Virtual events are meaningful

Hi: I’m Cassidy Braithwaite, I’m a junior majoring in Special Education. I’m in KDP (a honors society for educators), I’m an RA for Honors Village, and I’m a member of Spectrum, Generation Action, and the TableTop Gamers club. When I have spare time, I enjoy knitting and baking!

I’m sure that everyone is sick of hearing how this is an “unprecedented year”, so I’ll skip the lecture on that – but it’s clear that we have all had to make adaptations to the normal college experience. Because it’s currently unsafe to have large gatherings, virtual events are one solution that seem like “the next best thing” to interacting in person. So far this semester, there have been ample opportunities for involvement and enrichment through the magic of the internet – whether it be Zoom, Teleparty, Kahoot, or Discord gaming events. 

A successful virtual event is one that is properly advertised ahead of time, has a clear target and host, and has some sort of incentive beyond just socialization. Posters and emails with details about the event help get the word out, which is the same role they play for in-person events during a normal year. Making the focus of the event broad enough to attract a decent crowd, but narrow enough to avoid a sense of overcrowding (if you’ve ever been stuck on the third or fourth page of a Zoom call, you know what I’m talking about!) is a tricky balance, but Off The Hook has been doing a phenomenal job thus far. A great (and timely) example would be their trivia nights – they host one every week, and each week they have a different topic: Pop Culture, Star Wars, and Rap are the first three. Kahoots are quite appealing to the student body. They encourage a healthy sense of competition, and the podium arrangement at the end gives an easy way to arrange prizes if they are included. An enthusiastic host is the last key component of a successful virtual event – someone who is willing to keep things moving and avoid awkward silences. 

As an RA, virtual events are an integral part of event planning this year, and I would argue that they are more than worthwhile at this time. I have been able to get to know my residents a little better through virtual events, and as far as I can tell, attendance has been pretty much the same as in-person events of previous years. For my two virtual events in September, I made a poster and posted it on each townhouse door, and then emailed my residents with all the necessary information to join each event. Because I only have 20 residents, I didn’t need to worry so much about the balance between “broad and narrow” – I was able to get feedback from nearly everyone on what spooky movie we watched to welcome October. Personally, my go-to incentive to get my residents to attend my events is to promise to bake them cookies if they come – free food goes a long way in college!

I think that virtual events are serving their purpose within this time – many of us will be glad to go back to in-person events eventually, but for now this is a suitable replacement.

By Cassidy Brathwaite