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Putting visitor experience at the heart of your Open Day

Where to find the best advice to keep more people sailing

How would you describe the visitor experience of people who come to your Open Day? 

Is it a smooth process where everyone who comes through your gates leaves with exactly the right impression of your club or centre for what they want to do or is it a bit more hit and miss?

Take yourself out of the sailing club and into a shop. If something is too hard to find, staff seem uninformed, you get ignored or you feel you're paying over the odds for something you could get cheaper elsewhere, would you persevere and keep going back to the same shop? Of course you wouldn't. The same goes for your Open Day visitors. 

As the final deadline for clubs and centres to sign up for 2017 Push The Boat Out looms on Tuesday 28 February, how to make the most of your Open Day and taster events is the subject of the Midlands Club Development Workshops taking place later this month and early March.

Jackie Bennetts, RYA Club Support Advisor, visited the RYA Midlands Affiliated Club Workshop and ran a workshop on this very topic in November. She believes with Push The Boat Out achieving record turnout numbers across the UK last year, clubs and centres really need to focus on visitor experience to get people coming back again after your Open Day.

"Looking at each demographic of people that could attend your Open Day, putting together 'packages' relevant to each of them on the day and taking them through that tailored pathway - from when they arrive to whatever transaction you want them to enter into before they leave - is crucial.

"One size does not fit all. What may convince one person sailing and your club is right for them may turn another person off completely. We know how diverse an activity sailing can be, and how many clubs cater for many different types of people, so make sure your visitors get that impression too."

Jackie's top tips on visitor experience...

1. Pre-booking makes a big difference

Clubs who report good retention from Open/taster days suggest having people register in advance helps gives visitors a better individual experience, increasing the chance of them engaging with you again.

You don't want a mass of people arriving and disorganised chaos at 11am, with people being left on their own or not shown the elements of the club that are most likely to appeal to them, so spread it out. Yes, leave a bit of overflow capacity for those who do just show up on the day, but as far as possible take the pressure off yourselves and volunteers by knowing who's coming when and what you're going to do with them.

2. Your 'meeters and greeters' are everything

As far as possible match your meeter and greeter(s) to the type of person/people that walk through the gates. You want people want to see that sailing is something they could do, so having someone walk them through the day and taking them out sailing who is like them makes the activity relevant and feel obtainable to them.

One of the key roles of a meeter and greeter is understanding a guest's level of previous experience, why they are there, what their aspirations are, what perceptions they have of sailing, any fears they might have etc and be able to answer their questions knowledgably and reassuringly. 

3. Think about your off-the-water appeal

People coming to a sailing club open day will, for the most part (weather permitting), want to go sailing and having the right type of boat available for a specific type/group of people is important, but so is what they do when they're not on the water too.

What activities can you put on on the day as part of a 'family experience', what about the retirees, adults looking for a bit of an adrenaline buzz, people returning to the sport, women? Give them a day that resonates completely with what they're after, including letting them know about club activities with specific appeal to them (Ladies Who Launch, Silver Sailing, Family social sailing etc).  

4. What's your offer?   

People want to feel like they're getting a special incentive for coming along to your Open Day so how can you entice them so sign up for a course or become a member on the day? 15 months for the price of 12? No joining fee? Subsidised course? Free Powerboat Level 2 course in first year of membership? There are heaps of ideas you could explore, don't get greedy, get people!

5. Provide plenty of follow up options

So someone has enjoyed their experience but doesn't want to commit to signing up on the day, don't give up on them just because they won't hand over cash. What follow up activities can you offer them to come back again? What about having a 'coffee shop style' card where they can come along for three free sails with a member in the next two months or inviting them to a Friday night social sailing BBQ, anything that will help that person see that sailing and your club is right for them. Softly softly not hard sell is likely to be much more effective for people completely new to the sport, so have that up your sleeves. 

6. Don't lose a person from the sport

Sometimes someone will come through your doors who just isn't going to get what they want from your club. Perhaps they want high octane activity and your water isn't big enough for spinnakers, or windsurfing is what they're looking for but you don't offer it. Don't see that as a negative and abandon that person as a waste of time; they might not want to join your club at the end of their taster but could you point them in the right direction of another local club who could? Ok you want members, but we all want more people to feel as passionately about the sport as we do so help to keep them involved.

How can you sign up for Push The Boat Out 2017?  

Push the Boat Out is all about getting people out on the water and discovering what's right on their doorsteps whether complete beginners or people who might have sailed before.

This year Push The Boat Out runs from Saturday 13 to Sunday 21 May so get your club signed up before the end of this month to take part! How? Click on the Push The Boat link at the top of the page.

How can we come along to the Midlands Club Development Workshops?

All the information, locations and dates you need can be found by clicking on the link at the top of this page. There are six workshops in total and whether you're running a Push the Boat Out event or your annual Open Day at another time, there will be heaps of advice and ideas to help you get more from the effort you put in.

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