Designing and facilitating large-scale student events or activities can be hard work – not only can such events require large budgets and be time-consuming to plan, but it can also be difficult to ensure that the event you have planned will be of interest to the diverse members of your student cohort (and their already hectic social calendars)!
From my time working in student university residences, catering for groups ranging in size from 200 to 1500+ students, I believe that, put simply, there are three critical ingredients to large-scale student events or activities – they must be ‘Easy’ (to organize and low-cost), ‘Engaging’ (for those who wish to be involved) and ‘Entertaining’ (for those who prefer to watch from the sidelines).
Here are some helpful ideas for events and activities which meet all three requirements:
Traditional and Non-Traditional Sporting Competitions
Students love a bit of friendly competition and meeting others with similar interests, and university is a great time to try out a whole range of sporting activities. Whilst you may require some investment in sporting equipment, it’s worth exploring whether you could utilize or partner with a local or in-house university sporting centre to gain access to their facilities. Consider traditional group sports (which are also easy to learn and fun to watch) like netball, football, swimming or basketball, but also think outside the box with activities like dodgeball, humans vs zombies, nerf wars, obstacle courses, colour runs or Quidditch (minus the flying!).
Anything and Everything But Sport
If you’re wanting to add something a bit more unique into the mix, but keep up a bit of healthy competition, why not consider an arts, culture or creative-based approach? Hosting a great debate, photography or art exhibition, dance-off, open-mic or talent night are great ways of encouraging the involvement of students who might not be the next Michael Jordan, and fantastic spectator events. Large-scale gaming nights are also a clever way of appealing to students with different interests, and if you’re the creative type, why not host a ‘minute to win it’ style night, featuring a random assortment of skill and talent based activities?
Community Service Style Activities
Volunteering in the local community is another low-cost and engaging way to encourage students to get involved and try something new. It can help to also add a competitive twist to their efforts, perhaps by running a residence versus residence (or other appropriate grouping) blood drive competition or clean-up/tidy-town style activity.
Festivals or Carnivals
Admittedly not as low-cost an option as the previous three ideas, but hosting a festival or carnival for students is the perfect way of bringing students together in a relaxed and fun-filled setting. Explore options for carnival style games (basketball hoops, jumping castles) and food (snow cones, fair floss or popcorn) and consider sourcing a band or DJ to create more of an atmosphere. We’ve been hosting an event similar to this for several years now (known as Resivale and featuring a cultural focus), and it’s without a doubt one of the most popular activities in the social calendar!
‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Events
If all else fails, one of the best ways to engage residents and truly obtain buy-in is to have them design the event themselves. This might mean giving them complete control or providing them with voting rights. One of our most successful events, held for the first time last year, was our Inter-Residence ‘Choose Your Own Adventure Ball.’ We pre-determined that a formal ball (with a ticket price) was a great way of bringing students together from our different residential areas, but provided them with the opportunity to vote from several options for the theme, music, food, beverages and entertainment. Students loved the concept of having a say in how the night went, and we had fantastic engagement for each voting area! Read more about the end result in our Residential Review Magazine.
What other large-scale easy, engaging and entertaining events have you organised, and would you recommend to others? What key ingredients are essential to ensure they’re successful?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Amma Marfo on Comedy, Creativity, and Writing