Event Planning – Filling the Void

WRITTEN BY: Mackenzie McLaughlin

It is not a bad thing that many events on campus draw from the same fabric. It increases total events run on campus and helps with group recognition. This redundancy, however, may decrease event attendance simply by the law of diffusion. More similar events for the same audience disperses total attendees per event. For example, a simple search for yoga events held on campus shows the popularity of the practice, but simply planning to perform a yoga event might be overshadowed by other, more regularly occurring and better supported (e.g., by funding by a faculty or college). Total event participation to all events will obviously be greater because of participant availability, and event timing, as well as group recognition and reach, but organized events should aim to be different by filling in a recognized void or adding another element to your event to attract more participants.

As president and vice-president of Exercise is Medicine on Campus at UofT, we learned that events become more appealing when you identify a need and be creative when planning an event for it.  Not only does this attract the core membership and audience of the group, but it also expands the reach by attracting those of different interests. We were able to accomplish this with 2 events this year: our semesterly Ball Hockey Tournament and our Yoga and Nutrition events.

Many intramurals are offered on campus, including ice hockey. Ball hockey, however, is not, nor are many one-day tournaments that pit students against each other in a fun and competitive environment. This lead us to the creation of our semesterly Ball Hockey Tournaments, which hosts anywhere from 6-8 teams of roughly ten players, which consist of a department or amalgamation of individual players that play over 4 hours. Since our first tournament in spring of 2015, word of these tournaments has spread from attendees to classmates and turn-out for each tournament has increased ever since. Ball hockey is also an activity that almost anyone of any skill level can engage in and that open skill level of these tournaments. Having many new faces at each tournament has fostered the demand and Ball hockey was not offered on campus.

Increasing participation at an event already offered on offered on campus requires some creativity. If you did your own search for yoga on campus, you may have come across the two yoga events that our club ran recently. But a yoga-specific event would only attract a limited audience – those who like yoga. Knowing this well, we decided to add to this event to increase what it offered and, as a result, attract to more audiences to increase attendance. Our first yoga event consisted of one hour of yoga, followed by a one-hour nutrition event that allowed attendees to make their own nutritious snacks following 2 recipes provided. The second yoga event was slightly similar to this event since it followed the same format, but who we collaborated with, the type of yoga, and the post-yoga nutrition session were different. Instead of a dietitian demonstrating all-natural sport snacks, this event featured a group member who explained the utility of protein powder and how it can be used in shakes to increase protein intake at an affordable cost. The audience of each event was different, and the draw to one of the events, that is those interested in the yoga aspect or nutrition aspect, increased attendance at the other.  This entices attendees to take part in something that they may not typically be interested in. Those who attended to learn more about protein shake recipes but practiced yoga for their first time as part of the event, may develop interest in yoga and vice versa, and may be drawn to a similar style of event in the future.

In closing, many events are offered on campus. Be creative and plan to run a few events that are not already offered. When planning an event for which there are similar ones on campus, add a twist or aggregate 2+ themes into one event to increase the audiences it can appeal to.

Mackenzie McLaughlin

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