Imagine for a moment an apartment community absolutely no frills or amenities. This means there were no granite countertops, appliance upgrades, or hard wood floors inside. And there was no pool, no gym, or no community clubhouse in the community itself. If you took away all these elements, you would still have a big construction project, right? It would still be a big real estate endeavor, but it just wouldn’t have anything special beyond a stack of boxes. In other words, it is still a lot of wood, appliances, plumbing, etc, but it is fairly uninspiring.
For many apartment communities, that is how they plan their community events. They get a basic theme, a basic plan for catering, and some basic decorations, but they miss the added elements that make it unique and interesting to the residents. Recently, we were working on an event idea on Resident Events for a Gumbo cook-off. It was actually inspired by some friends of mine, and it sounded like a fun thing to do as a community event. Now, here is how most communities would share their event: "Gumbo cook-off! Cook your best recipe and we'll have guest judges determine the winner!" That's all fine and good, but it's the equivalent of just a stack of boxes apartment community - there isn't a whole lot there beyond the basic idea.
However, as I started getting deeper and deeper into the planning, I realized there were so many opportunities with partnership marketing. For example, wouldn’t it be neat to have a local restaurant participate in the cook-off? Or what if you could talk to a restaurant and explain the contest, and see if they would be willing to feature the winning dish for a small period of time in their restaurant? Many people would think that is out of the range of possibility, but there are actually a ton of benefits for a restaurant to do that, including free marketing and a great story to tell.
My point is that if you stop your brainstorming after you have decided you want a Luau and select a caterer, you are only providing the most basic of community events, one that will likely not entertain that many people. So learn to dig deeper – devote some time to let the planning simmer in your head as you drive to and from work. Don’t plan it last minute where brainstorming is more difficult, but rather let the ideas float around for a while well in advance. Eventually, you will learn what that secret sauce is for your apartment community event!
A while back, I wrote about requiring residents to actually participate in community events, whether it is during the event or in the planning process. At the time, all I had was anecdotal evidence based upon my own experiences at events. Essentially, those events where I simply showed up and relaxed left a much smaller impact on me compared to those that I actually actively participated in the event. So although most people would assume that requiring participation would be a turn-off for our residents, it actually ensures that they have a memorable time, rather than simply eating, drinking, and leaving.
Today, I ran across a concept that helps support this very idea: The IKEA Effect. Essentially, this concept explains how people who put in effort into a project tend to be more satisfied with the result than if they did not. With Ikea furniture, often the purchaser has to take the time to put together the furniture once they purchase it, and that act of building something creates a feeling of appreciation for that product greater than if they had just purchased the finished product. Purchasers tend to then overvalue their own creations.
When you think back on similar situations, this is actually quite common, even going back to when we are little kids. I remember writing a “book” as a little kid and being so incredibly proud of it, just because it came from my own effort. But if I had just read that book, I’m sure I would have been less than impressed. Same thing went for the garden I built and countless other masterpieces throughout my life. Even when writing blogs, I find myself reading back over them, self satisfied with the final product.
So going back to apartment parties, this means that having residents be a part of the party-planning/creation process will not only provide additional volunteer labor, but also provide a greater satisfaction level for those that participate. It changes your community events from events that you throw for your residents to events they throw for themselves. Are you ready to create your party planning committee?