I also do what Sally suggests, but I usually have one for other properties in the area that are the same price range and another one that has all the open houses in the area with a map to each.
I like some of the suggestions above and would be curious how they work.
You asked a question and also answered it with great information. Since the objective is for individuals to ask questions that they are seeking the answers for(from others) this post is likely more appropriate for the trulia blog section.
A new technique we have used is what we call a Showcase Open (typically the 1st open on a property). We will mail out invites to 100+ neighbors, call roughly 500 neighbors, have coffee, cookies and a gift card drawing at the event. The last showcase open we did, we had 50+ groups come through and had 3 agents staff the open - it was great!
Every adult attendee to your open house must make five critical decisions every year. Why not provide something of value to aid them in achieving their goal or solving their problem. Make sure you have a clear vision for the purpose of the open house, have real goals and tools in place to allow you to know if your OH was a success. A sign on the street and a tray of cookies hardly qualifies as a strategy. If you are carrying the baggage of your 1980 open house expectations, then relic may be appropriate term for the agent, not the practice. Fortunately, as the number of agents not doing open houses increase, those who do them benefit more.
Open houses provide a blank slate for unbelievable community engagement and value based relationships. Let your vision and imagination create something exciting.
On a serious note, you must never do an open house alone. When you've created the right formula you will most certainly need help. Consider the logistics of having a conversation and getting the names and contact information of 25 people in 3 hours. Get your open house team together with clear task assignments. What tools do you have in place to allow attendees to passively indicate their needs? Are the follow-up mechanisms anonymous and perceived safe by the attendee?
The magic key to success is knowing what an OPEN HOUSE IS NOT!
NOTE: In Palm Harbor and Dunedin Fl there may be a more diverse group of attendees than perhaps would be anticipated in Elmyra Ny. Please consider, I may be in a unique environment that is more conducive to having more homes that are qualified open house candidates..
Also provide information which you gather about the area and schools -Really highlight the Home....
-set out balloons
-make sure there are fresh flowers or a fruit bowl
-set out some mini water bottles and a plate of candies
-make sure the home is presentable (even clean it)
-spray it down with Febreeze and light a few candles (that I supply)
It's all about staging and mood!