Melissa Ruiz Professional, Speaker with Swift Kick | Article from 2019 Fall CLT Magazine
How many times have you run around campus passing out flyers, to only end up with five people at your event? Have you spent hours crafting Facebook events, emails, and tweets, to only get two likes and one person who shows up from social media? How many times have you thought, “There has to be a better way!”?
You’re right, there is a better way. At Swift Kick, we encourage you to think of your event planning in a completely new way. If you want to get people to your event, you should first look at how many people know each other. I know what you’re thinking: “The point of this event is so that people can get to know each other.” As leaders, with research backed by George Kuh, we know that the more engaged students are, the happier they are with their college experience, and the more likely they are to persist. No pressure, right? Getting to that end is the hard part. So, I challenge you to start smaller.
Looking back on my time in Residence Life and Student Activities, I know that I sometimes went about event planning as a means of checking off boxes to meet requirements within my position. While I was meeting goals, I fear I spent too little time on one of the most important aspects of programming: creating community.
Let’s break down how it tends to go: You’ve created an event. There are snacks, activities, prizes, music is playing, and excited team members are monitoring every area. You run up to people as they pass by to get them to attend. But they keep walking. Why? Well, do you know the person you just ran up to? Do you have a relationship with them? You might be thinking, “No, Melissa, that’s why I want them to come to this super-awesome funa- palooza I created.” My response would be, “Maybe that is a bit too much, too soon for them. Try a Blender Event.”
A BLENDER EVENT IS A SIMPLE, LOW-COST ACTIVITY THAT CREATES A PATTERN INTERRUPT IN A NORMAL DAY.
A blender event can increase, or even create, a sense of community within a larger culture, i.e., college campus, company, or town. A blender event can break up the regular, day-to-day things people experience and provide an opportunity for people to meet. These types of events “blend” people who have different levels of engagement within your community. Blender events are a great way to lay the foundation for connection within your campus community.
IF YOU’RE READY TO GIVE THIS NEW APPROACH A TRY, HERE ARE THE RULES:
1. BRING IT TO THEM Blender Events work best when they are done in busy areas. Is there somewhere that community members flock to naturally? Whether it’s in line for food, or benches by the garden or near an entrance- if that is where they are, then that is where you should be. Try leaving instruments on the quad with a sign that says “Try me!” Or, line a popular sidewalk with hopscotch challenges that get people to and from different buildings on campus.
2. POSITIVE REACTION Use Blender Events that foster positive emotions. Since you are trying to get to know people and help them get to know other people, why not make them smile or laugh? When people feel the same positive emotion about the same thing, they’ll be more inclined to laugh and smile together! Instead of letting people stare off into space in the lunch line, start giving out free hugs, high fives, and fist bumps while people wait in line.
3. CONNECT THE DOTS Blender Events should be used in between your bigger events. As a sense of community begins to grow at Blender Events, larger events won’t be so intimidating to go to since people have already made friends. Before the big dance marathon, maybe someone on your team could teach a dance class so people are less scared to dance in public. If there is a 5k happening on campus, offer quick workouts or run clubs to help people train.
4. IT’S CHEAP Blender Events should never cost a lot of money. Building relationships should be organic. A Blender Event is merely an instance for which relationship building can occur.
These events are not meant to break the budget. They are meant to enhance your current offerings. It can be Post-It notes around campus with positive affirmations and motivation, or an oversized chalkboard with a different question every week that people can anonymously answer.
No matter the activity, the two main goals of Blender Events are to get students to pay attention to what is happening around campus and to build relationships. “Social integration with the institution (Faculty, Staff & Peers) is a key factor in academic success” (Tinto). Encouraging students, but also faculty and staff, to participate in Blender Events can make a tremendous impact on your retention efforts.
At Swift Kick, we strive to create a world where everyone feels welcomed, connected and engaged. That powerful mission begins with a first step. For more information and ideas on how to bring Blender Events to life on your campus, check out https://SwiftKickHQ.com/Blender-Events