Well, to focus more on recruitment and retention, these are my ideas.
1.) When I recruit for quizbowl, I try to emphasize less on what quizbowl actually is. Yes, I'll bring up Jeopardy, or lame Chip Beall-like competitions, because it's in the average person's field of knowledge. You're not lying to them. They'll figure out what quizbowl is once they show up to practice. You're giving a pitch. And in your pitch, you will either lose or gain interest within a matter of seconds. Start talking about advanced quizbowl theory, you're probably done. This is basic marketing, in a way. So, we have to figure out our target group. And in my opinion, our target group is relatively smart students (we're not recruiting morons, and I'm not suggesting it) who are looking for clubs to improve themselves as people. For me, I look at these things as being key things to bring up in pitching quizbowl to people.
A.) Enhancement of general knowledge. While many in the quizbowl community are socially inept, one thing I would like to say is that all of the knowledge you as quizbowlers have acquired could make you excellent conversationalists. Obviously, for some people, timing and appropriateness need to be learned. But quizbowl, for me, has made me good at the very, very important art of intellectual conversations. Quizbowl introduces us to all topics, whether they interest us or not, and I can give the perception of being an educated person on almost every subject. I may be a horrible music player in quizbowl, but most people in dinner conversations aren't that educated in music and can be impressed by your possibly shallow knowledge of music. Ever gone up to an Estonian, struck up a conversation with them, and spent a couple minutes talking about Arvo Part? In this case, Europeans are generally led to believe that Americans are ignorant buffoons, so there's a little bit of jaw dropping. I've talked to a lot of Kyrgyz people, for example (not saying this is common, but I'm telling you where I'm coming from) and asked the simple question, "Are you from Bishkek?" Watch the reaction on their faces. They'll probably respond with "Oh, my God, I thought nobody knew about my country." You've just made a friend, congratulations. And that's what life is functionally about. Making friends, networking, these are all things that every freshman wants to better themselves at. Quizbowl makes you much better at networking. Tell your recruits that practice is a fun way to enhance what they're taking and meet people with great knowledge about specific interests that up until that point they may be highly ignorant of. Let's be arrogant for a second, here. We as quizbowlers are by the definition of most people, experts on every subject. Quizbowl isn't going to make me a nuclear physicist, but it can make me look like one.
B.) Money. Every person is in some way motivated by this. Again, many among our number find Jeopardy to be unchallenging and a number of other things. To the average intelligent college student, this is not the case. They may watch it and ENJOY it. But think about quizbowl in this way. How much money has been won on TV game shows by quizbowlers? Millions. At UCLA, we would put on our posters lists of our members and their winnings on game shows. We had several. Matthew Sherman won $32,000 on WWTBAM. Clifford Galiher won College Jeopardy. Patrick Friel appeared on Jeopardy and lost to an eventual five-time champion. Steve Kaplan won two games on the show. Eok Ngo appeared on Jeopardy. I may be forgetting a couple members, but out of a club that in its history has had possibly a total of 40 members over several years, that is an outstanding, unbelievable amount of monetary success. In the West Coast circuit, we have Jason Luna, million dollar winner on 1 vs. 100. Jeff Hoppes, who lost a dogged fight to Ken Jennings. Nick Meyer appeared on the show. And you all in your hearts know that you could go on that show and dominate; sure, some of you might get picked off by categories on "gardening" and "sports" that don't come up on quizbowl, but I've watched Jeopardy some hundreds of times. And I've noticed this: there has never been a single classical music question I can't answer. Literature, almost the same, except for the high trash lit distribution. And I'm a history/geography player. I'm already untouchable on those categories. And many of you are better at this than I am. There are no fabulous prizes on quizbowl, but if you averaged the sum of money won on quizbowl shows by college quizbowlers to the number of actual college quizbowlers, we've probably at least won $5,000. Not bad, right? I'd join a club that gave me a good chance to earn money on a TV game show.
C.) Travel. I have been to the following states on my UCLA and Maryland club budget's dime: AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, UT, VA, WA, WV, and WI. Quick math (?) suggests that's a total of 38 states. Now, that's probably a record, since I almost always take the train or bus to tournaments and stop and dilly-dally because Nationals were often on our Spring Break, but 2 Nationals trips a year, and depending on your region, trips to various interesting destinations, well, that's pretty cool. And fudge a little bit with the advertising. Advertise sexy locations: Chicago, New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles. You don't know where ICT will end up, right? Could be LA again? Your team might get enough in the budget to go to Cardinal Classic, so tack on San Francisco. Free trips! Being on UCLA's team was a great way to hang out with my friends from Berkeley. For people on the East Coast say at UMD, it might be very appealing for them to join a club that gives them the opportunity to for little or no money meet up with friends at other East Coast/Mid-Atlantic schools.
D.) Social factors. When you're recruiting, look like you're having a good time, even if nobody's near you're recruiting table. Pick two people from your club who are good friends and put them at the table. Put me and Jonathan Magin at a table discussing baseball or Argentina or literature and we'll be laughing and guffawing and having a swell old time. People pay attention to shit like that. If it looks like your club has camaraderie, people will want to be a part of your club. If it's just two guys dressed like schmucks awkwardly talking to each other, I'm not going to your table. Sorry, dudes.
E.) Boasting. Many freshmen who go to your school are probably disappointed that they didn't get into Harvard and Brown or Stanford or wherever. They resent this. They want some chance to get revenge on this. They may also feel some sort of animosity towards rival schools. At UCLA, I would tell people, "Our team is better than Harvard, we beat Stanford all the time, Cornell, come on, are you joking? USC? We never lose to them." It's not just arrogance; students want the chance to be able to compete somehow against these prestigious universities and go tell their professors or peers, well, we clocked Harvard this weekend. Obviously if your school isn't that good at quizbowl, you shouldn't act like this, but you're still better than, Yale, right? (just kidding, Kevin Koai)
You can figure out other stuff, like having candy, and prizes. Having buzzer systems is a good thing. People like toys. People like gimmicks. You may think this is stupid, but it works.
One of the fundamental problems of practice is how to properly introduce it. Freshmen are naturally insecure people. I recommend you take thirty minutes out of practice to introduce the members of your club, talk about your interests, and more importantly, talk about their interests. "Oh, you're thinking about doing biochem? That's cool, that comes up a lot in quizbowl actually." "You're an English major? What authors do you like?" "Oh, Melville, Hemingway." "Yeah, I like them too...have you ever read...?" Be really enthusiastic. If you're not an enthusiastic person, find somebody on your team and give him/her this job. Again, point out how quizbowl will provide solid ground for their already existing knowledge and build on it. Maybe tell an interesting story related to the students' interests that you learned through quizbowl. Be engaging. They want to think that you all are a friendly bunch of people who have a common interest in knowledge and that practice is basically this. I personally don't recommend immediately starting out with a shpiel on the rules of quizbowl. It's boring for us, the dinosaurs, and if you lead off with that, it's boring for them. They have a general idea what quizbowl might be, and build on that slowly through conversation. Tell them that their interests (if they're legitimately academic or within the quizbowl trash distribution) come up frequently in quizbowl. Again, you want to present yourself as a group of people interested in knowledge for its own sake, because this is something most smart people can identify with. Tell them (using an example from me) how just by showing up to practice and tournaments (I honestly don't study, so this is true) how you've learned about art, music, literature, and how much quizbowl has opened up your world for you. This appeals to people. Everybody's had a conversation where they were out of the loop due to ignorance, and quizbowl IS one of the best paths to make these situations as negligible as possible. "When I was in high school and my friends talked about art, I just was really quiet and it was awkward, but now, quizbowl has exposed me to all this cool stuff and I'm totally into constructivist art and I can talk art with you for hours." True story time: "I was on a train once from PACE to HSNCT and I saw two cute foreign girls, and I just sat down at a table, and the Swedish girl left, leaving me talking with a stunning Russian blond masters student. She was absolutely impressed that I could talk about the works of Aksyonov, the paintings of Repin, contrasts of philosophical movements (she was a philosophy major) in 19th century Russia, and we really connected and became very close." This could happen to you, and they might like to know that it could happen to them. Because not even Russians know who Aksyonov is. Match point, 40-love, you and you just hit a 140-mph serve down the line, people.
Have social events in the first couple of weeks. Make them at interesting places. Ethnic restaurants are fun. Parties are fun. Team trip to an art gallery, if you have an art enthusiast? A picnic? Why the hell not? Like I said, earlier, I, an HSNCT All-Star and arguably the best prospect out of my high school class (who saw Ryan Westbrook coming?), quit my team as a freshman because I found it to be socially a waste of my time. Perhaps this is unique to me, having this social motivation, but nobody from the team hung out with each other, got dinner together, and I'd ask team members to go hang out, and I felt embarrassed because I felt like I was forcing them to do something they completely wanted not to do. So, I retreated into my circle of friends, continued building knowledge (because that's just what I do) and happily avoided quizbowl. I heavy-handedly put two HS teammates of mine on my CBI team just so I could have a good time, and was obliged to staff ICT because it was at our school. I may have played some tournaments for Berkeley, because I found that team to be more friendly (my best friend from HS was on it), and that was about it. The record will show that during that time period I attended more practices at Berkeley (350 miles away from me) than at UCLA (a 10 minute walk from my dorm). So, the worst you can do is try? I'll analyze myself right now. Almost of all my current closest friends (Brendan Shapiro, Jonathan, Evan Nagler, Andrew Hart, Bruce Arthur) are quizbowl players. I have a handful of people who are not, and that isn't for lack of non-quizbowl friends. I mean, we can connect with each other on a level that we cannot connect with most people on. I have a lot of non-quizbowl friends because I'm a very enthusiastic and amiable person, but I must admit that in a lot of these so-called "friendships," the other person brings almost nothing to the table. Example: I have a roommate from Aurora, Illinois, who graduated from a respectable university, is a smart guy, and here in Tunisia, a lot of people ask him "What is Chicago like?" Are they asking the appropriate person? No, because he's from Aurora, and doesn't have fascinating interests, and hardly knows Chicago in the way I do. Look at yourselves and ask you, if you're capable of making close friends, where they come from, and I think you might come to the same conclusion I do. It's fun to tell any number of people about Turkmenbashy, and I do it often and with pizzazz, but in some ways the explanation of the fundamental question "Turkmenistan exists?" gets boring. If they stick in it, new recruits are going to be among those valuable souls who share in our deep knowledge of almost everything and will be absolutely valuable in our lives as friends. But it's a process. And you have to get them invested in that process. I've done a lot of bragging throughout this entire post, but to me, this is why I played quizbowl. Quizbowl was an essential part of the development of the person that I am, and I'm personally quite satisfied with the person that I've become, the skills I've developed, etc. Without quizbowl, I just wouldn't be as interesting. Because you all have turned me on to so many things that I now love and appreciate and can discuss with others. I wouldn't love Kalmykia as much as I do if it weren't for Matt Weiner. I wouldn't know who and be able to tell others who Box Brown is without Jonathan Magin. We are an invaluable resource, and we need to realize this, and be able to sell our clubs and organizations with this in mind. By imparting any sort of knowledge to anybody, you are making that person better.
Now, I should turn to how to turn people away. You know who your crazy and weird people are in your club. Keep them away from the freshmen at first. Let the most socially capable people handle recruiting. I'm going to give an example of one club and I apologize for doing this to those members of this club that are my friends, but I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned. For my own personal interest, I have maintained fake accounts on the Harvard College Bowl listserv, occasionally to post something as a practical joke, and to find out what's going in that club, because as I mentioned, I consider numerous people to be my friends on that team. However, I would like to reference one post I found that I am going to illustrate as how to destroy retention:
"Since I did manage to screw up announcing practice once last week, I'll go overboard:
Practice in THIRTY MINUTES, people. Get to see:
1) Me on one and a half hours of sleep with two problem sets left to finish by Friday afternoon
2) That's the only show you've got! But don't worry, because today is IRELAND WEEK. Notably:
1) If you're listening to an organic chemistry tossup, and you hear "Ireland," buzz and say "Claisen." If prompted, say "Claisen condensation." The issue with people who have memorable names making modifications to a reaction is that you don't forget them. Other example: the "Corey-Fuchs" reaction, pronounced just the way it should be, that is, "Corey is way too old to Fuchs."
2) Read up on such great figures in Irish myth as Cu Roi, a shapeshifter king who cunningly put his soul in an apple in a fish's stomach!
3) Just across the water is the Welsh king Math ap Mathonwy, who had to put his feet in a virgin's lap at all times unless he was fighting a war!
7) Ever since I learned that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, by the law of conservation of snakes that i just made up (a consequence of the "no hair theorem," i.e. that there are no snakes radiating off the surface of the earth, he must have driven snakes into everywhere else.
Note that that's SEVEN Ireland facts, good enough for a week! And I gave them to you all in a day! And if you can distill the actual quizbowl keywords out of that crap, then you'll actually have IMPROVED YOUR SKILLS.
Hm, I've probably overstayed my welcome."
Of course, this post was written by Andy Watkins, who, in my opinion alone, is in the unfortunate position of being president of Harvard's club. I am only a member of Harvard's listserv, so I do not know what is going on on other listservs. The date on this post is September 25, 2008, so it is relatively close to Harvard's recruiting period.
Problem 1: Look at this post. I mean, look at it. Do I need to say anything? If I were a Harvard freshman, I'm not joining this club. You might as well post: "We're all going to watch hard-core gay armpit fetish pornography tonight at practice...there will be snacks!" The first part is needlessly egotistical; do you, Andy Watkins, really think that you are a show that anybody wants to watch?
Problem 2: The attempt at humor in this piece is made by somebody who is not blessed, at least from this evidence, with the gift of being remotely funny. Making puns on the "Corey-Fuchs" reaction is no more advanced than people Chancellor of the Exchequer in my AP Euro class about the Fugger family.
Problem 3: Not all people who attend quizbowl practice appreciate inappropriate language. Yes, get over it, but:
How you should write a practice e-mail:
Be direct, tell people what time practice is, the location, food items that will be provided if so. If you might go out for a movie after practice, great. It enhances your reputation as a social club (and movies are a great activity for the socially challenged, because it's 2 hours of just sitting there: just like your Friday night, Charlie Dees, except no hand movement). This is really easy. You may think you're a cut-up and a brilliant writer, but even I, who have been described as such, know well enough that my sense of humor does not appeal to everyone and that it's a sense of humor that some people have to come to appreciate. Don't put in inside jokes; it makes people feel excluded. Just announce the time and place, and if you have an interesting activity planned ("I have this really great David Lynch short film to show"), fine, do that too. Maybe try to get food with your team before/after. "We're meeting at Panda Express at 6:15, in case anyone wants to join." Because everybody eats food, why not together.
Anyways, I hope this advice has been helpful. I apologize for any problems I have caused with the Harvard club (I send the e-mails to my spam now, so I don't know if the situation has improved), but I think that there are certain things which the club listserv should not be used for and this post is indicative of all of them. Also, it's just bad quizbowl.