Rethinking Club Meetings

This week we had our spring kickoff meeting for the Entrepreneurship Club and two little things made a huge difference in engagement.

First problem: people typically sit with their friends and as a result, don’t meet many new people. This isn’t bad for the people that have lots of friends, but it makes it harder for new members.

Attempted fix 1: tell group to mix it up and sit with strangers half way through meeting.

Why it doesn’t work: too awkward, people don’t actually move and it feels forced.

Attempted fix 2: tell people to go sit with people that look like they aren’t having many conversations

Why it doesn’t work: too awkward, hard to do at scale, hard to randomly assign people

What we did: gave people cards with thought provoking questions like “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever sold?” “What’s the most admirable business you know of?” “What’s the most creative thing you’ve done recently?” Everyone at the table had a different one of these (we had 5 different questions) and at the beginning of the meeting they used them as conversation starters. We took care of some meeting business (introducing the executive board, introducing the club’s mission and key events), then we had a second activity planned. In order to form teams we had people reorganize based on people with the same cards as them (inspiration from Tony Middlebrooks class). This automatically put people with those from many other tables and brought energy back into the room.

Second Problem: when we present opportunities to the club, we have had a weak call to action like “come see us afterwards” or “look for a link in your email.” This is a major problem, because we have some great internships and events that come through the club, but it’s hard to get people to engage with them.

Attempted fixes: we tried emphasizing how great the opportunities are, sending email links and surveys and just continuously bringing things up in meetings. None of these were effective. They were terribly ineffective to the point that I felt like bringing up these great opportunities was almost a waste of time because so few people responded to them.

What we did: The solution was simple. I found it when listening to some content from Ramit Sethi about how he would show a link to his blog after his presentations. Though people were moved by the presentations, they were not compelled to action to type in the URL and join the email list. Instead, he started passing out papers 90% of the way through the talk for people to write down their names and emails. Conversions went through the roof.

So this is what we did. We passed out a piece of paper to gauge interest for a couple internship opportunities. 12 people signed up for one and 16 another. Incredible improvement from last semester! So simple, but so effective.

These little channel factors matter. This was a huge emphasis in the book Nudge, that I read over the winter. (Post on that here) The more you can reduce friction, the more people will take the desired action.

Those are a couple big takeaways from our Spring Kickoff Meeting. I think they can generalize for any type of meeting and help facilitators more effectively engage their audiences. Feel free to use any of these concepts or comment any other ideas!

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