Quick Tips to create your own Coffee House on Campus!

Posted On: 02/08/2024

Author: Jeff Hyman, Vice President

Find your space:
Every event needs their own space; some can share, and some are bold enough to stand on their own. Venues are tough to come by on campuses these days. Many people don’t have a traditional coffeeshop, or if they do, they don’t have access to program there. Most venues must be used for multiple functions, use this to your advantage if it’s a place that people already hang out. One key thing is to identify that space and reserve it for your event(s) as quickly as possible. If possible, make that your programming space for the year to create that consistency and awareness that the location holds these events.

Do a sound equipment inventory, find out what you have. Will it work? Do you know how to make it work? Can anyone teach you? Do you need to rent sound, do you have lighting? Microphones, and cables…. Find out what you need or what you need any performers to bring with them. Create a list of what you have and be up front if you need the performer to provide.

Choosing Talent:
It starts with the culture on campus, what do your students listen to….Choose talent that fits the vibe of the student body and even the time of year. Upbeat cover songs in the winter can help lift people’s spirits. While softer more melodic music can be good for mid-terms or finals time when people are looking to relax from a stressful exam time. Having an outdoor event? Try a country pop act. These days intentionally planning multiple aspects of the event, and how they relate is important!

Creating the Vibe (of “ambiance” as they used to say)…
Today’s events have to offer more than just a place to sit and watch a great performance as multi-tasking students speeding thru the day, may only have a few minutes for engagement. You may have to take the entertainment to people. Residence Hall Lobbies, Late night dining options, courtyards in nice weather to encourage social gathering and a sense of community in a non-committal way. The location and feel of the space is as important as the talent onstage. Creating a space where when people walk in, it feels warm and welcoming creating a feeling that they will be ok staying for a while. That means enough seating, and comfortable seating! Make it a destination space, even offering a grab and go food/beverage option while music plays, and a comfortable place to sit and enjoy that item. If you keep people comfortable in the space and create a vibe they enjoy, they will continue to come back!

How do we get people to come?
Marketing, word of mouth, programming in popular spaces, and during peak times. Bring programming to people, combine events, food/craft/music. Larger events with more popular names (if you have the budget). It takes time to build a reputation, you have to continually deliver content to gain followers. It’s the same in all your marketing. If you put quality entertainment, in a place with a great vibe, that is comfortable and close by and easy to get to and do it consistently, you will build a following. Watch out though, inconsistent to non-existent live programming will have an impact on your student engagement. It’s hard work to create awareness and it takes time to create that organic social space.

Know your metrics:
You have to find out what the motivators are for the campus, what time is the best time for events, are all your events programmed against things people would rather be doing, or need to be doing? Some simple ways to find out is by watching what is happening on campus and taking notes. Take notes on attendance and the times of the events, know what is happening on campus and how that impacts attendance. Did you see higher attendance at certain events and lower at others. What’s your campuses favorite music genre? How many events do you do in a year, and which are the best attended.

Consistent Programming:
As we mentioned earlier, you need to create followers of your program board and program events that they are looking for to generate that sense of belonging and community. Be consistent with the start times, the places and the days of the week. Try and market to that consistency so people don’t have to think as hard…”it’s Tuesday, I go to the coffeehouse for music and socializing”. Building an audience takes time, stick with it, YOU CAN DO THIS! Build a foundation. Watch it grow!

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