If you plan on working in the area of higher education, or even in youth services, it is essential that you identify strategies for engaging youth and young adults. One of the first steps in this process is getting their attention and holding it long enough to give them your elevator pitch. This pitch will be when you tell them the services you offer and why they should join, get involved, or otherwise engage with your organization or program. There are several surefire ways that can draw individuals ages 12-24 in for you to make this essential connection.
This is probably the most obvious and traditional tactic for drawing in youth. Youth like to eat. As they enter young adulthood, they like to eat, and they like to do it for free. Offering a free meal, even something as simple as pizza, can garner a large audience. If you want to bring individuals in on a continuous basis, for example for a Bible study or series of meetings, you will need to ensure that you do not repeat the same meal too many times in a row if you are working with individuals over the age of 18.
Give them something for free
Specifically, offer them something that they cannot get anywhere else. For example, offer them a special run of a t-shirt that they can only obtain by attending your event. Or, for something a bit less expensive, you can even offer a cup or water bottle. Avoid giving away novelty items that are extremely inexpensive or poorly made. Instead, invest in a few high end items and give them away in a raffle or drawing for attendees. Depending on the nature of your organization, you can usually find a business or organization willing to sponsor the giveaway items.
Offer them an experience
You can also offer them an opportunity to experience something with their friends that they cannot experience anywhere else. Sometimes, a themed event like a luau or costume party is all it takes. Other times, you will need to host something a bit more extravagant like a local band offering a free concert or a free photo booth or food truck festival. For college-aged students, these types of events are especially enticing. Often on small budgets, these students are constantly on the lookout for fun and exciting activities to fill their time. During the event, you can have breaks at specific intervals to conduct your pitch.
Offer them continuity
One strategy that is often overlooked is to provide the youth with continuity. Youth is a difficult time. Things are always changing, and people don’t always live up to expectations. Sometimes, the best thing a group can do is provide a consistent outlet. If the group has an ongoing presence on campus, ensuring that there is always someone available to chat is important. If group meetings are held on Thursday at 3 p.m., someone needs to always be there at 3 p.m. This is a free and easy way to make sure you engage as many youths as possible.