Whether physical, virtual or somewhere in between, freshers’ fairs are a staple of the freshers’ week experience, and for many CU members are their first point of contact with the CU. So, whatever the circumstances, doing a great job with your freshers’ fair stall can be a brilliant way to introduce a new generation of students to the CU. A freshers’ fair stall ought to be three things: functional, visible, and relational.
Above all, your stall is there to introduce your CU and give potential members an insight into what the CU is and what it does. So, the first thing to think through when planning your stall is: how can we do that well?
Here are three areas to consider:
What is the CU? What is its purpose, its mission? Who is it for?
The most important thing to get across to freshers is what the Christian Union actually is, and what it exists to do. Shocking though it may seem, many freshers will have no idea what a Christian Union is.
Is it a kind of social club for Christians? Is it some kind of weird church on campus? Am I, as a Baptist / Methodist / Anglican / anything else welcome there? What about if I’m not a Christian but am intrigued by Jesus?
Because of this, we want our freshers’ fair stalls, and the people at them, to clearly explain the purpose and mission of CU, as well as who the CU is for and to do so in a way that is compelling for Christians and accessible for people who might be seeking to know more.
How can freshers get involved? How can they access the CU communication channels and keep up with what’s happening? How do they join an Impact Group or sign up for the Weekend Away?
Once freshers know what the CU is and have had the vision for CU clearly and enthusiastically explained to them, they’ll hopefully want to get involved. So, the next stage is, what will this look like for them? Will it look like signing up to meet a CU member for coffee? Signing up for an Impact Group? Or just coming along and getting to know the CU at freshers events?
The key here is for there to be a clear and easy next step for interested freshers to take. Without this, they may be left unclear as to how to connect with the CU, and CU may slip off their radar as freshers week goes by and other things fill up their schedule. So, before freshers’ fair, have a think about what the next step for freshers you meet could be, and be ready to suggest it when they come by!
When and where are the key events over the next week, two weeks, month?
This is really an extension of the how point, but it’s worth emphasising separately: details are important! It’s brilliant if a fresher has got the vision for CU, knows what the next event is and is eager to come along. But that will be little good if they are clueless as to when the event is happening and where it’s taking place.
So, make sure to have specific details ready in advance and close to hand, so you can easily give them to Freshers. A well-designed flyer with all the details of upcoming meetings and contact details and social media details of CU is a helpful give away to students visiting your freshers stall.
Your stall needs to stand out from the crowd. Whether you’re online or in person, surround yourself with images that give a glimpse into CU life. Or maybe you could use Zoom to add a fun background to your call? Your images will need to be large so they’re visible, either over webcam or at a 2m physical distance. It’s worth putting a good amount of effort into the look of your stall: the first impression from the way the CU stall looks will be vital in giving Freshers a sense of what the CU is like.
A key aim of the CU’s freshers’ week ministry is to facilitate ongoing friendships that will outlast the busy early weeks of term. Incorporate that into what you offer at the freshers’ fair. The University of Sheffield CU offered the chance to meet a returning CU member for coffee. They were amazed at how many people – British and international, Christian or otherwise – signed up. This would be a great way of growing deeper connections beyond the restraints of a restricted freshers’ fair.
With COVID throwing a great deal of uncertainty into the mix, it is good to be ready for a physical freshers’ fair as well as a virtual one, or even something in between. So, with that in mind, here are some specific considerations for restriction-free in-person freshers’ fairs, fairs where some social distancing or restrictions apply, and virtual freshers’ fairs:
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