Organizing SCA Recruitment Events: Preparations, Printables, and People!
To My Fellow Chatelaines and My Most Esteemed Successor,
This is my third year as our baronial chatelaine and it’s getting about time for me to make way for another to serve our newcomers and our barony. In my three years, I’ve learned a great deal about being a chatelaine, and specifically about organizing recruitment events. Before I go, I thought it would be good to write up a little “procedures” on organizing recruitment events for new and aspiring chatelaines. I’ve tried to be specific for my successor(s) as well as general so that these procedures can be applied to recruitment events throughout the Kingdom and beyond. Please feel free to ask me any questions—I will always be a chatelaine, officeholder or not.
Chatelaine for the Mighty Barony of Cynnabar
Organizing SCA Recruitment Events: Preparations, Printables, and People!
An SCA recruitment event, also known as a “demo,” is many things: a social gathering, a demonstration of what we love about our Society, and an event in its own right. As its organizer, you are a recruiter, planner, and autocrat, all tied up with a smile and a bow. The recruitment event serve to promote the SCA in your community as well as bring together potential newcomers with members of your group. It’s an opportunity for great things — and relationships — to begin.
In my barony, I organize four types of recruitment events:
- Community events and demonstrations (i.e., Saline Celtic Festival and Ann Arbor Public Library)
- Student-oriented recruitment festivals (i.e., Festifall, Northfest, and Winterfest)
- Stand-alone focused recruitment events (i.e., Cynnabar Mass Meeting)
- Casual meetings (i.e., Newcomer Workshops)
All four types of events have three things in common: preparations beforehand so it’s well organized, printed materials to promote and educate, and people to both demonstrate and to attend. You can use these “Three Ps” to organize every recruitment event. Let me walk you through how I do it using the Mass Meeting event we held last night as example:
Preparation for a Recruitment Event
The Cynnabar Mass Meeting is a stand-alone recruitment event held on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, and thus it is focused toward students at the University of Michigan, but it welcomes everyone in the community who may be interested in joining us.
9-12 months before – Find a place and date for your event! Rooms for a September event at U of M should ideally be booked nine months in advance (January/February) for best pick. If you’re looking for place, this is not dissimilar from finding an event site, and should be done far in advance. Check your local libraries and parks for free or low-cost event sites. Pay attention to the size and convenience of your venue. If you want to attract students, make sure it’s easily accessible; if you want to attract families, make sure there is plenty of parking.
Important: Be familiar with the SCA Demo Policy: In order to be covered by SCA insurance, demos must be approved by the sponsoring group’s Seneschal. In Cynnabar, this means we bring the demo up at a meeting to see if the group wants to support it, and if so, we approve it. Be sure you give yourself enough time to bring it before your group and have it approved.
4 months before: Request any necessary support from your group. That may be going through your approval process for the demo, or it may be requesting funds for brochures or other printed materials. Also, if you need a special insurance certificate from the SCA to provide to your site’s owner, now’s the time to request it to avoid any extra fees. (Here’s information on SCA insurance, and here’s an example of a letter I sent to request a certificate: CelticFestInsuranceCertReq2014.)
3-6 months before – Put your event out there! I add it to our baronial calendar, add it to our list of demos and events at our group’s web site, and create a Facebook event page for it. I also post a “Save the Date” notice to my group’s mailing list and Facebook page, and mention it at our meetings to maintain awareness of it. Why? I’ll talk about it a bit more later, but your PEOPLE are important, and your people need to know about it and plan to attend well in advance.
Note: If you’re thinking about having any sort of audio-video presentation at your demo, such as a video, now’s the time to start thinking and planning for it. Our group brought up the idea of a recruitment video in June, so we were able to get footage at Pennsic to make the video itself in August. I was able to make the video over a weekend, but my superpower is speed and that may not be yours — give yourself lots of time to work on it! Here’s our video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=046bs9DY7QY
At least 3 months before: Invite, invite, invite! You need people at your event and they won’t magically appear just because you scheduled a demo — you must invite them, repeatedly. Remember, it takes about seven impressions for someone to fully register what the SCA is and why they might want to get involved. Here’s how we invited people:
- Mentioned Mass Meeting in every communication with a new person, and encouraged them to attend
- Passed out colorful Mass Meeting flyers at our student recruitment fairs (Festifall and Northfest)
- Taped up Mass Meeting flyers on boards around campus and the community
- Asked members of my group to invite their friends and family
- Make notes and reminders to the Facebook event page to help remember
- Sent personal e-mails to every newcomer inviting them (two weeks before)
- Sent reminder e-mails to every newcomer (two days before)
Note: The invitation to attend the recruitment event can be “sweetened” by asking for RSVPs in exchange for a little gift. Last year I gave out canvas drawstring bags in Midrealm colors to anyone who RSVPed; this year we gave personalized, illuminated scrolls (more on that later). Having a reward for RSVPing helps them commit and attend!
1 month before: Determine what you can demonstrate. I may have a general idea in advance (like if we have room for a fighting demo), but I usually save the details until I get closer and have a better idea of who is attending. I should also note that I do not sweat the little details — I trust my group to bring awesome things to show and demonstrate. Mostly I look for an overview and try to cover the main things that our group excels at (combat, archery, A&S, heraldry, dance, and music). Because we had room for a dance demo in addition to fighting demos, I specifically enlisted the help of our dance mistress in organizing the dance and music folk. I also specifically enlist our group marshals to organize fighting demos (this year I live with our armored group marshal, so easy peasy). This year’s RSVP gift — the personalized scroll — required that I enlist the help of various scribes in advance, too. Finally, this is the time to confirm that your site’s facilities meet your needs, such as any tables and chairs you may need for your demonstrations.
One week before: Prepare your printed materials. Running out of toner the night before is zero fun. You may need to employ your local copy or office supply shop to make copies of brochures, so allow time for that as well. I list all the printed materials I use for demos a bit later. This is also a good time to make a schedule for your event, if applicable, as well as plan where you’ll put things in your room/site at this point — I like to make a diagram, like this:
1-2 days before: Remind EVERYONE. E-mail, post, chat, whatever it takes to make sure everyone you are hoping will attend remembers. Also get together all the things you’re bringing — here’s my checklist:
- Contact (sign-in) sheets
- Cookies and napkins
- Video on iPad and speakers
- Photo display board
- Printed materials (brochures, cards, sheets)
- Things to display (costumes, embroidery, leathercraft, woodcraft)
- Extra paper, pens, pencils
- Duct tape!
1-2 hours before: Arrive early. I cannot overemphasis how important this is to me personally. When I get somewhere early, I worry less and things go smoother. Whenever I am in charge of something, be it an event or a class, I always try to arrive early.
Here are some photos from the event last night:
Printed Materials for Recruiting Events
I have made a lot of printed things over the past several years and now bring most, if not all, to recruitment events. I introduced a new one at last night’s Mass Meeting that I particularly like. Here’s a list of all my printed materials, as well as links to download and/or make your own:
- Brochures: The Cynnabar brochure is a re-designed version of the official SCA tri-fold flyer found at http://www.sca.org/officers/chatelain/pdf/trifoldtemplate.pdf. Our version includes photos I took personally, as well as our most recent group photo. I prefer this personalized version over the generic version, but what’s important is that you have it. I have brochures on tables, as well as put brochures in the signboard placed 20-30 feet away (for those who want to read about us before they approach us).
- Social Cards: This is a folded business card that we set out on tables. We also have folks keep these in their pockets to hand out as necessary. Here’s a generic, fillable version you can use for your group.
- Demo Cards: These are cards you hand out to your group’s members to help them at the demo — one side has tips and reminders, the other side has a space where you can put important dates and information. I wrote up a blog post on the demo cards here.
- Nametags: I make twill nametags so they go with our garb better—here’s the tutorial and PDFs for those.
- Signage: Having signs around the room for various things helps everyone, newcomers and oldtimers. Here’s a PDF file with signs that you can print on card stock and fold in half to set on tables: event-signs
- Newcomer Sheets: My latest printable is a set of individual sheets that I set around the room/site near the related activity/demonstration. They explain more about the activity and offer the locations/days/times of our related practices/workshops for that specific activity. When I greet newcomers, I give them the first page (“Welcome to the Society!”) and a folder, and tell them to pick up the other sheets places around to create their own newcomer’s handbook. I only have eight pages made so far — many more could be created! I took the text from the Newcomer’s Handbook at sca.org as well as the Newcomer’s Portal. The photos are all mine. Here’s a PDF of the pages so you can see what I’ve done—if you like this idea and what to do this, let me know and I’ll upload a fillable version for you to put your own information in.
- Sign Up/Contact Sheets: Always have a bunch of copies of these so you can contact people later. Here’s a PDF of the one I use.
- Flyers: Even though you probably already distributed/posted a bunch of these, I recommend you bring some to your event and pass them out near an entrance to your site/building to encourage more people to come! Here’s a PDF of a small, 1/4 page flyer we used last night.
- Scrolls: I mentioned earlier that we had one of our scribes illuminate a scroll — I took this illuminated scroll, scanned it, and printed into onto a piece of parchment. Then we had two more scribes personalize each scroll with a newcomer’s name so they could take it home as a souvenir. I thought it was a big hit! Here’s a PDF of the scroll to use as inspiration for your own (note that it is two-sided).
That’s a lot of stuff, I know, and you may not need all of it. But I find these things really help!
People for Recruiting Events
I’ve already touched on this a lot, but there is no recruiting event without people—your group’s people and the potential new people! The biggest tip I can provide here, beyond what I’ve mentioned, is personal invitations. When I personally ask someone from our Barony to attend and help out, they know they are needed and appreciated, and I find they are much more likely to try to make it to a demo. Not everyone likes demos, but most people like to know they matter, and this is an excellent time to remind them of their importance to your group.
Personal invitations to newcomers also really help. Even though we passed out a Mass Meeting flyer to nearly everyone who visited us at the student recruitment fairs, I still made a point to send a personal e-mail to each one to invite them to Mass Meeting. I really feel this makes a difference. It takes time, yes, but it’s worth it. Tip: I used Google Spreadsheets to enter each recruits e-mail address, name, and notes, then I used a mail merge to send out a personal e-mail with their name, location of where I met them, and relevant notes. This is how I sent out nearly 200 personal e-mails not once, but twice. Try it!
If your group doesn’t do a lot of demos, you may also want to schedule a workshop or meeting to talk about the demo. This is an opportunity to educate your group on what a demo is and what they can do to present a positive face to our newcomers. I don’t have to do this in Cynnabar, as our group is well-acquainted with demos.
Finally, when your event is done, don’t forget to follow-up with your newcomers, thank your people for helping out, and plan another recruitment event, such as a newcomer’s workshop for all the new people to attend!
Speaking of which, a HUGE THANK YOU to Cynnabar for turning out so splendidly for our Mass Meeting last night. I’m continually amazed by your skills and talents, and your willingness to share those with new people. You are each an inspiration to me.
Let me know if you need more information or have questions!