Food brings people together. The aroma, taste, and texture! I’ve never heard anyone say “ I didn’t go to that event because they had food.” We too have been guilty of attending events for free food — just the food — specifically for chips and dips. Love chips and dips.
But as a host of an event, it’s disappointing to have people come to your event just for the food, especially when you feel like your event can contribute so much more than feeding people. For example, Knitting with Friends — ideally, we would love for people to be genuinely interested in knitting, and not just the cookies or hot chocolate that come with the event. It’s difficult when the host has a huge number of people attending, but only a handful are engaged in the actual content. But we’ve all been there, victims of the “hello, hi, eat the food, and dash for the exit” move.
So how do we make food not the main driver of an event?
Well, what is the reason you are on our blog right now? It’s not because we are giving you free food (although that would be kind of cool). We hope you’re here because we’ve been providing you information that you want. Information that will have you emotionally and physically invested.
When holding housing events, or any event in general, it is good practice to gauge your audience. Having worked in a full first-year student residence hall, we often thought – “What do first-year college students need?” More food… Find your freshman 15 somewhere else! We know that they might need help with time management, making friends, finding new hobbies, learning about campus resources, figuring out if the professor is your enemy or your friend, etc. If you aren’t sure what your “kids” need, then ask them. What time of year is it? Midterms — perfect let me hold a self-study session. Oh — we just finished midterms? No worries, time to host a ping pong tournament. We want to be relevant, accessible and timed perfectly. This way you will have the greatest impact (and the greatest number of attendees).
Having a strong theme or activity (other than the food offerings) that holds the event together is the key to getting people interested and present other than to avoid “paying” for a meal. Make sure you are offering things that they can not necessarily get anywhere else. If your budget allows, maybe other forms of free USEFUL things than food.
Some ways to publicize – create flyers, speak to some people and ask them to bring their friends, send out reminders, put a sign out on your door, and on the door of the event when it happens, and do one last round of recruiting 20 minutes before the event starts. It’s amazing what some small advertising does. If you can have people RSVP to your event, that’s even better! Then if you do want to order food, you can order just enough for the people who RSVP’d.
Moral of the story?
We are not saying to forego food — after all, we need to eat too! What we are saying is figure out what your audience needs, and how you can create the biggest impact. If you are lucky, and have lots of funding for the event, get food! Don’t have it in the beginning — but rather have a small 5 min break during your event when the food arrives, and reward the people for coming to your event. Good Luck! Can’t wait to hear about all your successful events!