More and more students are finding hours of screen time with little to no in-person contact to be mentally draining — a feeling many have begun to call “Zoom fatigue.” But brothers at SigEp’s Massachusetts Alpha chapter at Massachusetts-Amherst have created a winning game plan to combat online meeting burnout.
The chapter has begun inviting alumni to speak at chapter meetings to make them more engaging. There’s typically a speaker every other week, but sometimes more frequently, due a high level of interest from alumni. Particular attention has been given to inviting alumni with backgrounds in STEM, since a large number of the chapter’s members are majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.
Chapter officers have also put a lot of thought into planning to ensure meetings go smoothly and getting the word out to maximize attendance.
“In order to make our make our virtual meetings with alumni engaging and effective, members of the executive board typically have a call with the alumni speaker to discuss event details, anything specific we would like the alumnus to touch on and how the Q&A will go,” explained chapter President Ryan Gibbons, Massachusetts ’21.
Prior to the meeting, members and invited guests receive a bio on the speaker with a note explaining how the topic and the speaker’s expertise relate to their professional development. They also have the opportunity to submit questions that may be asked during the Q&A portion of the meeting, further enhancing interest in attending.
It’s a smart strategy, as bringing in speakers suddenly makes it feel like an event instead of just another meeting.
“I’ve noticed that meetings with speakers have about 85-90% attendance, where meetings without a speaker have 65-75% attendance,” Gibbons observed.
At a recent meeting, brothers and PNMs heard from Ron Gordon, ’92, a patent agent. Gordon has previously spoken to the chapter about his experience as an engineer, but this time around, he discussed the need to develop good writing skills. He noted he’s worked with scientists and engineers who are experts in their fields, but lack the ability to clearly explain their work. Gordon encouraged those in attendance to take writing and English classes, even if they’re not required to do so.
Massachusetts Alpha has also used the meetings to enhance recruitment by inviting potential new members (PNMs) to hear the speakers. This not only brings renewed energy to the events, but also gives PNMs a chance to see the depth of talent in SigEp’s alumni network firsthand. The chapter even invited several alumni to talk specifically about how SigEp has improved their lives and careers. This event was particularly well received by PNMs. Eight of the nine new members who joined the chapter through the university’s formal recruitment said that was their favorite event and that it showed them the advantages of being in SigEp.
“I believe having a speaker adds great value to chapter meetings, as brothers are able to network, learn valuable career skills, and listen to how SigEps navigate the professional field following graduation,” Gibbons said.