Student organizations use new tactics to attract new members after not getting tables at fall activities fair


TPN File Photo

Students at the fall activities fair in 2016.

By Ryleigh Lord, Staff Writer

After not receiving tables at the fall activities fair, student leaders needed to find innovative ways to attract new members to their organizations without the help of the event.

More than 400 student organizations vie for spots at the annual activities fair held at the beginning of the fall semester, but as a result of an inability to house every club, student leaders must try to work around the problem. They’ve come up with new tactics over the semester to attract members in the absence of a physical table at the fall fair, using social media and other connections in lieu of the traditional advertising opportunities.

Sam Stainer, a senior economics major and president of the Women in Economics club, talked about the planning that goes into getting a table.

“Our business manager attempted to register as soon as the form opened up,” Stainer said. “We were very meticulous about landing this because we knew it was really important for us to get a table, and we still didn’t.”

Stainer said student organizations, especially newer ones, heavily depend on the activities fair to spread the word about their group and attract new members.

“Being a pretty new club on campus, and more focused on a smaller group of people, we really depend on those types of events to have good attendance and get new members,” Stainer said. 

An unnamed spokesperson for Student Affairs said they organize the process of registering for a table on a first-come, first-served basis. They noted that clubs that were on the waitlist for a spot in the fall were given early registration for the spring activities fair. Early-bird registration opened on Nov. 14 and opened to all organizations on Nov. 21 with a deadline of Dec. 14.

“Organizations who submitted a table request before we closed activities fair registration, but after tables filled up, were given the option to be placed on a waitlist,” the spokesperson said. “We did our best to place as many of these waitlisted organizations the day of the event with tables from organizations that did not show up.”

Guru Ram, the co-captain of First Class Bhangra, said student leaders whose organizations didn’t get a table noticed a clear decrease in new member interest. Ram, a sophomore applied developmental psychology major, said it was harder to attract people overall in the weeks after the fair.

“We usually do have a table at the fair, so it was clear to see the huge decrease in awareness and interest this year compared to other years,” Ram said. “We usually have a lot of interest from first years, but this year there was definitely a lot less.”

Sofia Palacios, a senior economics major and president of the Undergraduate Economics Society, said the race for a slot in the fair is competitive and detailed how spots are unlikely to open up later.

“We signed up for the wait list, but obviously groups aren’t going to drop out of the activities fair,” Palacio said. “Then they told us that if we had another group that had a table and would be willing to share, we could share, but no groups I talked to were willing to.”

Kristen Diehl, a fifth-year pharmacy student and president of Ice Cream Sundays, said the Activities Fair also helps to connect interested students in a more streamlined process.

“I still get emails from people interested, but it’s harder to file through them without a table because they ask questions that we would typically answer in-person at the fair,” Diehl said. “It’s harder to make sure we’re responding to every individual email, and it would be nicer to just talk in-person at the fair.”

Leaders of clubs that were unable to get tables at the fair have started to utilize new ways to spread information and interest to students. Zoe Frantz, a senior marketing major and vice president of marketing for Empower, spent a significant time building a recognizable brand that would attract students without a table. 

“Since we didn’t get a spot at the fair, we stood right by it and ran around and handed out flyers to students who were there,” Frantz said. “I worked to establish our brand on campus, so when people saw our president handing out flyers they recognized the club and were really excited to join. We just had to work around the setback of not having a real table or spot.”

Some clubs looked for different opportunities outside of Pitt-sponsored events to get the word out. Ram said First Class Bhangra benefited from the help of the South Asian Student Association’s own activities fair.

Palacios said the Undergraduate Economics Society was fortunate to have the economics department as a space to advertise and talk about their club. 

“We reached out to several professors of intro classes and booked ourselves five minutes before their class to talk about the club, put up a flier, and provide our social media and Google form,” Palacios said. 

Some groups, such as Women in Economics, created new board positions to make up for the loss in interest experienced by not getting a table. 

“We ended up developing a new position at the club this year whose only goal was to attract new members, which is something we really didn’t need in the past and maybe wouldn’t have needed if we got a spot,” Stainer said.

Leaders point to the upcoming spring semester activities fair as another potential opportunity to advertise as they continue to grow interest in their clubs, though they hope to see changes to the fall fair going forward. The spring fair will take place this Wednesday from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. on the main floor of the William Pitt Union. 

“It would be nice if there was a bigger space to accommodate more groups,” Palacios said. “If we could have it spread out somewhere else, hopefully all organizations will be able to get a spot next time.”