Parents Night Out 101

Every school owner is on the lookout for ways they can recruit new students. It’s easy to think of Parents Nights Out as glorified babysitting but it can be so much more.  Parents Night Out evenings are a great way to boost new sign ups and provide a service to the parents at your school that they desperately need. This is our step by step guide to make sure that you make the most out of this opportunity. 

 What you can accomplish by holding your own Parents Night Out evening: 

  • Bring in new students and turn them into new members at your school! 
  • Have an entertaining evening that gets students excited about learning martial arts and increase your retention as a result. 
  • Give your student’s parents a much needed break
  • Make extra income

The great thing about Parents Night Out is that parents will need a break on a regular basis. Making the evening a recurring event and you’ll be dependably making extra income every  month.  

Your first step is to decide what day you’ll do PNO. The first Friday of every month? The Second Saturday? By doing it every single month on the exact same day it becomes a  part of your parents schedule. Holding it on a recurring basis will allow your Parent’s Night Out to gain momentum as word of mouth spreads. And it will. 


Pricing for these events varies depending on your goals. Ultimately using PNOs as a recruitment tool will result in a big growth in your regular revenue.  At our schools we generally try to keep the price to somewhere between $20-30 each for students and their families and make it free for their guests. If you cover your costs, and get 25 leads as a result your event will be a huge success and helps your business expand. Whatever your price is make sure it’s below an evening of babysitting in your area.

Another smart tactic is to offer the Parents Night Out  free to students who haven’t signed up for their next contract as a reward for signing up. This way you secure the next three-six month period of lessons with very little cost while offering a service to your parents. 

Pick a Fun Theme

Give your students a reason to be excited. A clever theme creates anticipation leading up to the event.

Some examples include: 

  1. Street Fighter
  2. Super Heroes
  3. Ninjas vs Snowmen
  4. Blaster Wars
  5. Dip, Duck and Dodge
  6. Halloween Theme

Promoting Parents Night Out

Two weeks before the event, begin talking about the upcoming event at the end of every single class of age appropriate students. IE: “Next Friday night is our PNO! Don’t miss it!”  

The week of PNO, promote it every class. Hand out 5 Permission Slips to each student every single class, even if they already have been given them previously, ask them “who are you going to bring?” Your students will be naturally competitive. Use this. 

Give your student’s ideas of who they can bring: their best friend, their next door neighbor, teammates from others sports team, their cousins, kids from school, boy scouts, church, etc. 

We find that kids get excited to show what they’ve learned to their friends. Tell them that if they bring a friend, they can break a board in front of them. Kids love being cool. What’s more their friends will want to join to learn how to break their own board!

Reward their performance with a prize for who brings the most buddies. Get a $50 gift card, or any cool prize that will get their attention. Buy the prize in advance so you can show it to the class. It’s also worth it to get smaller prizes for the top 5 students.

Remember to put a sign up sheet at the front desk. You’ll also want to frequently mention your upcoming event on your social media, and at least once a month on your email lists.

The key here is that you are advertising the event to students and their parents so that it’s top of mind. Suggest if parents are looking to go out with other parents you could manage both sets of kids. It’s an easy way to get outside of your immediate circle.

Marketing Tips

  1. Post at least once a week in the lead up to the event on your social media pages with clear calls to action.
  2. Advertise the prize for bringing the most buddies to the event in posters around your school. Celebrate the winner after the event. 
  3. Make it clear what the students will be getting that they wouldn’t be getting from babysitting. Cheaper price,  offer healthy snacks and show that they will be physically active. 

What You Need

The first time you hold one of these events is always the most amount of work. Plan for this being a repeating event and make it easy for yourself by getting all you need well in advance. Remember that you’re going to want to make sure you have plenty of staff so the students will get a special level of attention. 

  • Permission slips for guests 
  • Fired-up martial arts instructor who is great at connecting with the participants 
  • Helpers 
  • Sign-up sheet printed and at front desk with pens that work. (Make sure that this has all the necessary contact information you need for recruiting your leads to your school. Email, phone number, name of parents. Lead capture is crucial.)  
  • Prizes for the student who brings most guests.
  • Boards for students who bring at least one guest 
  • Healthy snacks
  • Pizza 
  • Drinks 
  • Cups 
  • Plates 
  • Napkins
  • Garbage bags 
  • Equipment for games 
  • Equipment for martial arts training
  • Name tags / Black Marker
  • Tub to restore reusable items
  • List of things that need to be restocked

PNO Schedule 

As kids arrive, play exciting kids appropriate music playing to get everyone in the mood for the evening. You want the kids to be pumped to be there. And they should be. They are about to have the time of their lives.

Have an instructor at the door to greet all the guests with a smile. This is their first impression of your school. Make sure it’s a great one. It’s as important to connect to the parents as it is to the kids. 

Once the parents leave you can have your students introduce the guests they brought to everyone. Practice “polite greetings” so everyone feels comfortable. Give all of your guests name tags.  

Count the kids, divide by 5 to see how many large pizzas you need to order. Add a couple extra pizzas for your team and helpers. 

Check in guests, make sure they have permission slips completely filled out upon arrival, if not, ask for the required information. Permission slip info needs to be entered into your school’s  software and tagged “PNO-Guest” for automatic followup. You’ll want someone assigned to this task, so that you’re free to mingle. 

You’ll want to have a game up and running within the first fifteen minutes of your guests arriving. Once you have them thoroughly engaged place your food order. 

What to Do With the Kids 

This is totally up to you. You are the experts at what gets your kids engaged. Line drills, dodgeball, tag are all options to get them warmed up. You will want to make sure that what you are doing during the evening is connected to building an interest in martial arts.

Otherwise you run the danger of making a Parent’s Night Out into just a babysitting alternative and will miss out on your chance to recruit new students. Here is a sample schedule we found at zenplanner. 


6:00- 6:15 pm       Parents can drop off children

6:15- 6:45 pm       Pizza Dinner

6:45- 7:30 pm       Anti-Bullying and basic self-defense workshop

7:30- 8:30 pm       Games and prizes

(Ninja Obstacle Course, Sensei Says, Dragon’s Tail, and more)

8:30- 10:00pm      Martial Arts Movie Night 

Expert Tips 

While the exact schedule is up to you there are a couple of must haves for a good PNO. The event needs to last at least four hours so that parents have a chance to get dinner and go to a movie. Depending on the age of the students who are attending you’ll want to start earlier in the day. Say 4 PM because many students go to sleep early. While Pizza is easy you’ll want to make sure that the rest of the snacks you serve are healthy. Order juice, baked chips and non sugary snacks. You're offering parents the best type of child watching service with healthy food and lots of exercise. You’re also offering those kids the chance to make friends with the great values you’ve taught them.

Incorporating 2020 Armor 

We’ve found that playing a variety of games using 20/20 Armor gets the kids incredibly excited. Here is where you have a chance of raising your conversion rate. A larger group of kids will be interested in playing video games than are interested in martial arts. By combining these two activities and allowing the kids to play video games in real life you’ll connect to an untapped market.

It can be particularly exciting to introduce them to energy sparring. Which is our two player game where they fight to win in a three round competition. They start with a 100 percent energy and then whoever has energy left at the end wins. Just like a videogame. We’ve found kids of all ages love doing this. 

But the easiest game to play is Hit Meter. Kids strike the vest on a BOB or Wavemaster and they can see exactly how hard they hit. They can challenge themselves to do better and you can offer them a little instruction on how they can improve their score. They can see improvement during your PNO!

The important thing you offer the kids is a sense of accomplishment. You help them set a goal and help them achieve it and you overcome one of the largest obstacles keeping kids out of  martial arts schools, which is the fear that they can’t do it. 

However if you don’t have 20/20 Armor there are a ton of other things you can do.  Basically anything under the sun. The key is to keep them active so that when their parents come to pick them up they are happy and ready to sleep. The more fun the evening is, the more likely they are to ask their parents to go back. 

Make sure to have someone on your team taking photos. It’s evidence of how much fun the kids were having and you can use it on social media to advertise for your next PNO. Posting about the accomplishments of your guests can ignite their interests and make them into a student.  Put the school logo on these pictures and suddenly every share is an advertisement for your school. 

Last Steps 

You’re going to want to make sure that you are up at the front when parents arrive. This is your best opportunity to form a personal connection to the parents so ideally you make it necessary for them to go inside instead of picking up their kids on the street. An easy way to do this is to have them sign their kid in at the beginning and they have to come in to sign them out. 

Talk to them. Especially the parents of your guests. Let them know how great their child did this evening and to check your social page to see pictures that will be posted later.  The more personal attention they feel their kid received the more likely they are to sign them up. 

Follow up with parents on Monday through email. Send two emails. One for your students confirming the next date of the event. One for the guests inviting them to take  a free month of classes. Personalizing these emails can work wonders. 

This is a golden opportunity to add 25 new leads every month. With careful management you have a chance of getting four or five new students from a well run Parent’s Night out. 

To put that in perspective, if each of the kids are taking beginners classes you are looking at a $100 dollars a month for 12 months. So each PNO has a chance of raising your income by $500 dollars a month or $7000 a year. 

This is of course a living document. If you have thoughts or ideas let us know. We’d love to include them. If you’d like a personalized tutorial on how to incorporate 20/20 Armor into your PNO please get in touch with our head instructor Scott Granger