The point person nervously wiped his mouth one last time and then placed his napkin on the table. He looked around the table at all his friends giving him encouraging smiles as he lifted himself onto his feet and stood on his chair.
“One! Two! Three!” He yelled at the top of his lungs to a crowded banquet hall filled with 500 other student leaders from all over the country.
Silence. All eyes turned towards the point person as he stood alone, vocally exposed, above the crowd. Silence.
Then the mob mobilized and other students started to stand up on their chairs. A game of human popcorn; Students from all parts of the room stood up in support of their point person. The mob was in-the-know, everyone else looked around in nervous excitement.
“You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy, when the skies are grey. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.”
The mob of 70 students sang in beautiful harmony from atop their chairs. As the song ended, they jumped down and ran around giving hugs before heading back to their original seat.
As the flashmob ended, the students exchanged celebratory smiles and high-fives with each other.
Our “sunshine” flash mob took place at a NACA conference in 2006, and was completely coordinated via text messaging. Not only was there 100% engagement between the mob members, several people who weren’t even part of the mobile mob joined in because it was so much fun.
We followed six steps to make sure our flash mob was a success:
1) Pick The Right Mobile Texting Service – There are lots of options out there, and a simple google search will lead you to some good ones. Back in 2006, we used Mozes.com.
2) Create a Build Up – Instead of jumping right into the big dinner flashmob, we ran a few smaller flash mobs to build up the confidence, momentum, and social bonds between the mob members.
3) Pick The Right Point Person – We knew that the point person was going to have to overcome their own personal nerves, as well as be loud enough to yell above a room filled with people talking.
4) Make Sure It’s Allowed – Nothing will kill a flashmob faster than the campus safety shutting it down. We let the conference people know ahead of time that the mob was going down so they could be prepared.
5) Make It Feel Underground – Another momentum killer for flash mobs is when it feels too official. Yes, make sure what you do is legal and allowed, but make the mob members feel like it’s all an underground movement.
6) Celebrate Afterwards – We sent out another text right after the dinner flash mob to have everyone meet us later that night to have a group celebration. It was the perfect cap to a successfully run flash mob.
I’ve since helped lead several conference flash mobs and every time we ended with a high level of student engagement. Follow the six steps listed above, and you too could start using mobile texting as a way to drive in-person engagement.
This post is part of our #App2Campus series, which aims to share ideas for using mobile to drive student engagement on campus. We will hear from all kinds of #SApros who have used phone technology to foster a sense of community and connection between the students, face to face. For more information, please see Sabina’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.