Written by Lena Martinović
As it is July, most societies are starting to plan their promotional strategies on how to attract more members to their society. There are multiple ways how to do so, and my best recommendation is to look into what your university offers and what you as a society can afford. In this article, I will highlight some tips and tricks that we as EDS think are useful for every society to know.
At EDS, our biggest event for attracting new members are the Beginner’s Workshops. The training event is organized over two evenings, during which participants are introduced first to public speaking, and then the following week, to British Parliamentary. This week is meant to introduce the society to students, so we also take participants out for drinks afterward. We also talk about the things we do as the society, such as members weekend, Christmas dinner, various socials, etc. At the end of the evening, you should sit by the exit and get people to sign up as members. People are more likely to become members if you hand them all the information, rather than let them find it themselves. When you organize the second week of the training, when you show what BP debating is all about, make sure to have a show debate! Showcase what debating is all about with a fun and accessible motion that everyone can enjoy.
But in order to get people to attend the Beginner’s Workshops and sign up, there is some work that needs to be done beforehand. Promotion of the event is done both in person and via the internet.
During Eurekaweek, Erasmus University’s annual introductory week for students, we have a stand where we talk to students and introduce the society to them. You don’t have to send your best debaters to this, because a personal approach, where people tell their anecdotes and stories on how debating has impacted them and what they can do. Mention that you get to explore different cities in Europe by maybe showing a map of where your society and its members had been in the past year. For many students, debating in English is a huge barrier, so tell students that their English will improve. What we do during the Eurekaweek, we also collect email addresses of interested people, in order to keep them informed. Use this list later, to remind people to come to the workshop. In the past, we have usually used a piece of paper where we had people write their name and email. I would recommend using a computer (it will save you time transcribing! ☺)
I would also suggest making flyers that you can give to students that come to visit your booth. I would also check with the board organizing the promotional week if you can add your flyers to the students’ bags, so that you can reach as many students as possible. Also, if your promotional budget allows it, you can also give gifts to participants. A little trinket or two, that students can remember your society.
Ok, so the in-person part of promoting the Beginner’s workshops is over. Don’t forget to also promote it online! Facebook has a really nice function where you can target advertise the event. What this means is that you can promote the event to certain groups or interests. So for example, you could target it to anyone from ages 17-24, that goes to Erasmus University Rotterdam and has liked BBC, The Economist or something similar. Another thing you can do is use your university’s online notice board. To avoid having the message buried with other news, I would recommend having it posted a few or so times. Make sure it is posted one or two days before the event.
Finally, make sure to update the facebook event with the information on the event. Posts on trainers with their picture, a schedule, plans for afterwards, etc are all useful to keep the engagement of the page going.
What I would also recommend is to contact the people booking the rooms for your practice evening. They are likely to know, or could point you in the direction of the promotional department of your university and you can see what is free or what has a low cost so that you can promote your society. At Erasmus University, you can hang up a poster on the notice board for free. We also hire hanging space in one of the buildings, where we display a larger poster. We usually book it during the weeks of beginner’s workshops, so that people are more incentivized to come, since it doesn’t require any background knowledge.
You can also organize another round of workshops in late January, early February for the second semester exchange students, or for those that would like to start debating, but could not do so earlier. The practice would be similar, however you are likely only going to be able to use the online promotional platforms, rather than the information stands. Even if your university offers an information stand, the cost likely would not justify it.