Hello! Welcome to our Project Stella Blog! I often get asked about how I publicize the events and programs I plan to engage youth. While there are several strategies involved, the #1 thing I try to do is “Sell the Experience.”
It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to do this and there were many sleepless nights filled with anxiety. But with over 18 years of planning events for K-12 students, I now know the questions I need to ask myself to do this with less stress.
In this post, I will walk you through the questions I ask myself and give some helpful tips that have saved me a lot of time and a lot of worry.
New here? I also have the following blog posts to help raise kids who R.O.C.K.
Have you ever put a lot of time, effort, and resources into planning an event to have only a couple of people show up? It is similar to inviting friends and families to your birthday party and no one comes. It’s a horrible feeling – a sick feeling – and after having it happen TWO times, I decided I would try to do everything possible to make sure it does not happen again.
What I learned from my experience is that in order to get high school students to attend, I need to ask myself three very important questions. By answering these questions, I am provided with a step-by-step plan to getting high school students to attend events I plan.
Question 1 – Who do I want to attend?
“High School Students” is a very broad audience group to try to get to attend one event. Students are interested in many different things and students are very busy with multiple activities competing for their time. You really have to attract their attention (or force them) to get them to notice what you are doing and for them to make the decision to give up their free time to participate.
If you define WHO you want to attend then you can target your publicity and partnerships to that group and their interests. It might be that you want
- students interested in athletics,
- students planning for college,
- students wanting to volunteer,
- students needing to develop leadership skills,
- students with artistic talent,
- students that enjoy working with kids
- ….the options go on and on and on.
When you think about who you want to attend – remember their age. If they rely on their parents for transportation then the event needs to give the parent a reason for having their child participate. You need to also think about this when planning the time of the event.
Question 2 – What do they get from the experience?
There are many activities where students can “have fun.” Promoting only the event name, date, time and location will not convince students to come – unless it is a big name celebrity or musician that is hard for them to see otherwise.
You have to publicize or “sell” the experience you are offering with your event. Convince the students “WHY” they need to come.
- Will it help them get credit for something?
- Will they receive a tangible item or gift?
- Will it give them the extra edge in a competition or with a future job?
Create buzz around this experience and get people talking about it.
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Question 3 – Who can I partner with?
I used to be the person that would want to plan events on my own.
I thought it was easier – WRONG! – it was harder because I had to do everything.
I thought I would get all the credit – WRONG! – no one came and the “credit” I got was for putting on an unsuccessful event.
What I learned from that experience was that partnerships can save the event.
When it comes to working with high school students, the best partnerships are with student organizations. You can partner with an organization to have them help plan the event and or to volunteer. You can offer them the opportunity to promote their group or do a fundraiser (HUGE!) If those students plan to participate and are excited about it, they will tell their friends and their family members.
The best example that demonstrates this is a school performance, either a play or concert. Attendance is pretty good because family members and friends want to come to support the participant. This idea can work for any event. I love having a high school group perform at the event. Even if it is for only 15 – 30 minutes, it gets them in the door along with their entourage. Everyone likes their 15 minutes of spotlight!
Another great way to partner and get high school students involved is to use their talents. Do you need fliers or posters made? Students with artistic talent can help you make them. Or have a poster contest with a small award and use the winner’s design to promote the event. College and Career bound students are looking for way enhance their portfolios and resumes. You can provide that opportunity to them and benefit from it.
I always like the idea of “work smarter, not harder”. When the idea pops up to have an event, I recommend that you go through this process –
Think of your goal and ask yourself the following questions.
- What is the purpose of my event?
- What would make this event successful?
- Why am I planning an event?
After asking these questions, ask yourself, “in order to fulfill this purpose and be successful, do I have to have an event by itself or could I meet my purpose by collaborating with someone else?”
I know, that is a long-winded question. I ask myself this question because sometimes there is a goal I need to accomplish and I can meet that goal by attaching myself to an event that is already planned.
- Am I having an event with the goal to get information out? — Could I set up a booth at a football game and meet that goal?
- Am I planning an event so I can provide a service to the community? — Is there another organization serving the community in a different way and we can combine our services?
Sometimes it takes a moment to “think outside the box” but if you have limited resources, joining with another event is more beneficial than overextending yourself.
Want to inspire your kids or your students? Check out our new book – 52 Kids who R.O.C.K. Every Day: Inspiring stories of young people who Radiate Outrageous Compassion & Kindness.
I hope that these questions and tips give you some strategies you can use in planning your next event or program. It does not matter if you are a school. church, recreation program, library, or community organization — you need to work on “selling the experience” that your event will provide.
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