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No matter what the activity, people want to be entertained. If you can keep them entertained, they’ll come back for more.
This includes at your health club. Anything from large-screen TVs to the audio set up in your Group X room can bring an entertainment factor to your club’s member experience. “Entertainment, from our perspective, has a multi-channel approach,” said Jon Brady, the chief operating officer of Midtown Athletic Clubs. “We look at entertainment on cardio machines, as a communication tool around the club through digital signage, in the group classroom and even live entertainment using DJs or musicians.”
According to Brady, the purpose of any club’s entertainment features, no matter what they are, should be to enhance membership satisfaction. “We try to differentiate ourselves based on member experience,” he said. “We want to be referred to as a good club — that belonging to Midtown is a badge of honor for people.”
To further that effort, Midtown has been implementing new technology and entertainment features based on industry trends.
A recent trend in club entertainment includes lining multiple walls with television screens. Some clubs even leave remotes nearby so members can change the channel to their liking.
Although this may not seem innovative, it might be exactly what members are looking for.
“People like to have access to what they want — more individualized, on-demand content as opposed to whatever happens to be on television at the given time they’re working out on a piece of cardio equipment,” said Brady.
On cardio equipment, Midtown has given its members the option to sign into their personal streaming accounts, such as Netflix or Hulu, and watch their preferred shows or movies while they workout.
“We’ve given members that flexibility to also access, directly on the cardio machines, their own content once they’ve signed in,” said Brady. “We make that pretty seamless for them — it’s a radio-frequency identification (RFID) integration we use so you only have to log in once and the back-end system knows who you are and knows what your preferences are.”
The machines will even remember where a member left off in whatever show he or she was watching.
This personalized experience has received high praise from Midtown’s members. “Our members have been very excited about that [amenity],” said Brady. “It’s a very positive development over the past nine to 12 months and we’ve had a huge amount of positive feedback.”
Another entertainment feature to consider is live music. Although this may sound like a foreign concept, Brady explained this is a way to help your gym stand out. “Having live music in classes, having DJs come in and do events in the gym creates an environment for members that is unique, different and fun,” he said. “We want to make it fun and exciting for members.”
Even in a health club environment, live music can have a motivating effect. A DJ playing music in the workout areas can help pump members up for their workouts, while a live band could bring a lot of life to a party or event.
“We try to utilize live music wherever we can in various formats,” said Brady. “We create an environment that stimulates interest and engagement, is a little bit outside the norm and enhances people’s feelings of being somewhere that is a little different.”
Most health clubs will have huge TV screens all over the facility with something sports-related showing. Midtown does things a little differently.
“We don’t use a lot of televisions around the club for entertainment purposes — we use them for information purposes,” said Brady. “The large screens you see around our clubs are generally promoting events and activities around the club itself.”
An increasingly popular practice is using TV screens throughout the club to encourage social media engagement, and it’s a feature Midtown has implemented. “We have started testing a product called UPshow, which allows members to see themselves in posts to Instagram on a hashtag like #Midtown, for example, and to have that post come up on a big screen in the club in real time,” said Brady.
Giving members the ability to see what workouts others are doing in the club provides an entertainment factor naturally inherent with social media.
Club operators should always think outside the box with programming and design decisions, and the same can be said for implementing entertainment features.
“Don’t be afraid to be different,” encouraged Brady. “Don’t be afraid to try things. Don’t be afraid to ask members what they want. And don’t be afraid to get things wrong sometimes and learn from those mistakes. We don’t always get it right.”
Through trial and error, you’ll find the right features to resonate with your members. When you do, don’t be surprised to see an increase in member participation.
“[Entertainment] allows us to elevate ourselves and differentiate ourselves,” said Brady. “It’s a key part of defining the brand and who we are, by focusing on how we can enhance the member experience and give them something to talk about at the water cooler.”