Monday, September 01, 2008

Hubbub 2008 Recap: Our Biggest Party Yet

Despite a torrential downpour about an hour before the event as well a few competing events (fraternity open houses and a Grease sing-along--pretty tough competition!), Hubbub 2008 shattered our attendance record by nearly double. We took a very conservative estimate on the door counters and door prize drawing slips and still came up with over 750 students visiting the Hub in a two-hour period. (I love the stuff they do at Georgia Tech, but sorry Brian--I think the Hubbub was the biggest library party in the nation.)

What Rocked

Advertising/Promotion. Clearly we couldn't have been more pleased to see such a large, enthusiastic crowd. We owe a large part of that to the terrific staff at UK's New Student and Parent Programs office for highlighting the Hubbub on a large poster of key K Week activities. We were also designated a rally point for the night--basically a recommended place to go to meet people. I said it last year, and I'll say it again--to have a successful event, it is essential to work with staff who coordinate new student events on campus.

Advertising an event geared at new students is challenging--most do not arrive on campus until the Friday before our Monday event. If you try to catch new students at summer advising conferences, they won't care (understandably so) as they are thinking about financial aid and housing and all the big stuff--who cares about some library party. So basically we have to wait until a few days before the event to really push the advertising which we do through being an official K Week activity, but also through Facebook and lots of paper flyers and posters on campus.

Another success in advertising this year was participating in the Resident Advisor Resource Fair again. What particularly delighted me this year was that repeatedly RAs would tell me that they remembered the Hubbub from last year or that they loved the Hub in general, and you bet they would be sure to tell all their advisees what a must-attend party this was. Clearly those RAs must have gotten the message across! If you have a similar event on your campus, be sure to get involved with it. What better advertising than to come from peers (plus this saves you the trouble of going to every hall to tack up flyers--many of the RAs will gladly do that for you).

Photo Booth. The photo booth was a killer activity, and something we definitely plan to do again in the future (thank you Beth, Crystal, and Shawn!). Who knew how much fun students (and um, staff and administrators) would have mugging at the camera dressed in silly hats. We of course got releases on these photos, so we plan to use them for various promotional materials in the coming year. The setup wasn't incredibly difficult--a green screen, lights, tripod/good camera, and a Photoshop expert with her laptop nearby. Staff lent us hats, books, and other props which students could choose for their picture. Once Beth Photoshopped the image a bit, we displayed them in a slideshow on two of the Hub's video window projectors for all to enjoy during the event. It was really a lot of fun--we have the pictures to prove it!

Runaway Surprise Hits. Last year's event should have prepared me for the unexpected surprises in dealing with first year students. Who knew they'd love the Amazing Palm Reading Librarian so much? This year in an attempt to expand our offerings (and give Jo a bit of a hand with the long lines!) we added two Tarot readers. Even then, we still had three pretty long, definitely non-stop lines.

By the same token, things that seem easy or even borderline hokey end can end up being hugely popular. We simply put out some board games--my thought was "play the real deal now that Scrabulous is gone"--and they were a hit. We thought balloon animals would be kind of fun, but who knew we'd have a neverending line for two hours. It helped I'm sure that we had an outstanding balloon artist (thanks, Peggy P!).

Now I'm really wishing I'd put more effort into getting pony rides.

One of the best things about putting on a major event like this (aside from the fuzzy feeling of seeing students so happy in the library, and even better when they keep coming back to the library for the important stuff) is working with a great bunch of people to make it happen. I couldn't have done this without our staff volunteers and our planning crew (Alice, Krista, Peggy P, Peggy A, Gail, Debbie). We had so much fun working together, and it was terrific to see the event come together with relatively few problems. Thanks you all!

What Didn't Work So Well

Along with record-breaking crowds come some problems, however. We never expected so many students there, so even though we'd increased the number of pizzas and added 600 cupcakes to our food offerings (this year's Hubbub was birthday-themed to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the William T. Young Library), we ran out of food in 30 minutes as opposed to my planned one hour. Even worse was the fact that we ran out of drinks and had to make a quick run to the store (thanks, Debbie!). Now that we've scaled up the party to a new level, I'm preparing for next year by planning on several things:
  • Increasing the pizza and drink order by 50%
  • Serving one or two slices per plate (Hate to be that way but we saw one too many eight-slice heaps at the party)
  • Creating a separate drink station with drinks labeled in rows and pre-poured

In addition to food issues, we had some issues with lines and basic crowd control. We've been very careful these last two years to move the furniture to maximize walkways and place the activities so that lines will wrap fairly neatly. We also staff at least 1-2 people per zone to help keep things moving. Still, with several hundred students in the space at one time, it was next to impossible to keep a handle on the lines and make sure things moved smoothly. The students didn't mind, but I think we could do it better next time by:

  • Increasing the number of staff to coordinate lines. This year we'd also planned to have staff distribute snacks to those waiting in line, but we didn't do that as we ran out of food more quickly than anticipated.
  • Give more space to the most popular activities. Who knew balloon animals would be such a runaway hit? The balloon animal line unfortunately kept getting tangled up in the makeover space, which didn't get the attention it deserved due to the sprawling balloon crowd.
  • Consider reducing the number of activities. I look at the activity map for the event, and I wonder if maybe we had too much going on. Some students simply wanted to gather round a game of Monopoly on the floor, but that was challenging with so many competing interests in the same space.
  • Along the same lines, consider cutting back the video games. The most popular were Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Mario Kart for Wii, and surprisingly, Super Mario World on Wii virtual console. It was difficult to do much with the Wii because of students cutting through the space--we had issues with the sensor bar being knocked down even though we put up lots of caution tape. The virtual console idea was inspired (thanks, Jason!) and we drew quite a crowd when we started kicking it old school Mario.
We've come a long way since our first Hubbub, which was only one year ago. This year was a great experience, and we're already thinking about 2009.

Non-photobooth photos by Kopana Terry.

See the Hub Groupies for more photos.


Anonymous said...

Hey-- what else are you students going to do in Lexington? ride horses? shoot hoops? I have a lot more competition with the city of Atlanta!

Glad your party went well-- next year get some live action games in there!

Stacey Greenwell said...

;-) Thanks, Brian! We have a fair amount of live action excitement--belly dancing last year and Zumba this year, for example, but yes, I'd like to see us build on that. I know Babson College has done mini golf, which is really cool.