Too much programming? Or too much noise?

| Forum Editor

So you’re in a student group. You’re bringing an awesome speaker to talk on campus, you’re hosting a panel and serving some tasty ethnic food, you have a whole week planned where you’re promoting awareness of an interesting topic or your group is putting on a cool performance. Great! That sounds like something a whole lot of people would like to see! According to Facebook, you’ve got over 100 people attending!

When you get to the event, though, only two dozen (or fewer) people show up and they’re either your friends, people you bribed or those kids who live in the DUC and just happen to be around when your event begins. “What the heck?” you say to yourself. “We publicized like crazy! We made a Facebook event! Posted flyers! Handed out quarter sheets! Shoot, we even painted the underpass! There’s not even another event going on tonight!”

Long has the conversation been that we over-program at Wash. U., but I think the fact that many events are under-attended has less to do with event oversaturation and more to do with how such events are publicized. The main forms of campus advertising—Facebook events, flyers, the underpass—are nearly worn out. Plenty of groups can get by with these, especially the big, established ones. But the noise larger groups and events generate makes it easier for students to ignore solid and engaging programs from smaller groups. And as smaller groups are pushed to the side—left with their core contingent of friends and participants and DUC hangers-on—the larger events remain the only ones with strong attendance. I’m not advocating that we stop going to a cappella shows, ThurtenE Carnival or W.I.L.D., but rather that if we start looking for interesting events (and the groups that put them on start advertising creatively), we’ll find even more awesome things to do both on and off campus.

First of all, I think students tend to forget about things if we hear about them too far in advance. The “Events” element of Facebook is great, but if I receive an invite two weeks in advance, I’m probably a lot less likely to remember (and therefore attend) when it comes around. I’m a student—my priorities are classes, then my own involvements and then other events, which are the first things to slip from my mind. And “Events” aren’t something that I check regularly, either. I may not represent everyone, but let’s be real, they’re kind of out of the way.

I also think the Underpass is a great resource—for students who live on the 40. Some of the work that goes up in there is stunning, but the paintings only reach the eyes of a certain subset of our campus population. I would say the same about chalking, but I just find that obnoxious (if fairly effective).

So, what of this? Maybe be more creative with how you advertise. If you’re tabling in the DUC, don’t just sit there—get up and talk to people. Make someone in your group wear a sandwich board all day; wear a costume in Whispers; plan and execute a flash mo…wait, anything but that.

We don’t all have enormous advertising budgets, but there are tons of ways to be creative. Maybe I’m delusional and this will do nothing but add to the noise, but I think if it’s done right, it might force the change to get more of us to start branching out and finding new, exciting ways to engage on campus.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.

Subscribe