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Monday
Feb062012

Put Your Marina in the Local Spotlight with Special Events

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age –  June 2010. 

As we approach the summer season, marinas should be planning special events to bring more traffic into the facility. Events and activities at your marina are a great way to engage both your customers and the local community in the boating lifestyle.  After all, the marina needs to be a fun place, and events are a great way to promote that fun.  Events will also allow potentially new customers to talk to your current customers and hear about all the benefits your marina has to offer.

When choosing what events to offer, a marina should take into account whether it is busy or slow season, what type of boats the marina caters to, and who will be attending the event?  Not all events work for all marinas.  The important things to remember when planning an event are communication, organization, and FUN.  Here is how to plan an event.

Planning

The key to hosting a good event is to leave enough time to properly plan it.  Participants will be able to tell if your event is whipped together at the last moment, and it will make the marina look bad.  If you have a quiet off-season, take that time to carefully select dates. 

Make sure your event does not conflict with other major events that will diminish your turnout or create ill will from the other event’s organizers.  One of the best ways to organize an event is with a checklist.  A facility checklist will allow a marina to keep track of what has been done and what still needs to be done before the event.

Organization


Take the time to sit down with your staff and event organizers to discuss ideas for the event.  Some of the less glamorous things that need to be discussed are how the marina will handle garbage, security, parking, and keep its restrooms clean during the event.  Overlooking these issues is a recipe for disaster. 

Parking

Knowing the total number of people you are expecting will help you gauge the number of cars to expect.  For example, I assume that there will be one car for every three people at the event.  Based on that calculation, do you have enough parking at your marina to accommodate that many cars?  If you do not have the space then you need to plan where you are going to park those cars on the day of the event.  Now is the time to call in that favor from your neighbor or the local community to accommodate the overflow of cars.

Garbage

You will need to estimate how much garbage your event will generate and determine if you will need an additional dumpster on-site.  Will you need more trash receptacles in the event area?  Don’t be afraid to ask your garbage contractor to sponsor the event by providing additional dumpsters, trash pick-up, and sometimes even temporary trash receptacles for the event.  Will you need additional staff to handle the increase in garbage?

Restrooms

Are your restrooms adequate to accommodate the total number of participants you are expecting?  Will you need to bring in some portable restrooms?  Will you need additional staff to maintain the restrooms during the event?

Security

When inviting people from the outside into the property, security will always be an issue.  The general public may not be accustomed to being around boats and may not know how to behave.  An innocent photo opportunity could turn into someone jumping on a stranger’s boat, which is not a good situation. 

Having additional security on hand is a good idea especially if alcohol is served.  Additional lighting in dark corners of the marina and temporary fencing to secure vulnerable areas of the marina may also be required. 

Other needs

Some other things that should be considered before hosting an event at the marina are where the event will take place, what special utilities are needed, and what is the backup plan should the weather take a turn for the worse.  For an event checklist and more ideas go to www.marinamanagement.com and visit my blog.

Promotion

You will need to tell existing boaters and other potential participants about this event with a “Save the Date” notification well in advance.  Make sure notification materials include the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the event.  Make sure to notify local newspapers, boating Web sites, boating and yacht clubs, and notify existing customers by posting flyers at the mailboxes, in the laundry room, and at the customer service desk.

Fun ideas

Some fun ideas to incorporate into your event are pet contests, a docking competition, dinghy races, model boat racing, a health expo, or a cookout.  People love their dogs, cats, birds, and other pets and even take these pets with them when they go boating.  Have a best dressed pet contest, a special tricks contest, or any other zany or wacky pet oriented contest.  This is something that everyone can enjoy. 

Although a docking, competition can be dangerous, if it involves experienced boaters in the right location, this can be a hoot to watch.

Never underestimate the entertainment factor of a 100-foot dinghy race.  It’s really fun and a great way to pair up boaters that have not met.  Try a relay or a timed race course with an obstacle like a hose spraying fresh water at the competitors.

A model boat race can be fun, but it is better suited for the pool at the marina or at the local YMCA.  Have competitions that include one blindfolded captain operating the controls with a mate telling the captain what to do as the boat maneuvers through an obstacle course.

With many people focusing on being healthier, a good idea would be to invite trainers to the marina to conduct yoga or aerobics classes.  You could also invite nutritionists to talk to customers and potential customers about healthy eating.

Conclusion

These are just some ideas to get you thinking about potential events and how to plan them.  Never lose sight of why you are holding these events-to promote your business and improve profitability.  Remember, too, that the more engaged you are with the community and the community leaders, the easier it may be to get a project or renovation approved in the future. 

Dennis P. Kissman, president of Marina Management Services Inc. in Boca Raton, FL can be reached by phone at 561-338-5800 or via e-mail: dennis@marinamanagement.com.

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