From Blank Stares to Barbie Magic: Transforming the AV Department into a Fun and Exciting Student Experience!
By Britt Yenser
What if working for the AV department seemed fun and exciting to students? If you’re like me, you might have found recruiting student employees challenging the past few years. I would explain our department’s role to students, and I would be met with blank stares. When their shock wore off they’d say something like, “That sounds too hard” or “I’m not very good with technology.” It seemed like no matter how I tried to explain the job, it always came off as scary somehow. I knew I was talking with bright young people, and I also knew the students who did work for me enjoyed their job. So I wondered what I was missing. When it came to recruiting new student employees this year, I decided to really hone in on the student experience.
In order to recruit student workers this year, I asked myself, “What does working for this department feel like?” and “What do I want the AV industry to feel like?” I thought of descriptions like “Warm” “Fun” and “Exciting.” And then it hit me– the thing that everyone was talking about and the thing that I loved that exemplified those descriptors – The Barbie movie.
I texted my colleague, Craig Underwood, CTS, to confirm this wasn’t a terrible idea, and he was instantly in it to win it. (Because we are, in fact, warm, fun and exciting!) Once the planning wheels were in motion, I took the following steps:
- Used Canva to make a flier using colors and images inspired by both Barbie and AV. This flier had all the same information as previous fliers– it was just re-themed. Then I posted it around our usual spots.
- Also used Canva to create signage for our table. The signage highlighted who the AV professionals on campus are, and was of course themed using Barbie colors and relevant images.
- Ran to the dollar store and got a table covering, candy, poster board, and some picture frames.
- Spent an embarrassingly long amount of time making the poster and covering the picture frames in glitter.
- Strategically used colors and fonts to make a Barbie themed Google Form for students to fill out when they visited our table.
- Coordinated outfits with Craig the night before.
- Buttoned up our pitch: I made sure we’d share what the job was, how students are trained, and our values as a team as concisely as possible.
The results? We now have the largest and most diverse staff we have ever had.
While we were tabling, 24 students expressed interest in working with us– the most we have ever had at one tabling event. Of the 24, 18 of them identified themselves as women.
When we considered the student experience – what we wanted students to feel – we were successful. And the responses to our Google form speak for themselves. When asked, “Please briefly describe what made you interested in working with us” some responses were:
- I like to work behind the scenes, and I feel like I would be very comfortable working here.
- I participated in my school's stage crew for 6 years participating in many shows, running lights, sound, and mics, and would consider continuing this interest/hobby
- I used to do stage crew, so it is up my alley!
- It sounds like a lot of fun and I’d love to learn more about av!
- It seems very interesting and inclusive
Not only did we attract students who were right for the role given their previous experience, we also pulled in students who felt our warmth, fun, and excitement. Some students who had no clue what AV was now felt it was something they would love to learn. We went the extra mile as AV Professional Barbie and AV Professional Ken, and students learned that the nerds from the basement of the library were actually kind, inclusive, and excited about their jobs!
When you think about what it feels like to work for your department, what themes come to mind? When you envision the AV industry of the future, what does it look like? And, how can you pair those descriptions with something that is authentic to you, and recognizable to others? These might be difficult questions for you to answer, but once you’ve got it– you’ve got it: the piece of the student experience you’ve been missing.