By: Del Suggs, M.S. Ed

There is one common challenge faced by Student Activities personnel everywhere: Attendance. I hear it from campus after campus, the same question– “how do I get more students at my events?” In today’s climate of shrinking budgets and accountability, it is even more important to increase participation and engagement at your events. Let me share some promotional concepts and suggestions with you that will increase your attendance. These are ideas that I practice myself, and ideas I’ve seen used at campuses across the country.

High Tech: Here is my basic disclaimer about high tech promotional techniques: always remember that the most effective means of promotion is “word-of mouth.” That means good, old fashion person-to-person asking students to attend. That means that you tell ten students to come, and they each tell ten students to come. Word-of-mouth works, because there is an implicit endorsement. When YOU invite ME, I know it will be a good event because I know you (and you’re cool!). Still we all want that magic website or high tech toy where we can push a button and pack the house. It doesn’t exist. Still, there are some high tech means of promoting your programs. They can be very successful, when used in addition to other methods.

Posters & Fliers: Start with your posters and fliers. Sure, you love the high tech methods. But here’s the brutal truth. The University of Tennessee Campus Event Board did an exit survey at their programs that asked “how do you hear about this event?” The overwhelming response was: a poster! So begin your promotional campaign with your posters and fliers. Be creative, and post them in unusual places: elevator doors, by the clock in classrooms, on the floor, and you can even laminate them and post in shower stalls. Cut them into horizontal strips and post them on stair risers– you’ll see them when you approach the stairs. Hang them upside down. Be creative!

Instagram: Use your Instagram feed to promote your event. Post pictures of your posters. Post pictures of your team putting up posters. Post a quick video of the act. Use this social network.

Facebook: We all have a Facebook profile. And you know all of your students do, too. Your CAB should have a Facebook page. That’s all you need. You can invite your Facebook friends to become fans. That gives you multiple ways to stay in touch with your students, and promote your events and programs. Create Facebook Events, and promote them with your friends. It really does spread the word and get the message out there.

Doing that Texting Thing: Everybody Texts. There are a number of ways you can use texting to promote your events. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could send out a text to everyone on campus to announce your next event? Well, you can do just that. There is a service called “www.OnCampusText.com” that allows you to set up a broadcast texting system for your organization. It’s very simple process of starting an account, and registering your “keyword” (that’s your identifying name or phrase). Once you’ve established your account and keyword, students can sign up for your texts by texting your keyword to 71441. visit us online: w w w . a p c a . c o m follow us: Then you can simply log on to your account, enter a 280 characters messsage, and it will be sent to everyone who has signed up. OnCampusText.com is a wonderful service, and very reasonable. It’s currently charging about 100 dollars a month. You can also use their scheduling system, and plan your texts in advance. This is a great opportunity to use texting as part of a full marketing campaign.

Another Texting Method: Here’s another texting method you can try– for free. Open a free Google Voice account! You can use it to send and receive texts for your Activities Board, and there is no charge. You’re limited to only ten recipients for each text, but you can always cut-and-paste to make that work. One cool thing about Google Voice is you won’t have to use your own phone and phone number for your texts. You’ll also be able to send and receive texts directly to and from your computer and your google account. That makes it really easy to post!

Tweet Tweet: There is one more way to set up a broadcast texting service. You have heard of “www.Twitter.com.” Lots of folks have Twitter accounts. I do. Follow me at “www.Twitter.com/delsuggs.” “Following” means signing up to receive messages from the person. With Twitter, you log on and create your free account. Then you invite others to “follow” you and receive the 140-character message you send. A lot of people receive and send “tweets” from their computer. But Twitter was really designed and programmed for “old school” cell phone texting (SMS). That’s why it has a 280-character limit on messages. And here’s a hack that you can use to turn your Twitter account into a free broadcast texting service. Here’s how. You open your free account at Twitter.com. You’ll register your “User Name” which can be the name of your office or program board. Then you invite students to follow you. Simply have them text “follow username” to 40404. Of course, “username” will be the name you register with Twitter. They don’t need a Twitter account to receive your text messages. In fact, they can sign up to receive your “tweets” and not even realize that Twitter is involved. Twitter calls this a “fast follow” and it’s for people who want to follow but don’t want a twitter account. Two quick notes about fast follow: first, you text “follow username” to 40404, not “follow@username”. And second, to stop getting the texts you send “stop username” to 40404.

You can post photos. But most importantly, you can schedule your updates. Wouldn’t it be great to send everyone a text at 11:45am that said “The meeting starts at Noon, don’t be late!” You can even use it to schedule a full publicity campaign, and schedule your updates to keep your friends and followers informed and interested. It works incredibly well– in fact, I use it every day!

Work Smarter, Not Harder: There is the famous concept of“work smarter, not  hard r.” It means using your head instead of your back. It means thinking instead of just doing. It means finding better ways to do the job, instead of the using the same method as before. Please take advantage of the suggestions I‘ve offered. There are always better, smarter, and generally easier ways to do something. You’ll often get better results because you’ll be more excited about doing something new. You may also be more productive. But don’t think you can use these high tech ideas as a replacement for promotion. You’ll still have to put up the posters, and the fliers. But by combining your traditional promotional techniques with these new, innovative ideas, you might just end up with “more cheeks in the seats.” And that works out better for everyone.

Copyright By Del Suggs | All Rights Reserved
Del@DelSuggs.com | www.DelSuggs.com