Tomo No Kai, or UCI's Nikkei Student Union (NSU), gave me the best times of my life.
I learned about the Japanese American incarceration, visited Manzanar for the first time, and made the best of friends, too. I love seeing the new generation of NSU leaders, and I also love seeing the number of Nikkei Student Unions grow throughout the nation. Although this year will mean meeting and organizing online, it doesn't mean the fun times have to end. Remembering my time on cabinet, as well as the experiences I had organizing summer workshops online, I wanted to share some tips and ideas for how you can keep you NSU membership and meetings thriving.
Know why your audience is attending, and the experience you want them to have - “Taste the Rainbow”
Creating an event, especially via Zoom, depends on the experience you want your audience to have.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you want your audience to engage with you?
- If so, what does that look like (will you have poll questions, discussions, and/or breakout groups)?
- What do you want your audience to walk away with?
- Do you have a major goal for the event/session?
Practice run-throughs, and buffer time! - “You on mute, bro”
Definitely consider doing a run-through for meetings. This offers not only a smoother run through (many of us will be presenting online for the first time), but it also allows an opportunity to work through any challenges or hiccups you may encounter (like volume issues).
Add buffer time, meet up before your start time for any last minute fixes, and ensure you allow time for the audience to trickle in (they do come late).
Come up with a communication plan - “Can you hear me now? Good”
Make sure you have a good communication plan for your group facilitators. Sometimes Zoom chat can be distracting, or folks don’t see their texts. Make sure people know where to look for guidance!
Have goals/measurables - “Cs get degrees, and measurables get pleasurable”
This is especially important to have before you start your meetings for the year.
Have some goals that you can measure for your meetings, such as:
- How many people you want to attend, and retention of members
- Engagement in polls or chat
- How people enjoyed it (surveys)
- Including X number of special guests/community leaders or organizations addressing various topics
UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES & BE CREATIVE
What type of Zoom are you using? - "You zoom, bro?”
Does your club need the regular pro version, or do you want to try the webinar version? Maybe you all just need a Facebook stream, so folks can interact with you in different ways. Here is where it is important to have good measurables, so you can adjust and grow as the weeks continue on. What works best for your team and your goals?
Costumes, pre-made videos, etc. - “Choices.”
One major value I took from my time at Kizuna is the concept of going all out. This means costumes, makeup, props, and everything and anything to make the skit or event look and feel amazing.
I would highly recommend having a sound board and a designated DJ with music and sound effects ready for any announcements, skits, etc. You can get creative with Zoom backgrounds or graphics, themes for costumes/clothing, and more.
Folks might be getting Zoom fatigue
How can your team combat that? Perhaps consider different forms of engagement. Instead of a big Zoom meeting (let’s be honest: no one wants to scroll through all those windows of faces), set up one-on-one meetings/calls. If your NSU has families, do family game nights.
Reconsider having a cultural night - if you do have one, change up the formula
Truth time - virtual obons and matsuris were great, but now we are all getting a little burned out. Although cultural nights were a great way to support other schools, fundraise, and showcase your school’s talent, consider other ways to accomplish the above three goals.
Support other schools
Now you can host online meet-ups and collabs with other NSUs (try involving smaller schools from across the nation...or internationally?!) I’d recommend SoCal taiko groups do a joint practice or a meet up with schools like Brown!
It’s a tough time to fundraise right now. I’d first consider what you’re fundraising for, and then get creative. Restaurant pickups/drive throughs are a great way to collaborate with small business owners like Azay in Little Tokyo, but still raise some revenue. I’d also consider fundraising for your local community/non-profits.
Showcase your school’s talent
If you’re still having virtual taiko or odori practices, consider putting on a performance for more than your peers. Connect with local older adult facilities/homes/organizations (like Keiro or Yu-Ai-Kai), and send video performances for the older adults there. It’s a great way to showcase what you’ve practiced so far, and cheer up some folks who love Japanese culture. You can also send past performances, and create a throwback video reel for alumni to enjoy (*cough cough** Jodaiko at UCI!)
Giving back to the community/having a call to action can get folks involved
As mentioned above, our communities are hurting right now. You can use this time to mobilize your members and do something for your local community, fellow students, or Japantowns nationwide.
You can reach beyond just your school now
There’s so many folks out there looking for culture and community. Consider having an inclusive environment and connecting folks from all over - maybe even international schools?!
Check out this past article about the AELU, as there’s plenty of young folks still contributing to the Nikkei community in Peru. I can definitely connect you!
Need a connection to a taiko group? Check out the Taiko Community Alliance.
Need other connections? The Yo! fam is here for you - just reach us at: email@example.com
We’ll do our best to support you!
This year’s NSU meetings may look different, but I know y’all are going to create and grow in amazing ways. Good luck!