The evolving situation of the pandemic has forced many activities, classes, and other programs to continue operating virtually, including on-campus events. One of them that is the most memorable and spectacular every fall is Sparticipation where students get the opportunity to explore the numerous clubs and student organizations present on campus and find out more information about them and get to meet new people! This year, however, the event was conducted virtually on EasyVirtualFair. There have been mixed feelings about how Sparticpation looked different this fall.
At the same time, it can be seen as a change in ways in which we conduct and design virtual events. But how?
Firstly, the virtual setup presented evolution in the context of how technology is manipulated to create a more intriguing and wonderful visual interface for virtual events. The homepage consisted of a chat-box where visitors could reach out to club representatives much in the same way in which one chats on social media sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. What was the most stunning was the animated backdrop that pictured a space with a large building that looked similar to the Breslin Center. In addition, there were animated scale figures walking and doing normal activities, such as talking with one another or using their phones.
Although it can be argued that we could only see this and not feel or experience it like we would first-handedly during a traditional in-person event, yet, it can be evolution in front of their eyes! As a visitor and club representative myself, I was amazed to see how the backdrop was designed and crafted fantastically. It began to draw my attention toward how this can be one of the new creative and innovative ways in which we can design events and add a dynamic quality to the nature and purpose of the event as well. Furthermore, this aspect is something that can really do wonders to advertising and marketing of events in the near future.
The specific platform for each club and organization also added onto the visual depiction of how Sparticipation this fall exhibited an advancement in the ways events would be conducted. During the event, clubs had personalized booths that included a reception desk, much like the ones we find in offices and in hotels, where a visitor would be welcomed and could proceed to find out about the club. Similarly, there was one area for Sparty where one could ask any questions regarding the event, that helped in enhancing the popular “Ask Sparty!” The visual elements of these reinforce the appealing and interesting visual interface for the event.
Even though it can be argued that their ability to encourage everyone to engage as effectively as they would during an in-person experience, yet, it does highlight how it can uplift the virtual experience and craft it into a unique one that can even include ways that an in-person experience might have its limitations for. Furthermore, the aspect of conducting the event virtually and enhancing the experience also emphasizes on the importance of safety and that the interface being accessible to everyone is helping them to attend while being safe and healthy at home. In turn, there is a possibility that future in-person events can include a virtual setting for those unable to make it if they are feeling under the weather or any other reasons.
The chat-boxes would contribute to presenting an evolution of how events are conducted as it expands accessibility to the event from the comfort of your home and connects you to club representatives at your doorstep. Visitors needed to start a chat with club representatives that were either through normal chats or on Zoom. These elements of the chat-boxes indicated how everyone can access the event more effectively from any location and enforce efficiency in technology in terms of making life easier and bringing opportunities closer. According to MSU Neuroscience Outreach Chair, Hailey Bond, the chat-boxes as an element of the new form of Sparticipation made communication with more people and visitors simultaneously possible and in answering any questions they had.
Although a member of Arc claimed that Digital platforms and Social platforms cannot really become friends for an event like Sparticipation, yet, it can be seen that the chat-boxes contributed in enhancing communication between visitors and club representatives, which was more personalized and focused. Chief Executive Officer of the Hospitality Association, Brendan Connolly, was very impressed by the way in which the event took place and how an effort was made to pivot a student’s experience and their ability to engage in extra-curricular activities (that would be mostly virtual this fall), along with prioritizing their safety. Moreover, it even highlighted how visitors could get many of their doubts cleared and thereby develop a better impression of a club or organization they found out about and would decide to join.
To conclude, Sparticipation this fall was much more different than in the past. Nevertheless, the manipulation of technological features and interface can present how a virtual Sparticipation can be a sign of evolution of how events are conducted virtually that promote effective communication and engagement and even accessibility for everyone.