GW students Caroline Nelson and Savannah DeLullo share their Midnight Breakfast planning experience and offer tips for student orgs.
By Briahnna Brown
When Savannah DeLullo first joined George Washington University’s Program Board, she never thought that she would have to be in the spotlight.
Ms. DeLullo, a senior studying economics in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the events director for Program Board, was expecting to stay behind the scenes and watch the events she helped plan come into fruition. With the shift to virtual learning came a shift to virtual events, she said, which also meant that events needed more hosts and moderators to help keep them engaging.
As part of the weeklong virtual Midnight Breakfast, Ms. DeLullo moderated a cooking demonstration on Tuesday night with Antoni Porowski, star of Netflix’s Queer Eye and New York Times bestselling author of “Antoni in the Kitchen.” Mr. Porowski made sweet potato latkes with a lemony chive sour cream, which sparked debates in the Zoom chat room during the event over what sauce pairs best with latkes, sour cream or applesauce.
About 850 students attended the virtual cooking demonstration, and Ms. DeLullo said she was happy to see such high turnout given the challenges she has faced in figuring out what events students will actually come to after registering. Midnight Breakfast has always been about providing students an opportunity to take a break before finals, she said, and translating the traditional Smith Center event—which would have games and an inflatable obstacle course—into a virtual event series with is not the easiest task.
It was important to stick to the goals of the event, Ms. DeLullo said, so in addition to a virtual game night, they decided to host a virtual movie night, a Midnight Breakfast: Home Edition on Facebook Live and a relaxation day with yoga and meditation.
“In the past, for our events, people would just come to them because you can just show up at the Smith Center or show up at Gelman or wherever you're doing a small little event,” Ms. DeLullo said. “It takes a little bit more for students to actually want to click on a Zoom link and make the effort to go back on Zoom after a full day of being online at school.”
Through trial and error and adjusting to budget cuts brought on by the pandemic, Ms. DeLullo learned to embrace social media marketing, such as a pancake art video to announce Mr. Porowski’s cooking demonstration. Giveaways have also been key in getting students to participate in events, such as the prizes awarded to the Midnight Breakfast movie night bingo participants after watching “Elf,” or the game night participants after playing Among Us.
Game nights have been particularly successful with first-year students because they are able to build connections with peers in ways that they would not otherwise be able to do, said Caroline Nelson, a junior studying political science and criminal justice in CCAS and chair of GW Program Board. Listening to what students want to see is key to successful events, she said, which is especially true when the event is virtual because of Zoom fatigue, the exhaustion from engaging in frequent virtual interactions.
“Zoom fatigue is real,” Ms. Nelson said. “We are always making sure that events are something that students actually want to watch and are entertaining, that don't make them feel like they're just sitting on their computer again for no reason.”
In addition to listening to what students want, the keys to hosting a successful virtual event are being open to working with a team of people, staying organized and utilizing GW resources such as staff advisors or the Student Organization Resource Desk, Ms. DeLullo said.
Ms. Nelson said that even with the challenges that the pandemic brings, it is still important to try and give students something close to the traditional GW experience while many are learning from their respective homes.
“Just because we're not on campus or in Foggy Bottom, it doesn't mean we can't still have our GW experience and have really cool events,” Ms. Nelson said. “It might not be the same as a big concert in the Smith Center or U-Yard, but if we can give someone a virtual event that makes their week, that's something that we strive to do.”