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"7 Ways to Increase Lifestyle Engagement"

Catch our latest online discussion with our lifestyle gurus, who'll discuss this year's lifestyle trends, best practices and hosting virtual events.  

Our panel features Page Austin, Lifestyle Manager for Harvest by Hillwood, Rachelle Sturgis, Lifestyle Director at Rough Hollow Lakeway in Austin and Taylor Nichols, Lifestyle Director for Dallas' Residences at Park District.

Get answers to your lifestyle trends for 2021 questions:


Moving forward, should we host virtual and in-person events? 

Page: I think it's a little bit of both is ideal. First, you need to know your community and their comfort levels. Given the pandemic, many of our residents stayed home, so we continued to connect with them through virtual events. However, as time went on, our residents had a greater need to get back outside. So, we created a variety of outdoor, socially distant interactive events using our parks or QR codes for scavenger hunts. Getting homeowners out in new ways while fostering a sense of community was challenging and a great way to address their immediate needs.  


What should boards consider when it comes to planning events in 2021? 

Rachelle: First, boards must fully understand the CDC guidelines, as well as state and local laws. These may change weekly or daily, so boards should keep up with that information and share it with residents. On my part, we've posted signs, given out hand sanitizer, hired staff to monitor shared spaces and added capacity limits to socially distant events. 

Page: It's also important for boards to look at other communities and businesses for ideas and gradually phase back into in-person events. Knowing other associations that follow safety guidelines and are holding in-person events can help ease board members' minds and reduce liability. 


How've you successfully hosted virtual events in a high-rise community? 

Taylor: Early on, we realized our residents loved their happy hours, so once the pandemic hit, we ordered mini champagne splits for 228 units, hand-delivered each one and had a virtual happy hour/balcony celebrations. We also hosted a virtual Cinco de Mayo event where we delivered chips, salsa and queso, and invited a chef to host a virtual cooking class. 


Our community has Zoom fatigue and are looking for ideas to get outside. Please help! 

Page: We first started by delivering kits so families could interact outside. Then we had a bubble bus fill each street with bubbles to add an extra bit of excitement and have hosted a BMX parade where residents could see bikers do tricks in the air. Again, we've also been using QR codes for interactive events. If you Google "free QR codes," you can program them to function with various events, like scavenger hunts or The Amazing Race. But it's up to the boards/lifestyle manager and directors to research what other communities are doing. 


Did you find it hard to get vendors and sponsors to host events during the pandemic?  

Rachelle: It was about 50% harder to secure sponsors or vendors for events, especially since many businesses were trying to withstand the pandemic. When this happened, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and spoke with other vendors interested in sponsoring events ... sometimes at no cost. I also reached out to our community to see if residents with small businesses were willing to do small sponsorships and gain exposure. So, although I've found a few ways to work around the pandemic, it was significantly more challenging last year, and I expect it to last throughout 2021. 


Did business closures impact your lifestyle program? If so, what vendors would you recommend for future events? 

Taylor: There was an impact, but we found a solution. We had a florist come on-site for 3 days to set up a come-and-go flower market where residents could create or buy floral arrangements. These pop-up events help keep the community engaged even though they can't physically be together. Nevertheless, it's important to keep a positive attitude no matter what you face. 

When do you start budgeting and planning for events? 

Page:  We base the budget on how many homes we've sold, and I work with the general manager to have a final budget by October or November so I know how much money I can work with. In December, I start planning for the following year, including 4 signature events and up to 30 monthly activities. As I'm finalizing my calendar, I make sure to get community input so I know we're hosting events they'll want to attend. 

Rachelle: For Rough Hollow, we have to plan a bit earlier because we issue a magazine detailing our events. I also tell many Austin communities that their event budgets don't have to be huge. The idea is to calculate the number of vendors you'll use, how many free events you'll host, and plan accordingly. 

Taylor: Having a budget also gives lifestyle managers and directors creative freedom to try new trends or reach new vendors. I also plan events for my community quarterly. This year, we're rolling out a Lifestyle Playbook where Texas associations can record successful events, reliable vendors and the estimated cost. It'll be a great way to bring lifestyle managers together to brainstorm and build relationships. 

What else goes into lifestyle planning for HOAs and COAs? 

Rachelle: It's important to consider everyone's physical and mental health and not forget about the gift of giving. So, while I'm planning, we still try to give back to the community and local charities and include that in our lifestyle programming. 

Taylor: As a high-rise community with restaurants on the property, giving back was still a priority, even with everything shut down. Also, as the manager of our concierge staff, it was just as important to have them on-site and boost morale as it was to ensure their safety and comfort, and that residents are also comfortable interacting with staff. 

Page: It's also about making the homeowner feel seen. Whether it's sending a note to a sick resident or virtually celebrate a birthday, I remind myself that it's essential to be a part of the community in any way I can. 


Need some ideas on how to jump-start resident engagement in your community? Download "7 Ways to Increase Lifestyle Engagement" using the form on this page.

If you have additional lifestyle planning questions, send an email to [email protected].  

Tuesday January 19, 2021