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Ok. This decision really sucked. It was hard to make. We didn’t want to make it, but we ultimately had no other options.
We have decided that an in-person conference on the current June dates for the 2020 Student Life Summit is just not feasible. Now that we have the heavy news out of the way, let’s talk about what we can do next.
The biggest goal that COCA strives to achieve, each and every day, is how can we best support our membership. In this unprecedented time, support and assistance is needed now more than ever before. With that being said, and acknowledging we will be unable to run an in person conference in June, we are pursuing every avenue possible to maintain the 2020 Student Life Summit.
The Student Life Summit is more than just an annual conference. It is a connection of like minded individuals who share the same goal: enhance student life on campus. This comes with a very specific and unique set of challenges and situations that you won’t find in any other industry. That is why it is so important that we figure out a way to still deliver a conference experience to you our membership.
We also understand that in these current times, there is a significant amount of uncertainty within our industry. Uncertainty surrounding job security, budget alterations, and what kind of events you can even hold next year. While we rely heavily on the decisions our Board of Directors make, in this situation, we want to turn it over to you. You’re our membership; how do you want US to help YOU?
The following is a link for a quick and simple survey. The results of this survey will help guide the boards decision how to best move forward: Student Life Summit Survey
We will also be producing an FAQ around this situation on our website: COVID-19 FAQ
Of course, we are always here to help, if only to be someone to listen... So connect with us on FB and Instagram @Yourcoca. We have set up a community group on our Facebook Account for our membership to connect and discuss this situation. For some further information, recently a group of campus members met to discuss the COVID-19 situation and here is a link to the notes from that meeting: Campus Event Meeting re: COVID-19
We know many of our associate members are currently waiting for a showcase announcement, and we apologize for the delay. We will have more information on how we will proceed with showcasing and providing value to our associate members in the coming days as decisions are made around how we will present the Student Life Summit this year.
In the meantime, on behalf of the entire Board of Directions, please stay safe. Stay home. Stay healthy.
Canadian Organization of Campus Activities
Greetings COCA Family,
The spread of the COVID 19 virus has, and will affect us both personally and throughout our organizations. We wanted to let you know that COCA is already working across the networks with our peer organizations, and many SU/SA partners to determine the best course of action.
We are planning, at this moment, that the Student Life Summit is still moving forward with planning, and that preparations are continuing to be made. Of course, this may change as new information comes in every day and that this is an evolving situation. We are, however, considering alternative plans including postponing and virtual presence. The conference will happen in some form at some time.
Above all we know this is a very stressful time for each of us, as we watch our events cancel, clubs departments close, and communications teams working to get up to date information out to their students.
Now is the time that the COCA community can do any or all of the following:
Most importantly, please follow all directions from health officials and continue to socially distance yourself wherever and whenever possible. If you are able to work from home, do so.
COCA has always been an association made up of connected individuals. We are here to help in whatever way we can to support you through these challenging times.
Craig Berry - Board of Directors Chairperson
Kelsey Richard - Student Life Summit Chairperson
Josh Clark - Executive Director
What is block booking you ask? It’s a strategy to maximize the student experience by doing more with less. When booking talent for your institution “The Block Booking Technique” will SAVE YOU MONEY! Ultimately you’ll get a better price if you submit more than one offer so why not team up with a few schools in your region and create a cool shared experience.
To help you wrap your head around the concept, think of block booking like buying in bulk. It’s the act of purchasing large quantities of a particular product to receive a discount, and who doesn’t like a good deal? Some examples of places that do it best are Costco and Bulk Barn (10% student discount on Wednesday’s….you’re welcome). Another prime example is block hotel bookings. You would take advantage of this deal for weddings or sporting tournament, being that if you reserve a certain amount of rooms you get a reduced rate per room.
You might ask yourself, what’s in it for the entertainer? Even though each offer will be lower than their initial asking price, overall they will receive more money with the combined offers. You’ll essentially be creating a tour for them. Travel expenses will be less because all the shows will be within the same timeframe so they don’t have to make multiple trips. Another big win is more exposure. Students will help generate buzz by sharing experiences hopefully in a positive light should they have a good time and like the show.
What do WE gain from block booking? Other than the obvious cost savings, this is your chance to build relationships with other schools. It is so important to build a network of individuals who can be your support system. After all, no one knows what it’s like to be programmer besides other programmers. This is a tough job! Long days, immense stress, short timelines and dealing with difficult people (we’ve all been there). If anything its just great network of people to bounce ideas of off. The reason we are all in our roles is to enhance student experience and we have come to notice that there’s nothing more important to students theses days than 1. A photo/video opportunity 2. To build clout 3. Bragging rights. So let’s give the people what they want! If we pool our resources we can bring in some big names that will get students excited. I’ve come to realize that when bring in high profile talent comes positive hype for your institution. Helping to facilitate memories that last a lifetime should be our main priority so keep that in mind when you’re planning your next event.
Now that you’re aware of all the benefits it’s time to take action. Here’s a simple step by step procedure:
1. Confirm with your team who you’d like to bring in and figure out who represents them
2. Find out the individual booking price and ask for the block booking price
4. Obtain a rider *always get this before booking to know what you’re getting yourself into
5. Reach out to other schools
6. Figure out potential run dates
7. Submit offers (with the same expiry)
8. Cross your fingers and wait for approval
To take a few steps back. When you’re reaching out to other schools there are certain pieces of information you should be including in your communications. Evidently who you are looking to book and why you’d like to bring them in. Let us know which agency they belong to if any, and if you are planning to go through a third party agency as this might come with an additional charge on to of your artist fee. Indicate the stand alone show booking price and the price reduction depending on how many schools buy in. Make sure to express your desired dates and always include a call to action. A simple “please reply yes or no depending on your interest” will suffice. Ever heard the term “treat others the way you’d want to be treated.”? If you were to send out an email to someone logically you would expect a reply back, so if someone reaches out to you give them the respect to reply back even if you’re not interested. It let’s that person know you have received the email and they will no longer bug you with follow up emails regarding this topic in the future.
To quote the wise words of Highschool Musical, “we’re all in this together”. This is about a shared experience where we all benefit. Keep in mind that if you are the lead on this project equal work load may not be possible as you might spend more of your time coordinating everything. Don’t feel guilty if you’re sitting on the sidelines, just be patient and let the leader lead. Remember we are all contributing in our own capacity to make this a reality. We all have our strengths and when the times comes offer help in the ways you can. It might be with a great offer sheet you share with the group, maybe its great video editing skills once all is confirmed and it’s on to promotion. You might even have a cool marketing campaign you’d like to share with the team. We are a team who carries each other and the success is shared.
Teamwork makes the dream work. That’s all folks!
Programming & Promotions Manager - WLUSU
National Conference Chair – Student Life Summit: Powered by COCA
This blog post will be some Inception level writing. Ok, maybe not that brilliant, but what I’m getting at is that this blog post will discuss the importance of blogs, while being posted… on a blog. So, in short a blog on blogs, for a blog.
Before we dive right in, let’s take a step back and talk about the importance of student generated content for your SA. While we’re all great at what we do, many of us in communications are not students (ok, we’re always students of life, but let's not get philosophical here), and as such we don’t necessarily speak ‘student’ anymore either.
We can create brilliant content with great engaging copy, but at the end of the day a student speaks ‘student’. So here’s the trick to getting great student generated content:
Step 1. Hire students. Step 2. High five yourself for hiring students to make student created content.
Ok, now that you have your awesome student(s) working for your communications team, you can now have them begin to pump out some great content!
Given that this blog post is about making blog posts, lets actually get down to the whole ‘blog writing’ part of this post.
There has been a lot of success in the creation of great online content, in examples like ‘Narcity’ and ‘Buzzfeed’ who pump out daily lifestyle content that generates a LOT of interaction. While life on campus isn’t necessarily going to hit their levels right away, the theory is sound. Create content about student life on campus.
As student associations, we are tackling a lot of different areas when it comes to what we’re promoting. One second it’s a pub night or concert, the next an advocacy lobbying initiative, and the next it’s student mental health initiatives… and don’t forget the new chicken wrap special in the campus pub. So, having a student or two to write about either student life, or topics that are important to your SA, is crucial.
As an example: Grad Photos. Not overly the most exciting, or riveting topic to talk about. Insert student staff member (it helps if the student is graduating soon). Have that student write a ‘student perspective’ blog post on the process of Grad Photos. Have them walk a student through how to book an appointment, what to wear, how the shoot goes, package options, and of course the final product. The company you’re working with will love it, the student will get to go through the process, and now you’ve got fresh, sharable content for IG story, your website, and your SAs Facebook Page.
The crucial part about the writing style is to have your student write as though they’re talking to their friends about the topic they’re writing about. The more naturally it is written, the more likely a student is going to give a crap about it, and actually read it.
The best part about working for student associations is that we don’t have to take ourselves as seriously as our respective institutions have to. So, our content - and in this case blog posts - can be VERY casually written.
Once you’ve got a couple of solid posts written, you can start periodically sharing them throughout your social media platforms. The best part about this is it generates shares and interaction on social, but ultimately drives traffic back to your website. 2 birds, one beautifully shiny and accurate stone.
So go get yourself some students, get them to write about the amazing things your SA is doing (or just how ugh exam week is, and how to prepare for it) and get started on further building on-campus interaction!
Marketing Communications Manager
COCA Central Director
One of my responsibilities this year on the COCA Board of Directors is to ensure a timely and engaging awards competition. I had the opportunity to review the Awards policy and suggest changes for this year. The majority were accepted and they included subtracting the number of entertainment awards…we no longer have the DJ and Independent Artist
John b. Young
Past Conference Committee Chair
My name is Twan Dieker and I am the 2019-2020 Vice President: Programming & Services for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union on the Waterloo campus. I consider myself among the small handful of graduating students who are lucky enough to experience leadership as a student executive for a student association. Not many other 22-year-old recent grads get the opportunity to oversee a team of 600 volunteers, a department budget of over $600,000 and implement programming for over 4000 students while advocating for 18,000 undergraduate students. I am so thankful for the opportunity that the opportunity has granted me thus far. I wanted to highlight the top 10 takeaways from my role, things I hope to take with me in all of my future work, wherever that may take me.
One of the first pieces of advice that was given to me in this role was to take the word “tradition” out of my vocabulary. Student associations are fairly infamous for running on traditions. Though this creates a spirit of commodore and spirit, a lot of these traditions date back before the current student population and the programming never evolved with the student's needs and wants. Often, student leaders are hesitant to make changes because they are afraid of the response. However, in my role, I have seen the most success in going against the status quo and trying new things. Bringing in Antoni Porowski, from the Netflix show Queer Eye, and other speaker type events saw sold-out attendances and such a positive response from the student population. All it took was me not being afraid to say “let’s go against the traditional schedule and try something new”. The payoff was incredibly worth it. This is an attitude I hope to bring with me in all the challenges ahead of me in my career.
Emphasis on the "too". Obviously the stakes in this role can be big and the responsibility is nothing to joke about. However, I have learned in this role that this is a 1-year contract for a reason. This is a year for learning and trying new things. I am so lucky to work with a team of full-time staff who are experts in what they do. These people are here to guide me to stay within the lines so don't be afraid to use this year to mess up, make mistakes and learn as much as you can. I look to these people for advice, wisdom and best practices, but I am never too shy to put my own twist on things. If there is ever a time to do this, it is in these roles.
As I said, I have a team of 600 amazing volunteers. Including 8 coordinator level volunteers. I may not have learned it the easy way, but I did come to learn that my job was not to do it all. My job was leading this giant team to accomplish their goals. My role was to guide, support and empower them. As a student leader through and through, I am used to taking on all the work, this role taught me how to delegate, a phrase used more often than it is practiced. More importantly, I learned my own way to delegate. This means that I do not enjoy sitting in an "ivory tower" watching the work get done. My type of delegating, and ultimately my type of leadership means I am still strapping on my boots (literally and figuratively) to get the work done alongside my team. I am so thankful that this role taught me that all of my favourite parts of being a student volunteer can still translate to my professional, management life; I just had to modify my working style to find what works for me.
I found that one of the most challenging adjustments in this role. As a student, my free time was filled with my extracurriculars; that was my hobby. Now that my job is in a way, my hobby as a full-time role, I feel sometimes as though I have lost my hobby. I sometimes find myself spending my nights, my weekend and my holidays doing work because it is the thing that I enjoy doing the most. My biggest piece of advice for anyone entering a role like this is to find your new hobbies because turning your hobby into a job can lead to some over-exhaustion and burnout. In the world of "Work/Life Balance", turning what was my life into work, made for an unexpected, unforeseen challenge. It wasn't until my final semester where I really came to see this and becoming aware of this was integral to figuring out what I need in my life and in my career.
I will let this point speak for itself. My absolute favourite TedTalk is "Leading with Lollipops" (video below). I got the chance to hear from Drew Dudley twice this term, once as a delegate at the Shinerama National Conference and I got to host him at our Orientation Week Bootcamp Training where he got to speak to our team of volunteers. My most memorable quote from Drew Dudley, which I take with me in my day to day life is, "We've made leadership about changing the world. And there is no world - there's only six billion understandings of it. And if you change one person's understanding of it, one person's understanding of what they're capable of, one person's understanding of how much people care about them, one person's understanding of how powerful an agent for change they can be in this world, you change the whole thing".
I am so lucky to work in an environment where I have such an incredibly supportive team of full-time staff support. The mistake of many peers in these roles is not to recognize that the strongest supports and most wisdom often come from a desk down. I try to never be too shy to ask for help, seek advice or even run an idea by this team of full-time staff support. Some of my favourite days in the office and climbing down the rabbit hole of discussion, picking apart processing, understanding their background and questioning how we can make them the best they can be. Be curious, ask questions and do as much learning from your peers as possible.
Speaking of learning, I learn something new every day in my job. Sometimes those things can be obvious in attending conferences, lunch & learns or meetings but sometimes I have to dig a little to find the learning. Sometimes this comes in the form of a small turn out at an event, in crisis with a volunteer, or in being an active member of one of our services, there is always something to take away from my experiences. Try not to neglect this opportunity, I try to take time every day for reflection, even writing this article is a great exercise for myself.
You should always be able to figure out what gets you motivated, what brings you into work every day. For me, I find my motivation in my volunteer team. I find motivation in their successes and their challenges. My favourite days are our 1on1s, our team meetings and my office hours. I love talking about their goals and brainstorming pathways to achieving those goals. Whether it is an event they want to put on, a service improvement, a challenge with a volunteer or a new marketing initiative, these are the problem-solving challenges that bring me to the office every day.
Like I said in my 4th point, these roles can easily consume and overwhelm. It is so important that student executives take time for themselves and balance their hours. I noticed very early that my job was anything but a 9-5. I work closely with my supervisors to come up with a strategy for balancing my hours, making sure that my late nights allow me to come in late the next day, that my weekends build up vacation days and that all in all, my hours balance out week to week. I made sure to take vacation days, unplug and take time for myself at least once per term. It is also important to be proactive in doing this. Knowing that my summer, especially my August would accumulate lots of overtime, nights, holidays and weekends, I planned ahead and took time off throughout the summer knowing that it would balance out. This comes from having conversations with my supervisor early. Taking time for yourself literally means carving out the physical time for yourself, not just practicing self-care when it is convenient.
I cannot stress this point enough, your 1-year contract flies by fast, like really fast. Every event, big or small, take time to enjoy it and soak it all in. I remember during our Headphone Disco in Orientation Week, stresses were high as our venue had to change last minute, my team was stressed, and tensions were high. At that moment, I knew the best thing to do was to take the time to enjoy the event, we grabbed our own set of headphones, put on our favourite channel and enjoyed the event. When the event flies by without you taking the time the appreciate it, you don't even realize the impact you are having with your programming. Carve in the time to enjoy what you are doing, there is always enough time for this, so make sure to prioritize it.
In summary, the opportunity to work as a student executive of a student association is truly unlike any other, that being said, it moves quickly, it throws you into challenges you wouldn't expect and it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Ride that wave, enjoy it and be thankful for the opportunity, you are one of the few lucky people who get this experience, so do not take it for granted. I hope that these 10 nuggets of my own learning can help anyone as they take on these roles or any role in their careers. I truly cannot wait to see where this role will take me next.
2019-2020 Vice President: Programming & Services
Wilfrid Laurier University Students' Union
Whether you’re a beginner or a guru, the event planning world is beautiful, stressful, multi-dimensional, unique, exciting, confus- you get the point. Organizing and executing events, big or small, means you are creating memories for others that can and will have a lasting impact, especially if you do it right. Often, it is minor details that make a big difference and provide the framework for a successful event. Do you want to take your event to the next level and give your attendees the best experience possible? Us too! Here are a few little things you can do.
Brightness and tones can make a significant impact on how your attendees feel and their ability and desire to participate. Cool toned lighting makes us energetic, alert, and productive. These affects last for up to a half hour after exposure ceases. It also makes faces and food look worse and makes it hard to relax or fall asleep. Warm toned lighting is cozy, encouraging us to stay and relax. Soft, dim lighting also makes us relaxed, meaning we are actually less likely to think through decisions and often move at a slower pace. Natural light makes us happier and healthier. Light sources from above make us look tired and cast shadows. Light sources from below highlight and enhance human facial features. Front-facing or slightly angled lighting is great for photos. Lighting can even affect our appetite and perception of flavor. Changing light gradually is also important, preventing a major distraction or shock to attendees. Think about the lights suddenly turning on at 2am in the bar… *shudder* not a great feeling.
Empty out the garbage cans before your event, big or small. It makes the space more visually appealing, mitigates risk of bad smells, and makes the space feel fresh and inviting. Not to mention, it reduces the likelihood of overflowing garbage which no one wants to deal with.
Ensure that the washrooms have toilet paper, paper towel and/or the hand dryers are working. Place things like a basket of pads and tampons, condoms, breath mints, maybe even a tiny sewing kit, in the washrooms. Whatever small things you think your attendees might get good use out of when they are in a pinch. These details show you care and will make an attendee in need very happy.
All staff and/or volunteers should be easily identifiable, whether it be shirts with your organization’s logo, lanyards, headsets, or simply colour coordination. This allows your guests to feel confident when looking for answers or directions. You will appear more trustworthy, established, and prepared.
Our sense of smell is very powerful. What smells suit your event? Do you want them relaxed? Energized? Find different air fresheners or essential oils that compliment your desired atmosphere. A safe bet is a gentle, clean smell such as “summer rain”, like the detergent? You know what I mean. Let your attendees smell the delicious food before a meal to encourage their appetite. Citrus is also good in small quantities. Too much will cause headaches. Gross smells make people impatient. Pleasant, fresh smells make people more efficient and set higher goals. Also note that smells are stronger in humid environments and weaker in dry ones.
Another fun fact about smells, people who are exposed to the smell of baking cookies or coffee are more inclined to help others and engage with strangers. WOW!
I mean everyone! This is typical for smaller and banquet style events, but even with a larger event such as a concert, make sure the door staff or security are saying a friendly hello to every attendee as they come through. It doesn’t have to be a conversation, simply an acknowledgement. This one interaction could set an attendee’s mood for the duration of the event and their perception of it. First impressions are key. Make it a good one.
I’m sure you are familiar with this one! That’s what I call added value. Many of you are programming for post-secondary institutions or targeting people ages 18-24. They typically don’t have a ton of disposable income; thus, they love free things. Give out free food, drinks, tickets, swag, consultations, photos, templates, information packages, coupons, the possibilities are endless. Whatever you think your attendees would get value out of, toss it in. It doesn’t even have to be directly relevant to the event you are hosting. Having a career fair? Give away a mini fridge or concert tickets. That sounds fun, right?
Vice President Events & Promotions
Acadia Students' Union
You may have noticed that the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities, aka COCA is launching a new conference experience for student leaders and professionals in the field of events, marketing and club administration for student associations across Canada.
This year’s Student Life Summit will take place in Waterloo, Ontario and is hosted by the Laurier Students’ Union at Wilfred Laurier University.
So, what’s with the change and what can you expect when you attend?
For the first time ever, the Student Life Summit will take place in its entirety on a university campus. So, from educations sessions in classrooms during the day, live entertainment showcases in the Turret, Wilf’s or Maxwell’s at night, and then to top it all off, overnight accommodations in Laurier’s student residence! Grab a breath of fresh air and walk around campus to explore—all amenities are within walking distance! This is sure to be an immersive experience like no other, submerging you right into the full student life experience of living on campus—hence the name.
Not only will staying on campus reflect efficiently in cost for professional development for your students’ association, but it will provide you with an all-around student life experience—take notice of the marketing platforms and tools used around campus, check out the venues where students eat and enjoy entertainment and where they hang out and sleep like you’ve never seen it before. This experience will provide you with first hand student experience and the tools you need to bring your student offerings full circle.
At this year’s Student Life Summit, we also wanted to provide a cost effective conference experience, so we’ve covered more meals throughout the summit to ensure our delegates are getting more for their money with less hassle and stress about finding a meal around town that fits your budget and time constraints.
We’re so excited to bring you the new and improved Student Life Summit and we can’t wait to see you all in Waterloo for an amazing week of networking and learning!
Got a question about the summit, Contact Us!
St. Clair College - Windsor