What it takes to get your participation
With the recent Students’ Union election, the school had a voter turn-out of approximately 1554 students, just under a quarter of the student body. As someone who works with several organizations, this low level of participation and engagement is familiar. There is a decline in student engagement, but what is causing it?
In the case of the Students’ Union election, a good chunk could be attributed to a lack of knowledge. I didn’t know when the election was, let alone who was running until one of the candidates came to speak to my department.
The current Students’ Union has not been very engaged with the student body in my opinion, and this became evident with the election. We here at The Xaverian Weekly didn’t know we were hosting the presidential debate until a post on social media the day before. There was clearly a lack of communication and it becomes visible there are many different factors that influence the level of student engagement.
Say I was armed with the knowledge of my candidates, the dates and locations of big events, and was even offered alternative solutions to encourage my participation, would the result of my participation change? The answer is probably no (don’t worry, I vote).
When Stephen Harper was up for election in 2015, the voter turn-out increased across the country to 68.49%, the highest it had been since 1993; however, when Donald Trump ran for president, the United States saw a decrease in their voter turn-out at 58.1%. With knowledge readily available and the resources and means to partake, there is no reason not to get involved, especially when it comes to something that will impact your household and your life.
Returning to campus, engagement is something that I struggle to attain from my target audiences with surveys for events that I create. Surveys are a great tool to garner the interests and opinions, but sometimes people respond with what they think the surveyor wants to know rather than honest opinions.
I’ve attended several events over the past two years hosted by different organizations and have seen engagement and participation increase in the Antigonish community rather than the campus specific community. The biggest turn-outs are typically those with a live music element or a drinking aspect.
It could be coincidence that important events line up on specific days when people have plans, but that demonstrates market competition. The hierarchy of events means that hosts must strategically develop their events to best target their audience. Is the time practical and will people be off work, and have the energy? Is what I’m offering interesting, and if not, how can I make it so? Who is the target audience? What is appealing to them? Question upon question all with the intent of getting people to venture out to participate in an hour-long activity, or submitting an online questionnaire, or to vote the leader of their country. Gone are the days when face-to-face interaction was all it took to entice people into getting involved, but so is the time when people did in-person canvassing.
This expands just beyond the professional realm as well, I am constantly hounded by my peers to organize social events, and as a planner, I am deterred from it. To give you an example why, I have short story; I am a former immersion student, and my peers asked me repeatedly to host a reunion. They were given a date, events were decided by the group and everything was set. Three times in a row, the events had no one show up, but time after time people would turn to me and ask me to host another. This is an insult to me as an organizer because I have put my time and effort into this project, and it has gone to waste. I achieved success on my very last time by telling people I was headed to a restaurant and told them they could join me if they wished. Zero preparation gave my event the boost it needed, and this is a trend I’ve come to notice. If you plan an event ahead of time, people might be less inclined to attend; commitment has become an enemy.
Trends change, and with it interests and desires. The requirements to host a fruitful event seem to be ever shifting and hard to predict. I reach out to you, our readers, how do you find success with your events or products?
I am not a business student and marketing is not my strong suit; I can identify strengths and weaknesses but am at a loss for the best way of finding a consistently successful strategy. The older I get, the happier I am to attend events and put myself out there, but my personal experience may be different than others.