How Theaters Can Boost Enrollment in Performing Arts Classes

by CourseStorm

Increasing course enrollment can be a challenge for any course provider. It might be particularly challenging for theaters with arts education programs. The marketing plans and workflows you have in place for performances don’t necessarily translate into functional course enrollment tools. If your goal is to enroll more students in your community outreach classes in 2022 and beyond, this post is for you. 

It’s been a tough couple of years for theaters. Maybe you’ve returned to in-person events, or maybe you’re still keeping things virtual. Either way, if enrollments in your theater arts classes haven’t reached the level you’d like them to, read on for some strategies to help you register more students.

Start By Marketing Your Courses

Just mentioning your classes on your website and in your programs isn’t enough. Why? Two reasons. First, it limits your audience to people who already attend your performances. While that’s the most likely place to find students, it’s not the only place. Second, theater goers aren’t necessarily in a buying mindset. They come to your performances hoping to be entertained and inspired. They may not be thinking about acting classes or theater summer camp.

You need to catch potential students (and parents if you’re marketing kids classes) in places where they’re in a buying mindset. For many people, that includes social media and web searches. 

  • Include a course catalog on your website that’s been keyword optimized to attract people looking for classes like the ones you offer. 
  • Post about your classes on social media and encourage students to do the same. 
  • Share press releases and class information with your media contacts. Cour
  • Put up flyers around town – you probably already post playbills for performances, do the same for upcoming classes. 

These marketing efforts can help spread the word about your theater arts classes, but how do you push students from interested to enrolled? 

Offer Payment Plans

A patron probably won’t need a payment plan to purchase an orchestra seat for your next production of Murder on the Orient Express. But classes can be a bigger investment than theater tickets. If a student wants to sign up for an eight-week acting class, cost can become more of a factor. Offering payment plans can help make your courses more accessible to more students. 

Many theater education programs avoid payment plans because they add a lot of extra work for staff. They don’t have to. With the right class management software in place, you can easily enable custom payment plans for individual students. The good ones will even help you track payments and send automatic reminders when the next installment is due. 

Provide Discounts and Promo Codes

Why do you give away promotional tickets and offer group discounts to your performances? One reason is that someone who experiences a performance in your theater is likely to return, and maybe even bring friends and family with them. Getting someone through the door for the first time is often the hardest part. That’s true of classes as well. Providing discounts or promo codes for your classes can help knock down the cost barrier for someone who has never taken a class with you before. It’s also a great way to thank patrons for their support or attract group registrations. 

You might even consider offering a short course or a single-session class for free

Take Group Registrations

Every effort you make to simplify your registration process improves the likelihood that someone will both register for your classes and be happy with the experience. Group registrations can make your classes more attractive. Parents can register multiple children for theater camp, businesses can register their entire customer service team for your improv class, and social groups can choose your mask-making class as their fun night out activity. Making this process simple means you can register more students, more efficiently. 

Stop Treating Classes Like Ticketed Events

Classes are not performances. The information you gather from students is different, and usually more detailed than what you need from patrons. Software like PatronManager is exceptional for managing ticketing, audiences, donors, and sponsors, but it isn’t designed to manage class registrations. 

Manual processes and student by student data entry can help fill some gaps, but it’s also time-consuming and error-prone. If your staff has to drop everything and spend fifteen minutes just to register one student, they’ll probably get frustrated. When people are frustrated and dealing with complex systems, they make mistakes. The student is likely to be annoyed by the cumbersome system as well, and patrons may lose patience because no one is available to answer their questions.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that improves the experience for everyone: Stop treating classes like ticketed events. Use a course registration system designed for that purpose. Staff will be more likely to sell courses if it isn’t such a challenge to register students, and students will be more likely to enroll if the system is simple. 

Integrate with Your Existing Systems

Of course, having two completely separate software systems could present challenges as well. So don’t. CourseStorm fully integrates with PatronManager. We call it PatronStorm. With PatronStorm you can manage your classes using the full range of CourseStorm features including group registrations, payment plans, promo codes, and more. 

Data sharing allows you to send CourseStorm data to PatronManager so you can view class registration activity alongside ticketing and donations data. Throw out your spreadsheets and rely on the CourseStorm-PatronManager integration.

See how the East West Players of Los Angeles, California used PatronStorm to simplify their class registration process. Get the Case Study.