How to Write Compelling Activity Descriptions to Boost Registrations

Written by Brian Stapleton

You don't need to be a copywriter to craft impactful activity descriptions—just follow this advice.
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As a leader in local parks and recreation, you know that a significant component of hosting a successful event is generating broad participation. After all, it’s not a party if no one attends. A key aspect of growing attendance, whether you are hosting a community event, an educational class, a youth sports league, or a volunteer event, will involve how well you market the event. While a multi-channel communication strategy is essential, the ultimate selling point that will be most influential on citizens will be your event descriptions.

To help you craft compelling, enticing, and exciting activity and event descriptions, there are some proven marketing and promotion tactics that you can leverage—regardless of your copywriting experience. By refining your technique for creating your activity and event descriptions, you can 10-X your event participation—and your department’s revenue.

Name Your Event Something Short and Memorable

Your event’s names will be most intriguing if it is short and descriptive. For example, residents may not be interested in learning more about your “Community Action Team Earth Day Clean-Up and Conservation Initiative,” however, they will remember the “CAT Day of Cleaning and Caring.” Use alliteration, acronyms, adjectives, and other messaging motivators to make your event title catchy and notable.

Write a Compelling Headline

A goldfish’s attention span lasts nine seconds. A human’s attention span lasts six to eight. The point is that if you can’t intrigue your reader in just a few seconds, that will likely move on. Achieve this goal with a compelling headline, followed by a few introductory sentences that are descriptive and value-driven. For your headline, use descriptive terminology and adjectives to create excitement.

For example, the event headline: Annual Community Halloween Festival is less compelling than “Join Our 44th Annual Spooktacular Halloween Celebration.” Both headlines describe that the event will bring people together and is rooted in local history, but “celebration” feels more exciting than “festival.” By adding the term “Spooktacular,” it implies that the event will offer a family-friendly holiday theme that isn’t too frightening for the little ones (as opposed to billing your event as a less-child-friendly “frightfest”). Finally, by adding the invitational phrase, “Join Us,” your reader will feel a personal connection to the event. All three of these tactics, a smart adjective, a meaningful descriptor, and an invitational phrase make for a compelling headline.

Showcase Your Event’s Value

Within your description, include not just the who, what, when, and where, but the why. Tell your citizens what they should expect to learn or how they will benefit from participating. For example, if you are hosting a First Aid Course, don’t stop at telling potential attendees that they will learn basic CPR. Tell them that by learning basic CPR skills, they will have the knowledge and experience needed to save a life—possibly the life of a loved one—in an emergency. Now that is meaningful.

To help with this step, ask yourself how you want your resident to feel about your event? Excited? A sense of urgency? Local pride? Tap into the appropriate emotions when writing descriptive copy. The tone you will want to use when seeking volunteers for your local homeless shelter will be extremely different from the tone you use when inviting residents to join your new pickleball league.

Avoid Throwaway Phrases

It’s more challenging to write shorter than longer copy. Challenge yourself to use every sentence to include poignant, informative, and compelling information. Avoid clichés, superfluous non-descriptions, and throwaway statements that don’t add value. For example, if you’re hosting a community emergency response team (CERT) training session, write that the class is open to all citizens, regardless of previous emergency response training, as opposed to saying, “if you’ve thought about CERT, this class is for you.” Similarly, avoid phrases like, “See you there!” or “A must-attend” or statements that don’t tell the reader why it should matter to them, and how they will benefit.

Tailor Your Description Based on the Communication Channel

You will have more real estate to add details about your event—from the foods served, to the games available, to the musical line-up—on your website or within your printed or digital online recreation catalog than in a 280 character limited Tweet. Adjust the length of your activity and event descriptions based on the medium. Be cognizant to not just fill up as much space as possible, but to be sensitive to the medium. For example, citizens will be more likely to scan a Facebook post but read a full catalog course description, even though Facebook does not have a short post length limit.

Save the Details for the End

We don’t tend to read lengthy copy through to completion unless we want all the details. As our six-second attention span wanes, we typically lose speed, having already decided if we’re going to learn more, and in the case of events, attend or not. Save the fine print for the last few sentences of your event description (such as “Free parking will be available in the adjacent library lot”) and lead with the emotional, value-driven benefits (such as “donating a pint of blood can save up to three lives”).

Include a Compelling Photo

A picture indeed speaks 1,000 words. Use a clear, engaging, well-lit photo from a previous year’s event to show the value you are attempting to describe in words. If you don’t have an earlier photo (perhaps this is your first year hosting a Breast Cancer Run, for example), consider purchasing a high-quality stock photo, or designing a simple graphic using basic graphic design software.

Final Words of Advice

When it comes to event and activity descriptions, you get limited space and words to convince your citizens to attend and take part. By being descriptive, using emotive, value-based descriptions, and keeping your event names and headlines catchy and memorable, you will no doubt boost participation and revenue in your community, which means opportunities for even more events in the years to come.