You’ve performed in your community and people know who you are. You’ve put out flyers, press releases, and you’ve prepared the community for your recruiting efforts. Now what?
One of the most effective ways to walk the final mile from your public relations activities to new recruits making the decision to participate in your group is to hold an open house during one of your rehearsals. In the open house potential members have an opportunity to see what your rehearsals are like, meet the members, and ask lots of questions.
Selecting Dates for the Open House
Be thoughtful about dates. Ideally, your date will be after you’ve had a round of performances in your town or community. Not only will this give you the chance to hand out promotional materials, but people will also see your corps play.
Your recruiting needs as well as your instructors will tell you how many open houses you need per year. Do you need them quarterly? Semi-annually? Talk to your beginning fife and drum instructors before you have an open house. Can they absorb new people or will this be difficult?
The Open House - Huzzah!
On the day of the open house, arrive early with a group of helpers. You want to be set up and organized long before any attendees come. This is your chance to shine! You are putting on a show for people.
It is effective to organize your open house into a formal part in which information is provided and members play. This can be followed by an informal part in which the attendees visits with the corps and questions can be answered.
Junior Corps Considerations
The biggest mistake that most people make for any type of an open house is that they talk too much. Don’t do this! The effects of this can be more pronounced for a Junior Corps open house - In this case, you’ll bore the kids silly and they’ll never want to join. So, how do you balance getting information to the parents but not lose the kids? It is tough.
First, make sure that you have a good handout for families that has the basics. This will tell the parents a lot and they won’t have to hear you say it. Next, have your corps members play music for the group. That’s why the people are there in the first place. They want to hear and see the kids play, so line up a fifer, snare, and bass who can play individually and then together. Potential recruits don’t want to hear adults talk on and on and on,they want to hear from the current members. So, choose a child who is well-spoken and have him/her say a couple words and then take questions.
Open House Dos and Don’ts
There are so many elements to a good open house. Here are some helpful tricks.
- Don’t start your Open House at the same time as rehearsal. It’s too hectic. Wait until ½ hour after your rehearsal starts. If you don’t have people to help you, start the Open House immediately after your rehearsal ends.
- Do have good signage telling people where to go for your open house. Nobody wants to feel lost.
- Do have greeters who are friendly and will interact with your guests and NOT among themselves. It is very off-putting to attend an event and feel like there are a bunch of insiders who are talking to each other. If you helping with the event, don’t talk about inside jokes or stories. It isn’t welcoming!
- Do play a CD, (or show a YouTube playlist, of your corps or of another corps as the attendees enter if your corps rehearsal cannot be heard. It helps with silence and also reminds people why they are there.
- Do have a sign-in sheet with plenty of room - use two sheets! - and ask people how they found out about your open house.
- Do review all the sign-in entries before people leave to make sure you can read email addresses.
- Do have corps members, or at least some of them, dress in uniform for rehearsal. Everyone wants to see your uniform.
- Do bring a uniform for people to see in addition to this.
- Do have lots and lots pictures for your attendees to view. See below for thoughts on pictures.
- Don’t use terms that people won’t understand. Don’t say “muster,” say “historical event.” Unless people live in Deep River, they probably don’t know what a muster is.
- Do assume that people know nothing about fife and drum.
- Do bring props, lots of them, such as fifes, drum sticks, drums (real ones), lanterns, music books. This puts people in the mood and gives them something to pick up and touch.
- Do bring a drum pad and let the attendees bang on it. This will prevent them from banging on the snare that you bring in!
- Do have an instrument petting zoo. Get the instruments in the attendees hands. Who wants to just look at an instrument? Let them feel and play them.
- Do consider other forms of entertainment for siblings, children, spouses that may have been brought along to the Open House and who don’t have an interest in joining themselves. Consider coloring pages, toys/game, or some party snacks.
Pictures for Open House
Do have lots of pictures for attendees to view. They can be: tri-folds, posters, banner collages, scrapbooks, large pictures, 5x7 pictures. Whatever you want. Just have pictures. They are great for awkward moments when people enter and don’t have anything to say.
Include pictures of the members and families in your corps having fun. Everyone wants to know that they will be joining something that is enjoyable. (Kids in a pool. Families at a picnic. Kids laughing on a bus.)
Pictures should show a variety of members (age, gender, races). People joining should be able to see themselves reflected in the pictures.
Watching the corps during the open house
After you have your formal part of the open house, visit the corps playing or marching. Again, this is why your attendees have come! It doesn’t matter if you are seeing sectionals or full corps rehearsal. People want to see what they will be joining.
After your potential members and families have seen the corps, gather everyone together again. Invite people to ask questions. If they don’t have any, tell them you’ll send an email with next steps.
Other ways to attract people to your Open House
Contests - Have a corps contest to see which member can bring the most new people to your open house
Free dues for a town day raffle - Why not?