View Full Version : Recruiment ideas?
08-26-02, 06:19 AM
I'm starting a brand-new team here at St.Thomas, so my first job is to get some members...
Besides flyers everywhere a potential debater could look, do you have any other ideas that have worked for you?
08-26-02, 07:29 AM
one of our most successful recruitment avenues is our website. We probably have 5-10 hits a day on it and when school gets closer we usually have 1-2 sign ups a day on there. if you do get a website, even a simple one, make sure you add it to yahoo! and the search engines. we have this counter/tracker thing on ours and it's amazing how many hits we get from people who type in UCSD Debate into yahoo or something like that.
plus I think a lot of college students are up and bored at 3am when you prolly don't want them calling you asking about the team =)
Flyers are nice, but word of mouth is better.
If you know professors in certain depts. (history, poli sci, philosophy, etc.) have them pimp the team for you. They definetely have a captive audience of students who would find the idea of debate interesting. Also, all colleges usually have a student activities fair at the beginning of the year. Get a booth, make some posters, and get a sign-up sheet. You usually have about 30 seconds to make your pitch before a student will move on, so you may want some prepared handouts on what events you plan to offer, what tournaments you plan to attend, etc. After the fair, call all the people who signed up as interested and tell them personally where and when the first meeting will be. If 20 people signed up, you will likely have about ten show up to the meeting. They may bring friends.
In the long term, it helps a program immensely if you have a good relationship with your admissions office. Lobby to have debate/forensics appear as an activity of interest on the admissions form if it's not already on there; then have them forward all admitted applicants who indicated they would be interested in doing debate to you. You then volunteer to call or have other team members call these people and tell them why St. Tom's is such a great school and why they should do debate. Or send them some additional information. That should help you establish a relationship with many students long before they ever come to campus. And most students are tickled to get a phone call from a "real person" (aka student or faculty member) interested in them for reasons besides their GPA and transcript. Who knows, if you can convince Admissions that having a debate team is a great way to recruit the best and brightest pool of students to the college, you might even be able to get a bit of scholarship money set aside for your team.
08-26-02, 06:39 PM
This is a great thread because I'm doing the same thing now. I was wondering...does anyone have any like testimonials or like statistics on debaters and their future success or something? I mean, if the Greeks can produce something saying that their students do better in college..we can darn sure put something like that for debate. I just don't want to go making stuff up, if there is a resource out there.
08-26-02, 08:25 PM
Well, although not statistically supported, I'll wager that debate credentials are better than greek credentials...
This is a great thread, and something that's useful. The web-page is a good idea, I think, but word of mouth is also critical. At USC no one knew there was a debate team. I sorta accidently found out about it my senior year in high-school.
When I was recruiting I often made the mistake of making it seem like we really wanted them to participate. This was true, of course, but in doing that, being a part of the debate team wasn't something to be earned; it was more of a favor. As a result, it was hard to get people to do any work.
Jed brings up a really interesting point, that being, how much can you solicit students to participate and still make them want to work?
I've seen our team grow from about 10 the first year I was volunteering as a coach to about an expected 40 for this 2002-03 season. We spent a fair amount of time trying to recruit people once we saw we were dipping close to below critical mass, but in the end, you can only do so much. At that time, debate wasn't getting a lot of press on campus, we'd had some representatives of the team that weren't exactly the apple of the administration's eye, and other teams were offering more scholarship money to the talented and experienced. We often found we had a lot of bright, seasoned forensics folk at L&C, but they were often so burnt out by their high school experiences they really didn't want to continue. So, we ended up with a lot of inexperienced people or people who hadn't had very big programs but liked what little they did. And, with dedicated resources and coaching time, most have been very successful, enough so to attract others. In the end, we stopped heavily soliciting the "stars" and just focused on the fact that debate was a fun thing to do for everyone, and that the benefits of participation multiplied with the amount of work put in.
It's almost better to have a team of inexperienced people who are there cuz they want to be than a team of experienced people who are only doing it for the money or some sense of "duty". I ask each individual every year what *they* want their goals to be; because that forces everyone to really think and come to terms with why they do this activity, and what they get out of it. (It also helps me remind myself that I'm there for them, not the other way around.) In short, make people aware of debate's presence, encourage participation in a broad sense, and make them feel valued once they are on the team, but be mindful of creating "stars" of any kind. They will usually implode on you.
08-27-02, 09:08 AM
The whole High School "Stars" thing is really funny to me, as it has been my experience that those who did very well in HS are expecting success doing what they did last year -- and when they find out that parli is a different sort of activity they get frustrated.... on the other hand, the best performers I've seen have had very little HS success, but they WANT to have more. They tend to listen better and work harder....
In some ways I'm lucky, the HS debaters who want to do policy and go to school in the cities have Macalester as their chioce.... so if they want to be intense and have a shot at the NDT, they go to school down the road (about 2 miles...:) .
It is really hard to walk the fine line between begging and inviting participation... but it seems that developing the idea that travel is earned, not automatic -- just because you show up to every meeting, is the important part.
Yeah, different strokes for different folks I guess. It can be exhausting to deal with those successful high school hot shots who expect travel opportunities and success to be handed to them with volume of champagne on the side for good measure. (It isn't just policy debaters either, actually, our policy kids work pretty damn hard. Many have been relative newcomers too, who don't expect travel rewards. That's what happens when you have three first round NDT schools in your district and they make up over half a typical local tourney's policy entries. But that's a different subject altogether.)
There should be a system, however loose and prone to exceptions, to determine travel/rewards. Success at local tournaments should be the first. Regular practices, timely submission of evidence and briefs, and a general willingness to be a part of the team must all be factored in as well.
That's about it. Back to work.
08-28-02, 05:39 AM
we have been going to classes on campus and talked to students. we have also refered them to our e-mail and this very message board( thanks jed). the best way we have added new folks has been word of mouth and cross participating in other orgs. on campus. (almost all the cr's are now members). this has worked well for us as well. last year we also had the school paper do a story on us and it worked well as well.
08-28-02, 07:13 AM
Oy. . . .the school newspaper can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it's nice when they do finally decide that debate is something worthy to pay attention to, on the other reporters rarely know about debate, so what they try to assume they can fill in they tend to get wrong. At Western, we never had the newspaper report on us in a completely accurate or postive light, but the worst is when they made up quotations, and now Dan will be forever immortalized as the guy who said re: debate: "you have your balls out there right in front of everybody."
Anyway, I digress. Make sure that the school newspaper understands who y'all are and exactly what you do before you let them report on you. Otherwise, you may end up looking pretty silly.
08-28-02, 07:19 AM
Or another alternative to that, is just writing the article for them. I knew that no one here would have a clue about debate, so I figured it would just be more effective to write the article up in a press release and let them sift it that way.
Or else, I just break down and write the article myself.
You almost have to befriend a person on the school newspaper, have a few sit-down bar sessions with them and explain the whole thing. Or, just find the inevitable overachiever(s) who did both school newspaper and forensics in high school, and ditched the latter to become the next Bob Woodward. Or, the inevitable overachiever who is still doing both in college. But sometimes, it's easier to just submit an article. You do have more quality control that way. Unless you have Dan Williams on your team. Then the situation is pretty much hopeless. <img src=http://www.net-benefits.net/emoticons/bouncegrin.gif ALT=":grin">
Sending regular "press releases" to your public information office and alumni/development offices are a good idea too. Someone should be designated to write up the results for each tournament you go to, then have them disseminate it to those offices. You might not get every one in, but it at least gets you on the radar. (In a good way, not in a caught-in-the-crossfires way....)
08-28-02, 09:00 PM
I suggest not starting a team but a society which has a team. This will allow you to not scare off those students who don't think they have the time to put in all the work but who are interested. Then you suck them in and addict them.
We mostly use the admissions app interest check box. Then we send a letter to each of the students (usually about 100+ at a school of just over 3000) who check the box.
Then we actually send a letter to EVERY freshman's dorm mail box.
Our club fair is also useful.
The most important thing is to get freshman very very very early in the year before they get involved in anything else and before the realize that college is harder than high school.
1. other departments
2. alums (your school may have had a team in the past)
3. Key administrators.
4. Orientation folks.
5. Other debate programs in your area.
Cultivate their ability to participate:
1. Offer some practicum or other academic credit, or get some department to do it.
2. Recruit in classes and allow issue-oriented classwork to be countable toward debate preparation expectations.
3. Create a publicity machine according to your resources. Publicize every practice as some sort of public event.
4. Pay personal attention to each recruit; students get freaked out very easily. I had a student who had done very well in the interstate oratory contest, but found herself overwhelmed by all our email and web junk we dumped on her at first. She just about quit last week. After meeting with her for about an hour, she is feeling less lost and more committed. She just didn't understand the basics of our program, which leads me to my 5th....
5. Make your organization very easy to understand; and again, don't overwhelm them with communication.
Develop a battery of evidence for justifying your program to key people. There is extensive evidence of the benefits of forensics participation.
1. Anecdotes from successful debaters.
2. Critical thinking research.
3. diversity data; well, in No. Cal, this is an asset, but the national data seems to take this one out. I have 19 women and 8 men on my team right now. If you can get good numbers, it makes admins feel good, not to mention being better in its own right to have diversity.
4. Report on how your program addresses your school's planning priorities.
5. basic stuff like the 300 speeches debaters give in a year compared to the 5 in a public speaking class.
09-18-02, 06:43 PM
I thought I'd let you know how the new Debating Society at UST was going...
We had our first real meeting last week, with 14 potential competitors in attendance. I anticipate that we'll lose a few as they heard 'debate' and thought we intended 'just argue about stuff without format' -- but there are a few potential debate nerds who needed to clear their schedule to come next week...
If we have interest in and the ability to compete, I'll go to the dean for permission to go off campus. That could be a bit tricky, so don't put us on your 'list of expected teams' just yet... and once we have permission and you've plied me with beer or wine... I'll tell you the tricks :) ).
One thing we are doing to avoid the overwhelming nature of a new activity is to teach one basic skill per meeting, then have them do a practice round focusing on that skill...We will then have a handout that those who are joining later can read and ask questions about. Of course we can do this as we have the luxury of not having to compete until we are ready... one of the advantages to the debating society vs immediate competitive team concept.
Take care and thanks for the input... I'm sure I'll need to keep recruiting and will take most of your advise at some point.
U of St. Thomas Debate Coach... (finally)
or, as Jason pointed out, if we call ourselves the St.Thomas University Debating Society -- we can be "STUDS" -- really ironic since "Debate like a Girl" really could be our slogan, our best and most enthusiastic members are female.
09-19-02, 05:51 AM
congratulations! It sounds like your recruitment went well, any suggestions on things you tried that worked? didn't work? One thing we always like to do when people come back for a second meeting is ask them how they heard about us - we avoid the first meeting since a lot don't come back so that place probably wasn't a good way to recruit =) hehe.
09-19-02, 10:50 AM
One of the big things that seemed to work was to get the philosophy department enthused about the society. Many of them came because "my philosophy prof told me I should"... which is nice to hear.
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