Every year I host 3 open houses at my dance studio. I provide free classes in all of the styles of dance that my studio offers, collect enrollments for the coming season, and set up new students up with the dancewear and shoes they will need for their classes. I have found that it is consistently a great way to welcome newcomers into my studio family and grow my enrollment numbers before my new season begins. Parents love having the opportunity to experience my dance studio’s culture, meet the instructors and ask questions in person before committing to enrollment. New dancers get excited and inspired by fun classes and performances by the older dancers. I also end up with a great revenue bump by providing the required shoes and dancewear. Planning these open houses was a little scary to me at first, but now that I have this system in place for putting my open houses together, it’s really easy for me to do and always draws a good crowd.
Here’s how you can host an enrollment-boosting open house at your dance studio in 5 steps.
Set a date. Hold your open house before your new season begins. Make sure you pick a day and time that most people in your target market are available and looking for a fun, free activity. I like to run one on a Friday evening toward the end of my current dance season and another on the Saturday right before my new season starts that runs during the morning through the early afternoon.
Create a schedule of free sample-length classes in a variety of the styles that you offer. Thirty minutes is a good length for all age-groups and styles. Schedule different styles of classes for the same age group back-to-back so that it’s easy for them to try all of their options and get signed up for more than just one class. Make sure that these sample classes showcase the most fun and exciting parts of the curriculum. Invite older students to come in and be demonstrators. Leave 5 minutes at the end open for your company dancers or older dancers to present a performance piece to them to really get your prospective new students excited.
Set up the classes in your studio software or some other online scheduling app. Make sure that it’s easy for your prospects to register online for your free classes. Remove any friction that would dissuade prospective studio parents from signing their kids up for the event. For example, don’t scare them off by routing them through your online financial agreement that pertains to people that are enrolling for your real classes. You do want to get contact info for follow up and have a basic liability waiver in place, but make it simple and brief.
Add the information about your free open house to the homepage of your website, create an event on Facebook, schedule several posts for all of your social media platforms, email the information to everyone on your mailing list, email families of current students asking them to invite their friends, share your Facebook event with area preschools, daycares and mom groups and ask them to pass it on, take fliers to preschools, write a press release, put an ad in your recital program.
The ways to promote your event go on and on. However you promote it, be sure to use the same images and copy (the words you use in your promotions) across all promotional platforms and create a single landing page on your website. Direct traffic from all promotions to the landing page with a “sign up here” button.
Include the link to that landing page in every promotion. Put the online registration link on that landing page. The landing page repeats the information that was in the promotion with some more detail and provides the actual enrollment link. Make sure that the online registration link goes directly to your open house event. Don’t lose prospects by taking them through a confusing labyrinth of web pages.
In addition to clear information about the day, time, location and nature of your event, be sure to include an irresistible offer and a call to action in all of your promotions. You can access a free template for your open house promotional copy here.
Welcome Your Guests
I don’t think that there is anything worse than a snobby dance studio. When your guests arrive, have a staff member or volunteer at the door to welcome them, learn their names, give them a tour, and introduce them to all faculty and staff available to introduce them to. Make them feel like family. Give them a gift for coming. I like to get inexpensive cloth bags printed with my logo and put a few goodies inside like a logoed car decal, some information sheets and a couple pieces of candy. The younger dancers usually end up using their bags as dance bags for class all year. (They love them because they are pink!)
It’s essential that teachers are warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic. They should make their sample-length classes exciting and inspiring. They should also be given some time to let parents know that their kids did great in the class and give them a recommendation as to what class or classes would be best for them to enroll in. Because our open house events are usually very busy and it’s hard to have an in depth conversation with each parent, we use class recommendation cards. They are just small slips of paper that we had printed with our logo and some nice graphics that say, “Thank you for coming to our open house. Here are the classes that we recommend”. I pre-write several with the classes that a certain age group would feed into so that I can hand them out quickly to parents after class while I thank them personally for coming and let them know that their child did well.
A note here about complimenting the child; never lie. Don’t go tell parents that a student is going to be the next Misty Copeland when they clearly aren’t. However, especially if they are very young and it’s their first time in the dance class environment, it should be easy to find at least one specific compliment to give them. “She listened and followed directions very well.” “He was an enthusiastic participant.”
Collect Enrollments and Sell Uniforms
Your front desk staff should be ready to sign up new families at the open house while they are excited. Make sure that your staff is well trained and your systems are efficient enough to enroll people quickly so that their excitement is not cooled by waiting in a long line. Your front desk staff should also be armed with the answers to the many questions that new parents will have.
Getting to leave the studio with all of the supplies that transform a four year old into a ballerina will put a huge smile on mom’s face as well as your new dancer. If you sell dancewear and shoes, either that you keep in stock or collect orders for, have additional staff dedicated to help new students try on, or be fitted for, the shoes and the dancewear that they need to meet your dress code. Plan ahead and order enough to be well stocked for your event. Parents will appreciate the one-stop-shop, and you will appreciate the revenue bump.
Not every parent is going to sign their child up at the open house. Families have lots of logistics to work out and often need or want to discuss the decision a bit more before jumping in. That’s completely understandable, but don’t just let that prospect go when they walk out the door.
The fortune is always in the follow up. Follow up with them in a few days. Thank them again for coming to your open house. Ask if they had any questions for you and if they would like your help snagging a spot in a class before it fills up. Note: being able to follow up requires keeping track of who was at your event and who already signed up, as well as having their contact info. Put a system in place to organize your information and track your success.