If your student activities team is expecting to host the next best thing in terms of campus events, there needs to be an equally amazing plan to go along with it.
Some student organizations and advisors plan campus events because it’s ‘what has always been done’ and it’s often easier to plan re-occurring events that happen year-to-year. However, there’s more than just crossing fingers and hoping students outside of the usual group will show up.
With our own student affairs and student leader experience, we want to share with you key takeaways and ideas when planning the best student activities events with and for your students.
Planning can be the most time-consuming phase, and also the most fun!??
1. Make Them Memorable
When we think of the word ‘event’ we often think of a something large-scale: a speaker, a welcome-week program, or something that requires a RFP, waiver, or sort of contract.
However, you can set up something that doesn’t necessarily require planning a year in advance and still feels meaningful to students.
Here are some ideas to make your events more meaningful and leave a positive impact:
- Create new learning opportunities. The intent of planning a program is exposing students to new ways of thinking and new experiences that will aid in their development. The Gallup-Purdue Index (GPI) surveyed more than 30,000 college graduates and found those that were involved in deep experiential and learning opportunities, were more likely to have higher engagement with their jobs later in life.
- Incorporate art. Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” This could be creating mural in a high traffic area or holding a zine competition at a local off or on-campus coffee shop. Art can feel as a type of therapy and a healthy way to release emotions or energy.
- Make it both online and in-person. Make your event interactive online while the event is happening to engage a larger audience using a hashtag, Facebook Live, and Instagram live features. Provide multiple ways for off-campus students to get involved or engage with on-campus events even if they can’t make it there.
Really brainstorm with student leaders and students to understand what type of events they are looking for. Introduce new programs and ideas they’ve never interacted with before.
SoulPancake utilizes a street team approach when engaging with members of the community. They often set up pop up events for people to build new connections and create memories.
There’s a science behind engaging modern college students. When we plan events that are out of the ordinary and encourage reflection can further boost creativity, increase stress relief and overall happiness.
2. Create Inclusive Events
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” – Audre Lorde
What is inclusion?
Ultimately it’s feeling a sense of belonging and being valued and respected for who you are. Imagine the feeling of being completely supported in multiple areas of your life. A commitment from others that makes you feel like you can do your best in life. That’s what inclusion feels like.
- Use inclusive language and brainstorm accessible marketing techniques (i.e. is video content captioned?)
- Seek input form various students and people during the planning stage
- Label food items so people with allergies can easily identify what they can/cannot eat
- Recognize no space can be tailored to everything and everyone, however, make note of shortcomings and work with facilities and maintenance to make it as inclusive as possible. Own and acknowledge the space you have and the space you don’t. When you can make changes to a space or when resources become available, do it. If you do have a negative experience around space, accessibility, or inclusivity, validate students’ negative experiences, take feedback, and discuss how to improve.
- Take greater efforts to partner with marginalized students/student groups and get creative. Make a list of the campus organizations you didn’t partner with last year and make an effort to build bridges to provide more opportunities for students to feel more included in the campus community.
Last year you realize that the Black Student Union was not only under-funded, but none of the student activities groups you advise decided to plan events with the BSU student groups. You decide to bring up a conversation about how, historically, your department has been funded (sometimes over-funded) and you could advise and ask students to partner with various groups (not only the BSU) such as the LGBT Resource Center or group, the Inter-Tribal Resource Center, or Women’s Center to provide more inclusive programming to students.
Here are some examples of programs you could co-sponsor and further support:
3. Rely on Great Tech
At Presence, we know that planning on and off-campus events to increase student engagement is important to student affairs professionals, for example, to retain students and creating a meaningful college experience.
That’s where utilizing the right technology plays a huge role in an event’s success. From establishing the right social media messaging, to enabling your student leaders to keep up excitement and momentum, there’s a lot that goes into creating a comprehensive event plan.
From beginning to end, technology can help you manage, track, and assess almost every aspect of your event. Evaluate your event with the best assessment and student engagement software.
Need to understand student engagement? Campus life professionals and student leaders need to fully understand student engagement to plan successful events for the future.
Need to receive feedback at the event? Utilize a poll when students check-in to the event with their student ID card and ask for feedback right away. This will help you stay in-the-moment and follow up on conversations about feedback after the event.
Need to create an end of semester or end of year report? Now you can create reports whenever you want (daily, weekly, monthly) with software. Show event data analytics to your Director, Vice President, or entire Student Affairs Division to see where you can improve and where your efforts are received most. Better yet, if a colleague or supervisor stops by an event unexpectedly and asks, ‘how’s it going?’ you can immediately show them engagement data in real-time as you’re checking in students.
Planning is the BackBone of Great Events
To hold an awesome event, you need an awesome plan from the get go.
While student affairs professionals work to provide the best campus programs every time, we work to create the best student engagement software to support them.
Which key takeaway resonated with you most?
How are you planning to optimize your campus life events?
Tweet us @themoderncampus with your key planning and event takeaways!