How to successfully run a society online

University’s experience is vastly about social integration. The number of groups, clubs, and societies you can join is almost overwhelming, and it gives you a one-of-a-kind opportunity to unravel your yet unexplored passions.

Or at least it used to be this way before the world had closed, and the ‘old-school’ socials became abstract. During this year, most societies had to rebrand themselves to be fully online. How did they take care of making their members feel as engaged as in the pre-pandemic times?

The head of the Feminist Society, Zara (21), tells us how her society have managed to thrive in a lockdown reality.

“We didn’t really have a choice. With organising an online session every two weeks, we soon learnt how to overcome the obstacles of doing online sessions. We’ve learnt to love it, and our members make it easy for us. They never make it feel awkward, and if something goes wrong tech-wise, they’re super understanding.”

– Zara

Switching to fully online meetings forced us all to become Microsoft Teams specialists. As Zara recalls the first online session, “I didn’t understand how teams worked, and no one could get into the session! But we soon got to grips with it all.”

But technical skills were just one of many challenges for societies this year. The big question remained: how to make members participate in those online events? As it turns out, social media and creative emails are the way to go. 

“We promote all our events on Instagram, and this creates a buzz around them. It’s also important to tell members about the next session via email as some people don’t have social media. We normally speak about our next session at the end of each meetup, which seems to keep members engaged. I also think it’s about being organised and telling people about meet ups well in advance so they can plan time accordingly.”

– Zara

When meeting online, the flow of the discussion may be less ‘organic’ than in offline situations. It can trigger social anxiety in many people (myself included!). How to spark up a discussion then, being mindful of everyone’s comfort zone? 

“Normally, we let confident members speak and answer questions first. Then, [we] gently nudge the quieter members asking if they have any thoughts. Usually, they do, and most respond well to that. We also try to create a very informal, chilled-out atmosphere, so people feel relaxed. Before each session begins, we all have a chat, making small talk with the members. This works well!”

– Zara

But all of that would not be possible if it wasn’t for the work and passion of the committee itself. Having to flip their operations upside down, how did the heads of Fem Soc stay motivated throughout the year?

“If it’s something you’re passionate about then, you’ll find the motivation. All three of us live and breathe feminism so, it has never felt like a chore. We organise weekly committee meetings online, so we feel on top of everything. We value and respect each other’s ideas and listen to what each of us has to say. We don’t do hierarchies (i.e., the president has the final say on everything). We all have equal say on everything.” 

“It is sometimes demotivating when we know we can’t see our incredible members in real life. But as restrictions ease, we hope to organise a real-life meetup at the end of the term.”

– Zara

Joining societies gives you a chance to meet people that think and feel alike. Most importantly, however, it is where your values and contributions are always cherished, and where your personal growth has a chance to flourish.

To find out what societies UoL has to offer, visit here