Recruiting: The Activities Fair

The activities fair is your single best opportunity to attract new talent into your organization.

The activities fair is likely the most visible opportunity for you to interact with new students and is often the best way to find new talent for your organization. Additionally, the fair will likely be your first big test as a leader. Your operations need to be well-oiled and efficient.
Assess Requirements
The first requirement for the fair is your ability to participate. If you’re leading an already established organization, this point will likely be moot as you’ll get a correspondence from your student activities council (SAC) informing you that sign-ups for the fair are open. However, if you’re not a recognized group, then it can be a bit trickier. The first thing you want to do is to contact your SAC representative and request a spot. If you’re not recognized, you’ll likely be put onto a waiting list. These lists are almost always first come first serve so get in contact with the council as soon as possible. However, the wait-list can be a crap shoot.  You’ll want to become a recognized group as soon as possible to secure your position at the fair.
The second goal for the activities fair is fairly straightforward: get as many sign-ups as possible. You want as many people on your listserv of emails so that you can have full information sessions and tryouts. At the very least, you want to get a person’s name and email information. If you can get additional demographic information about year and areas of interest, that would be even better.
Planning/Testing
CS1: During my freshman year, I had an extraordinarily difficult time finding the Speech & Debate Team despite my adamant efforts. When I arrived at the booth, I realized why. Similar to most other organizations, the Team had taped its shoddy hand-made poster on the front of its activities fair table. Given the volume of students on the walk, it was simply impossible to see the poster until you were right in front of the table. Additionally, the sign-in sheet was a coffee stained piece of ripped notebook paper. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to write my email or send it to a modern art museum. Therefore, my first endeavor as president was to change our recruitment strategy during the activities fair. I spent some of our budget to purchase high quality vinyl posters with the team name and website information. To ensure, anyone interested would be able to find our table, I also ordered a poster stand which we could clip the poster to. This stand was placed behind the table and held the poster aloft by about four feet. I also asked my teammates to submit flyer designs. Once the winning design was picked, I printed out over a thousand flyers. I then crafted a google form which gave us information regarding the student’s email, interest in competitive events, and year. We were ready for the Activities Fair.
All of your recruiting components need to be in place before you attend the activities fair. I’ve included a checklist of items you need to have below:
Necessary
  • A computer with either an excel or pre-made signup sheet.
  • A large poster with the name of your organization.
  • A poster stand to set up behind your table so that everyone can see your poster.
  • A couple hundred (or thousand) flyers with the name of your organization, a brief summary of what you do, some pithy recruiting message, a link to your website, dates and places for follow up (including information sessions and try-out dates as applicable).
  • Tape, scissors, paper, writing implements (trust me, stuff happens, you’re going to need these things).
Nice to Have
  • Trophies, awards, large checks, attractive members, etc.
  • A link to your website on your poster.
  • If you have the resources to make your flyers on high-grade paper, all the better.
  • If you’re providing food at your recruiting events, include that information on your flyers.
  • A table cloth.
Execution
During the fair, you need to have members at your booth at all times. To that end, you want to send out sign-ups for the fair based on time. Your time slots should be at minimum thirty minutes but at maximum an hour. Ideally, you’ll have 2-3 people at the booth for each time slot, but you need to have at least 1.
Now that you’ve ensured that at least your booth is staffed, there are two factors in play. First, where are your teammates located? Second, what is the message your teammates need to propagate?
For the former point, identify strategic choke points along the path to the activities fair. Any members not at the booth should be at these points handing out fliers. Send them out in teams of two at least. Having more than one person flyering is vital. Not only does it create a sense of camaraderie and mutual responsibility, but also it can help calm down nerves. Some folk have a difficult time handing out flyers on their own.
Regarding the second point, send a brief email or hold a training to explain what people need to say at the fair. Your members should be prepared to give a brief bio about the team, what it does, and its core attractive properties. Then let them open up the conversation to questions, but don’t forget the final ask which is for the student’s email. The goal of every interaction is to either direct the prospective member to the booth or to get them to sign up for additional information.
  1. I’ve always been kind of iffy on the efficacy of flyers. I know as a undergrad, when I was handed flyers, I would often honestly just throw them away and I know a lot of my friends did the same. Do you think flyers are actually important? Especially now a days, I’ve found that creating facebook pages and facebook events for people to sign up have been more successful.

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    1. Thanks for your insight Tracy. While multimedia (like FB, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) are useful and should be integrated into your online campaign, I still think flyers are a vital part of recruiting. You are correct; most flyers are discarded – much to the chagrin of our environment. However, your flyering strategy will influence how effective they are. Flyers handed out during the activities fair are vital for people to know when/where your information sessions are. Often times, students don’t think about searching for a group on FB unless you’ve posted in the incoming class’ page (this advertising also tends to be buried quickly by new posts). Secondly, flyers increase attendance at info sessions and tryouts when people have a chance to look at them individually. The best way to accomplish this is actually to flyer under doors before the activities fair. At this time, there will be less competition for the attention of prospective members. When I ran the Speech & Debate team, we actually found that when we flyer-ed under doors that we had an increase in our tryout attendance in comparison to years when we did not flyer.

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      1. Oh okay that makes sense. Thank you!

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