strive for year-round utilization. In fact, positioning the right event during the “off season” can bring joy and delight to members, showing them the value of coming to the club even when it might not be the best time for recreation. For example, at Nakoma Golf Club, we would throw a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” night in mid-February and bring the tropics to mid-winter Wisconsin. We would dress up the clubhouse with Scenic Ocean backdrops complete with a tiki bar, steel drum band, and margarita luges. This event was incredibly popular—not only because it satisfied member cravings for something unique and different, but also because it was well timed and satisfied their yearning for summertime.

 

Create a Sense of Value
Everything we do as club managers, including event planning, must always create a sense of perceived value and club engagement for our members. It’s important to remember that we’re not just in the dining or golf business—we’re in the membership business. The sole purpose of any private club is to attract and engage members by being relevant in their lives. We must continually justify our purpose in our members’ lives and give them reasons to spend time with us.

Organizing events that intertwine all of the above increases the value of their dues. The more engaged the member, the more valuable the club becomes in their day-to-day. What does this mean for the club? On top of continuing to pay dues and funneling revenue into the F&B department, an engaged member is also more likely to introduce future members to the club and have a burning desire to continue the club’s legacy. Even beyond that, at the end of the day, an engaged member is a happy one—and that’s really all we can ask for.

 

How have you helped enhance your private club events? Comment below and let us know!

As always, if there’s ever anything I can do to help you or your club, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Skip Avery

Skip Avery

Currently Executive Vice President of Chambers, Skip boasts 32 years of experience in day-to-day club management and governance. He has served as President of the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) and has managed some of the country's most prestigious private clubs as GM/COO. At Chambers, he is responsible for strategic and facilities planning, as well as providing counsel to the firm's architectural and interior design teams.
Skip Avery

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