5 Things You Can Learn In The First 5 Minutes of An Event

A festive spring semester brings a mountain of events student affairs professionals need to organize between the months of February and April.

We get it. You have a lot on your plate at the beginning of an event and evaluating the program may not be your #1 priority. Kick off your semester with a bang, use these five quick tips to learn about your event and attendees to rock your events every time.


1) Timing is everything

Students arrival times to events often feel unpredictable. Whether you attract the early bird or the fashionably late student, it’s hard to evaluate if you planned your event for the best time.

After looking at your expected attendance compared to who’s entering the event, you can evaluate whether to make changes. Not enough attendees are showing up to a concert? Let’s push the entertainer back a bit and serve hors d’oeuvres first.

If the event doesn’t start until 6pm but people start arriving at 5:30pm anyway, why not check them in early and take a little off your plate? Be active about keeping the flow of people moving to make your attendees experience nothing short of an awesome time. First impressions are everything and having positive interactions based on the organization of your event early on can determine it’s success.

Not sure why students are early or late? With new technology tools emerging in higher education you can see what’s happening in real-time on campus. Create polls to gauge where you students are coming from (residence halls, program, class, etc). Learn more about how Presence can help you with easy polling.


2) How are your attendees finding the location?

Arriving to an event and not being able to find the exact location can be extremely frustrating for event attendees. Turn their frown upside down within the first few minutes and assign an event organizer to be a point person to provide direction. If you have time, print up additional signage to guide them to the event.

Is your event across campus, away from the social spotlight? Encourage students to grab the campus shuttle together or organize student leaders to make the trek to the event with them. Taking a little bit of time to consider logistical planning from an attendee point-of-view can help improve attendance rates dramatically.


3) Who’s attending (who hasn’t showed up)?

Attendees are trickling in and you decide to check data about your event attendees. You can see the number of first-time attendees, majors, and… the low amount of residential students at the event.

Using a student affair’s Decision-Making Framework (2013) you can plan the best course of action to get these on-campus residents to the event:

Define the problem

You’ve determined the issue after seeing the data on the event and how quickly you have to make a game plan to make the best of the situation. 

Scan the options

Ask yourself, “How have issues of low attendance by a specific student population been handled in the past? What are the resources needed to achieve the outcome?”

Implement the solution

Create a quick plan of action that includes specific tasks (for you or your team). This might include contacting the Residence Director on-call and asking a team of Resident Assistants to advertise via word-of-mouth to get a final push to the event. Another option is having student leaders at the event post on various social media sites to gain the attention of your target audience (i.e. residence hall specific Facebook pages, Twitter hashtags). 

Assess the impact

Did your response achieve the desired outcome? What might you do differently next time?


4) Obtain quick feedback

Tracking down students to fill out a post-event survey can be anything but an exciting process. You probably don’t want to create a survey and students don’t want to fill it out.

Create a poll to grab information you need in a snap about your event. Here are some questions we thought of to help you gain feedback within the first five minutes:

  • How did you hear about this event?
  • What type of event would you like to see in the future?
  • Will you come back to an event like this?
  • What was your favorite part of this event?
  • On a scale of 1-5, rate how easy it was to find this event.

5) Do you have extra staff?

Providing enough staff at an event can be a simple thing to undervalue. Things come up no matter how much you prepare and if there are only a few people to manage the event you might find yourself scrambling.

Are only a few attendees holding up the line? Quickly assign one or two people to be your “problem solvers”. Managing multiple events at one time? See what engagement looks like across campus during the beginning of your event and work with your student life team to equally divide up staff on-the-spot.

Leverage Technology for Campus Events

Student affairs professionals are finally entering a time period where technology tools get us closer to answering the questions about student engagement and involvement. These takeaways within the first five minutes only scratch the surface as to what a campus engagement platform can provide in it’s entirety. Imagine what you can you with Check I’m Here beyond five minutes at an event. Dive into data analytics and request a free demo with Check I’m Here today. Schedule a call here.

What hiccups have you run into at the beginning of an event? How did you manage them? Share your story with us on Twitter @CheckImHere or in the comments below!


Vaccaro, A. (2013). Decisions matter: Using a decision-making framework with contemporary student affairs case studies.


Kayley Robsham

About the author: Kayley Robsham is the former Community Engagement Manager at Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

Check I'm Here is now Presence. Learn more about this change in our blog post here.