10 Tips for Engaging Members in Class Competitions

Student leaders often find themselves in the position of trying to motivate their peers to participate in class competitions. Sure, there are always a few students who are eager to put themselves out there, but how about the rest of the class? The challenge is to engage more than the usual few and build a sense of camaraderie and spirit that will result in a unified class. Here are 10 tips to help you do just that.

  1. Ask people to help. It’s a lot harder to say no to someone who personally asks for your help than it is to just ignore a general plea for help or an announcement asking for volunteers. Most people like to feel needed. It’s amazing how a simple, “Hey Trina, we could really use your help building the Homecoming float,” can be the extra touch that moves someone to get involved. 
  2. Learn people’s names. As a student leader, make it your mission to learn the names of the members of your class. Then, when you need to ask for help, you can make a personal appeal, and when new people show up to class activities, you can greet them by name. If you don’t know a lot of people in your class by name, get out your yearbook and start by picking out people you see in the halls or who are in your classes. Attach a name to a face, and work on learning 5 or 10 new ones every week. Say hi when you see them and use their name. Using people’s names will not only make them feel welcome and valued, but will also enhance your standing as a leader. Everyone likes to be recognized and to feel like they are known. 
  3. Get a variety of kids involved. The students who participate in noontime activities or pep rally events should be different every time. Often the “rah-rah” type of kids are the only ones who are involved, but as a student leader you should make an effort to involve students from the different sub-groups on campus. This isn’t easy, but is worth the effort in the long run. If you are in charge of selecting activities for a competition, also keep in mind that some activities involve higher risk to participate in. Many students just aren’t comfortable putting themselves out there and opening themselves up to ridicule. Some of the low-risk activities like concert T-shirt day or class color day are good ones to involve people who aren’t normally involved.
  1. Match the skills of the person to the task. To ensure success in the event and to involve kids from different sub-groups, select people to participate in the different competitions based on their skills. Obviously a football or basketball player would be a good pick for a game that involves throwing a ball through a hula-hoop, but other games require some skill, too. The nail drive event, in which students have to hammer two nails into a board in the fewest strikes, would be a good event to ask a student who is good in industrial arts class to participate, for example, or ask a really good math student to estimate the number of candies in a jar, and so forth.
  2. Keep track of people who have participated, so you can avoid having the same people do things all the time. Get a list from the office of all the members of your class and highlight the names of people after they have participated in a noontime activity, pep rally, or other class competition.  When a new opportunity comes up, if you don’t get any new volunteers, go through your list of classmates and find someone who hasn’t been involved and ask them to participate.
  3. Make it fun. Not all the events in a class competition are inherently fun. Jobs like decorating a hall in the school for your class or building a float for the parade often start out fun but end up being tedious. Be sure to liven things up with music and food. 
  4. Let people know ahead of time what is expected. You don’t want to alienate people by embarrassing them or putting them on the spot, so when you ask someone to participate in any kind of activity that involves goofy behavior, be sure to let them know exactly what they are in for. This also will ensure that they give the activity a good effort instead of holding back for fear of looking ridiculous. 
  5. Involve everyone who shows up. Occasionally you’ll find yourself in the position of having lots of people show up to help with something like decorating. It’s important that you make each person feel needed and that they are contributing to the success of the event. Don’t let people stand around thinking, “they don’t really need me, I should have just stayed home.” It’s helpful to make a list of jobs ahead of time that you can put people to work on right away to get them involved.
  6. Keep people informed. Make sure you give people the details of what’s expected—where they need to be (with directions, if needed), time they need to be there, and any materials they need to bring. Follow up with a text message or other reminder before the event so nothing is overlooked.
  7. Thank people for participating. It’s a bit of a personal risk to be willing to put yourself in front of others and do the often goofy things required in a class competition. Be sure to thank people for their willingness to represent the class. And thanking the behind-the-scenes folks who helped make things happen—creating the Homecoming float, designing the class banner, and so on—is especially crucial since their work is not as noticeable. You will go a long way toward building class unity just by showing appreciation.