Planning a Floor Event? Ask These 3 Questions First.

Whether you’re a first-time Resident Assistant or you’ve got two years of experience under your belt, you understand the struggle of planning and executing a successful floor event. We’ve all invested time, energy, and resources into an event and had two residents show up. We’ve all had events where, even if attendance is applaudable, the level of enthusiasm is far from optimal. And we’ve all asked ourselves the question, at least once, “What’s the point?”

Programming in the context of a college floor community is a powerful way to accomplish your goals as an RA, but it needs to be done correctly in order to do so. By bringing more intentionality and forethought to our events, we can ensure that we provide our residents with experiences that are productive and worthwhile. Maybe, just maybe, we can move from begging and nagging residents to come to our next floor event to residents pleading us as RA’s to put on more programming. By asking the following questions in the planning process, we can shift from putting on an event for the sake of putting on an event or fulfilling a job requirement to blessing our floor communities with purposeful, valuable, beneficial, and memorable experiences.

1. What are my residents’ interests?

In planning programming, it’s crucial to know your audience. What are your residents passionate about? How do they use their leisure time? What hobbies do they partake in regularly, whether that’s collectively or individually?

Print a list of your residents and jot down one or two things that each resident is interested in. Maybe it’s the trumpet or golf or origami. Think about clubs/organizations that they are involved in, decorations or items in their room, or past conversations you’ve had with them. By listing an interest or two of each resident, you will begin to see patterns and trends in addition to interests that are unique to one or two residents.

Events that cater to the passions and hobbies of your residents will always spark greater attendance and will prove to be a more effective vehicle for achieving your goals as an RA. For example, if you plan a floor excursion to the college’s opera, but none of your residents are even remotely interested in music, your event will most likely fail. On the other hand, if multiple informal leaders and key influences on your floor are in the opera and a variety of your residents are interested in music & theater, your event has a far greater chance at succeeding.

Hint: If you’re working on your list and you know very few of you residents’ interests and hobbies, you probably need to interact with them more!

2. What are my residents’ needs?

Knowing your residents’ interests is critical for planning effective programming, but a successful floor event is far more than another social activity. If you want to meet the needs of your residents, it is necessary to identify them! What areas of growth do you see for your floor community? What does your floor as a whole need to learn or understand?

Set ten minutes on the clock and take that time to reflect on the needs (or potential needs) of the community you are building on your floor. Reflect upon previous events, conversations, and observations that may reveal these things. Write down any idea that comes to mind. When ten minutes is up, take the list you have and prioritize the needs from greatest importance to least. This will be helpful as we move forward in the planning process.

Fulfilling a need through your programming brings a much greater sense of purpose to the event. By focusing on one distinct need of your residents at each event, you are truly building and shaping community in a way that is tailored specifically for the residents on your floor. Each floor or section has different needs that you as the RA have the power to meet effectively through well-thought out programming.

3. What are the college’s learning objectives?

In the second question, we focused on the needs of your specific floor, but in this question we turn our attention to the items that the college (your employer) hopes to achieve through your programming. These are often broad needs that the college has identified as beneficial areas of growth for the entire student body.

Fortunately for you as the RA, these objectives are predetermined! Hooray for no list-making, reflection exercise. If you are unaware of the learning objectives your college or university has for floor programming, you should discuss this with your Resident Director immediately.

Now, planning the event…

So far we have identified our residents’ interests, their needs as a floor community, and the learning objectives of the organization that is paying us to execute these events. None of these things alone are enough to put on a successful program for your floor.

It is at the intersection of your residents’ interests and needs and the college’s learning objectives that effective ideas for floor programming arise.

Let me say that again. It is at the intersection of your residents’ interests and needs and the college’s learning objectives that effective ideas for floor programming arise. When you find the sweet spot between these three things, you have found the area where an event will entice your residents to attend and will help build the community you are working to construct on your floor. It is where passion meets purpose, where meaning meets memories.

It’s time to stop grudgingly planning events merely to have an event this month. It’s time to fuel your floor with experiences that are valuable for everyone involved.

Trust me. You, your residents, and your boss will be glad you did.