Make group ex a drawcard for your club

By hosting group ex-focused ‘mass member’ events you can create an amazing atmosphere and make Group Ex a real drawcard for your facility.

If you can make members and prospective members want to be a part of what you are doing, and if you can make them feel like they will be missing out if they don’t participate in your group fitness events, then you have successfully made group fitness a drawcard for your members.

So, how can you create that feeling?

Macquarie University Sport has established a hearty tradition of mass member participation events four times a year to coincide with Les Mills Quarterly releases, and in addition to this we also run one other mass member event each year.

The quarterly events take place over one day. At each event we raise money for our nominated charity, Special Olympics, and we invite Special Olympic Athletes to attend the classes.

Quarterly event statistics

  • 10-18 classes on offer that day
  • 20-36 Group Fitness Instructors deliver the classes
  • 350-630 members and friends attend
  • up to 15 membership sales directly related to the event.

Our mass member events also feature one huge class, attended by between 150 and 180 members and friends. Recent events have included BODYATTACK® Gold with Les Mills Trainer Chris Hutton (at which every attendee was given a free event t-shirt); the Biggest BODYPUMP® Class Ever with Master Trainer Jako Misic; and the Zumba Do it in a Dress session, at which everyone attending wore school uniform.

As long as you deliver the event as professionally and passionately as you have promoted it, you’re on track to making group exercise a major drawcard for your members. It becomes a tribe of like-minded people all coming together. If the event you host is memorable, energising, powerful and, importantly, fun, why wouldn’t members want to attend the next one? Drawing the members back becomes easy. Group exercise becomes a powerful drawcard and your business as a whole benefits.

Each group fitness event that we hold has a theme, and all studios are decorated to reflect this. Everything from the front Customer Service desk to the downstairs Health Club desk are decked out to promote the event, and frontline staff dress in themed costumes on the day. Instructors and members also dress up, and we turn one of the smaller studios into a Chillout Zone where people can relax between classes, socialise with their friends and refuel, before getting amongst it again. And why is this necessary? Well, it’s not uncommon for members to do three or more classes on the day!

Spread the word far and wide!

Six weeks prior to the launch, our marketing machine kicks in, with posters going up around the centre, social media promotion on Facebook and Instagram, event publicity on digital screens around the centre and on the Macquarie University campus, press coverage in local newspapers, and a huge Super Saturday banner at the entrance to the centre. Our website has a dedicated page where members can register for classes. This page also offers information on the event, a class rundown, membership deals on the day, prize information, profiles of Master Trainers and special guests and details of instructor launch teams.

Group Fitness Instructors are key to getting the message out to members and getting them excited about the event. Word-of-mouth is one of our most effective tools. The reputation of the events, and the post-event Facebook and Instagram posts, are an effective way to hook people in and draw them into our group fitness tribe.

Know what you want to achieve

A major factor in the success of the event is detailed and timely preparation – and going all out in our promotion of it. It’s important to be clear about what your goals are: do you want to primarily recruit new members? Do you want to add value to your current member experience to engage them and build retention? Or do you want to more generally promote your club? Make sure your goals are SMART. You need to find ways to measure the success of your events, track progress over time and report the results to your club manager. You truly can harness the power of the masses to build your business by making group fitness a drawcard rather than just ‘something else my gym does’.

When it comes to our quarterly events, not all events are created equal. In each 12-month period we choose two easy buy-in themes and two more involved ones that have a WOW factor. For example, Super Summertime Saturday and Super Sporty Saturday are easy for members to dress up for and get involved in. Super Ninja Saturday and Superhero Saturday require more time, money and thought for members to theme their costumes, but the studio decoration and the instructor costumes are much more impressive. We hire a photographer for the event and often prior to the event, so that we can use our own Group Fitness Instructors in the promotional material.

If you have a mascot for your club then involve them in the event – and if you don’t have one, then why not create one? We have a Mac Warrior (who we involve in the group fitness launch events) and a Mini Mac Warrior (who we use for BORN TO MOVE events). Your mascot can have fun with the members on the day and help promote group fitness and the club. If your event is showcasing Les Mills classes, then you could even invite some Les Mills Master Trainers to attend.

Deliver – and excite!

Make sure that you deliver – and over-deliver if possible – on your promises! If you establish your events strongly, members will come regardless of the theme, the date or the time. When you encourage your members to get tribal and get involved in your events then group fitness becomes a powerful drawcard for your club.

Excite your team by getting them involved early. Urge them to release details one at a time to members in the lead up to the event; by doing so you can pique the interest of your target market. I have a group fitness instructor Facebook page on which I release one detail at a time and ask my team to focus on promoting that in class during the week, for example, let them know that they can try a brand new Hula Hoop class at the event; that there are prizes to be won in every class; that they can bring a friend for free, and so on. Don’t swamp your members with too many promotional drawcards at once – offer them up, one at a time.

You can also foster healthy competition among your team by regularly posting class booking numbers once classes are open for the event. Who can pull the biggest numbers to their class on the day?

The statistics in Table 1 speak for themselves.

Your events will expose members to classes – and instructors – that they may not ordinarily encounter – which can work as a great promotion of your group exercise timetable. The events are also an opportunity to showcase your facility to friends of members, and to impress them with how much fun group fitness can be. It is important to create an environment that feels like a second home, a place of community, sharing and like-minded people. By doing so, you can make group fitness a real drawcard for your facility.


Leisl Klaebe is Group Fitness Team Leader at Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre in NSW. mq.edu.au