Get Out of the Middle!

by Vince Fabra

As I work with fraternity/sorority members around the country now that I’ve started traveling for Phired Up, I find myself explaining a concept called “GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE.”

In some cases, being in the middle isn’t so bad. Being the “middle man” allows you to connect two groups. Being the “middle spoon” is the warmest sleeping position possible. Even hump day can be the motivation you need, letting you know you’re in the middle of your week. However, with regards to Social Excellence, a conversation, or a presentation should never be in the middle.

The Middle

The middle is the home of every conversation/presentation that you have painfully sat through. The Middle is bland. The Middle is unintentional. The Middle asks the easy questions and presents with no energy. The Middle is not Socially Excellent.

Allow me to give more apparent examples of what “The Middle” looks like. If you were trying to learn about a potential new member, there are the “standard” questions that fraternities and sororities have been asking for ages. These questions just ooze Middle-ness:

“Where are you from?” “What is your major?” “What year are you?” “What do you think about rush so far?” “What other chapters are you checking out?” “What did you do in high school?” “Do you like parties/beer/girls/guys/Coca-Cola/Pepsi/Redbox/Netflix/The Hills/The City…?” (Or any other lame topic of conversation that you can think of).

Plenty of Greeks find themselves stuck in The Middle.

slide3Example: You are telling me about how great your chapter is by listing off dates and facts. “In 2003, we won best chapter on our campus.” “We have the best intramural inner tube water polo team for the past three years.” “We care about grades because our members log five hours a week in monitored study halls.” (Those are some really inspiring statistics).

You say that you love your organization, but your body language and tone convey a message that sounds about as excited as an IRS auditor.

If you want the people you’re talking with to be inspired or at least have a memorable conversation that distinguishes you from the other groups on campus, then GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE.

What is your spark? What is the switch that flips in your head that makes you stand up, do a little happy dance, and say “See ya later, Middle.” Individual answers may vary. But when you find your spark, flip your switch, there are two places — two zones — that provide a Socially Excellent alternative to The Middle.

Deep Zone

The Deep Zone, although it sounds like the newest pizza from Domino’s, is actually a mindset that allows you to evoke more meaningful responses from people you are trying to learn about. The Deep Zone is personal. The Deep Zone is intimate. The Deep Zone generously asks curious questions, getting authentic and vulnerable responses (all 4 social excellence pillars used casually in one sentence). The Deep Zone is Socially Excellent.

Deep Zone questions are open ended, probing questions. Here are 10 examples of questions that live in the Deep Zone.

  • Tell me a little about yourself. (As opposed to “Middle” question rapid fire).
  • What are you hoping to get out of your college/fraternity/sorority experience?
  • (If he or she mentions that they are the oldest/youngest/only child) What was it like growing up as the oldest/youngest/only child?
  • Who is someone that you really admire?
  • (Probing statements like) Tell me more about that. OR. Help me better understand that.
  • What are some things you are very passionate about?
  • Tell me about a proud moment or accomplishment of yours.
  • What are you reading to make you better?
  • When are you most comfortable to be yourself?
  • Are there any questions that you have for me?

Simply asking these questions will not have anyone in tears, giving you hugs, or feeling like you have touched their lives. However, if you ask these questions and actively listen, I promise you will make a stronger connection than you would have camping in Middle-ville state park.

Fun Zone

For those of you who read the Deep Zone questions and thought, “No Freakin way” (I am looking at you “too cool” frat dude), then the Fun Zone may be your preferred area. The Fun Zone produces the types of conversations that others hear from a distance and run over to join. The Fun Zone is energetic. The Fun Zone is bold. The Fun Zone makes a group of strangers feel like a group of old buddies. The Fun Zone is Socially Excellent.

Fun Zone questions are clever and get fun answers. Here are 10 examples of questions that live in the Fun Zone.

  • What is the most embarrassing song on your iPod?
  • What is the coolest scar that you have and how did you get it?
  • What is the worst date you have ever been on?
  • Would you rather live without music or sports (I love this question)?
  • Who is one celebrity that you would love to punch in the face?
  • If you had to get a tattoo on your face, what would it be?
  • If you went to Krispy Kreme, and they served you a box full of $5,000 in cash instead of donuts, would you bring it back or keep it (this is a true story)?
  • What is your most embarrassing moment?
  • If you were going to build a man cave, what would you put in it?
  • When was the last time you laughed so hard you peed your pants?

I hope that everyone understands that these aren’t questions that you just check off a list, and get magical results. You still have to engage others in the conversation while being the most Socially Excellent version of yourself.
If you want to have fun and actually enjoy the draining, boring process that formal recruitment can sometimes be, you will need to energize yourselves with great conversations. Trust me, if you have hundreds of conversations that are in The Middle, then you and your organization will not be successful, you will not enjoy yourself, and the people you converse with will wonder, “What the hell is wrong with that guy/girl?”

I can only think of one thing to close this blog post. GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE!!!

Bold, Fun, Positive (FREE HUGS!)

by Matt Mattson

Today I am at Colorado State University where I’m working with the fraternity community on a long-term partnership to increase the quantity of quality men involved in Greek Life.  I was out on campus today working with fraternity/sorority members and had such a positive experience I just wanted to blog about it really quick to share the the positive vibes with others…

img00263-20100824-1050We were working a table on the 2nd day of school in the middle of campus to promote a program going on at 6 p.m. tonight (see below).  I wasn’t sure what to expect having seen lots of terrible promotional tables for Greeks around the country.  But I was just blown away by a couple of wonderful things I saw going on (and that I got to help with).

First of all, the energy and enthusiasm of the students working the table was absolutely infectious.  They were looking to have fun.  They were creating an enjoyable, funny, light environment.  The fraternity/sorority members working the table were literally trying to make people’s day as they wandered past and headed to class.  Their intention was pure.  They just wanted people who walked, skateboarded, or bicycled past to smile for a moment.

img00264-20100824-1112My favorite part of the day, as hinted at in the title, was when a sorority woman named Brigitte (it’s a French name, she told me) started offering free hugs to everyone that walked past.

For the first few minutes after she did it, she was 10 for 10.  PEOPLE WANTED HUGS!  Even I was surprised at a) her boldness in just randomly choosing to start offering free hugs, and b) how excited people were to recieve them!

Brigitte eventually got rejected by a few people who said, “I don’t like hugs.”  That didn’t get her down though… she offered the only logical alternative — a high five!  Brilliant.

The program we were all out on the sidewalk promoting was Phired Up’s Social Excellence training.  These students at Colorado State University took our advice from this blog and chose to provide a gift to non-Greek students… they img00265-20100824-1150chose to provide an opportuity for non-Greeks to learn about how to be SOCIAL (and Socially Excellent).  Some of my favorite lines from the Greeks promoting the program to passersby were, “Do you like friends? I do. Come to this program tonight and make some.”  Or, “Come to this social networking event tonight – you might meet your new best friend, or your future LOVER!”

Fun.  Just plain fun.  Tons of positive energy.  Acts of intentional kindness.  Smiles.  High fives.  Hugs.  That’s the kind of people I want to be around.  That is the kind of people that will find recruitment success this fall.  Not because they’re being nice so that they can recruit people.  They’re being nice… also they’ll probably recruit a lot of people.  Great intention. Great execution.

Thanks CSU Greeks!

What To Wear at Sorority Recruitment (and why it doesn’t matter)

by Meghan Ward-Bopp

As Jess and I made our tour of sorority conventions this summer I had the opportunity to see and chat with many unique, eloquent, intelligent and incredibly diverse women.  I loved talking through their challenges and brainstorming together what the best strategy for attacking recruitment this fall might be.

However, one of the most disheartening conversations happened with a chapter president early on.  She shared with me that the formal recruitment timeframe was one of the most challenging and frustrating times of the year for her chapter.

barbieShe went on to explain that her chapter struggled to find a theme that was “edgy” and competitive, and she was convinced that the clothing selection wasn’t “girly” enough.  They’d thrown out all the previous ideas and were replacing a few of their work-week activities to focus on outfit selection and theme ideas.  This was clearly important to them, and it showed.

I asked her what their new theme ideas were, she replied “Barbie” for one round among other ideas.  Then I asked what their outfit selection looked like and she replied “Barbie outfits that help describe a members personality, you know if she plays tennis – she’ll be Tennis Barbie.”

O.K., to be honest, at this point it took a significant amount of self-control to not explode about why that was a bad idea.  And to be fair, you might be wondering why was I frustrated and challenged?  Some might even be jotting down the Barbie idea, thinking WHOA – amazing!  My issue isn’t with Barbie, in fact I was quite fond of her growing up.  So let me explain.

This woman poured her heart out to me about her chapter.  She described a group of women that were passionate about service and giving of themselves.  A group of women that were in love with their sisterhood and willing to do the work to continue to develop each other both personally and professionally.  A group of women that would’ve likely never found each other, but their sorority had built a support system and changed their lives.  Amazing, right? 

Yet  these amazing women were so worried about their “costumes” and how they would tell the story of who they are via their outfits- that they’d forgotten that the BEST way to portray the best version of yourself is to be authentically you. 

Connect with potential members through powerful conversations and let go of the idea that our “costumes” that we wear during formal recruitment are the best avenue to tell our story.  Don’t leave that up to your wardrobe.  Be intentional about setting aside time during your recruitment preparation to practice telling the story of why you joined and what being a member means to you.  Practice listening.  Practice asking thought provoking questions and most important practice creating an environment where both you and the potential new member can be yourselves. 

Let me be clear, there is a time and a place to be concerned about how our outward appearance reflects our inner beauty.  We should all strive to be put together and give the best first impression possible, and yes, sometimes this involves Spanx.  Having said that—while wearing Spanx or not, make sure you are embracing your chapters identity and not trying to portray something you aren’t. 

You see, before me stood an amazing, beautiful, intelligent woman that was dressed head to toe in fashionable, yet edgy, clothing.  (Think Rachel Bilson, post the OC.)  She had a very beautiful and artistically done tattoo on the inside of her left wrist, and had a rockin’ lip piercing.  This woman and the other women in her chapter that I’d met clearly had no desire to identify with Barbie in their real lives.  I couldn’t fathom why they’d chosen Barbie, something so far from who they were, to market themselves.  I shared this thought with her and, thankfully, we had a good laugh. 

Don’t hide who you truly are behind costumes and themes this fall.  Be you.  Be the best version of you.  Be authentic.

“3-to-7″ A little technique with big results…

The academic year has begun, so we’re re-posting a blog favorite that may come in handy as you start your semester!

by Josh Orendi

“Three-to-Seven” A little technique with big results…

Write “3-to-7″ on the back of your hand. Post it on the inside of the front door of the chapter house. Put up a sign in the bathroom stalls. Whatever you need to do, we’re looking for every member of the chapter to make this commitment on the first day of class:

1. Show up 3-7 minutes early for every class.
2. Sit in rows 3-7.
3. Make 3-7 new friends in those classes this week.

Here’s how/why it works:

1. Arriving more than 7 minutes early means you won’t have your pick of potential new members to sit next to. Be strategic about who you sit near. This is likely to be the same chair you’ll sit in all semester. Showing up later than 3 minutes early means the best seats will be taken, or you may be forced to sit near the back of the room because class has already started.

2. Research shows that top academic performers sit in the rows closest to the front of the class … but not necessarily the first 1-2 rows. Interesting. You want to position yourself as a top performer and associate yourself with other top performers (right?), so take a seat in the section where top performers congregate. 

3. You just showed up early and you know that you are sitting next to a top performer. It’s time to make a new friend! Do that with a person or two in each of the 3-7 classes that you’re taking this semester. Multiply that effort times the number of members in your chapter. (The Names List is about to explode)

Oh, it’s so simple and so sweet. In week #1 without spending a dollar or planning a Big Event, you just met dozens of the best non-greek students on campus. Side benefit: You’re better positioned to be a top performing chapter in academics as well.

Remember, 3-to-7!!!

Does That Event Really Work?

[RING OF PHIRE: The Ring of Phire is a team of undergraduate fraternity and sorority members dedicated to delivering the messages of Phired Up Productions to their peers around the country.]

by Steve Pasidora, Ring of Phire Member

Recruitment—aside from the actual communication with prospective members—is largely about assessing the value of recruitment methods and challenging those that are not working.

For two years, before I became my chapter’s recruitment chairman, we would hold a large and esteemed Super Bowl Party to kick off the beginning of the new semester.  Though alcohol-free, the party still required quite a bit of planning and organization.  Men would travel to sororities weeks before the big weekend to invite the women over.  “We would really appreciate your attendance at our Annual Super Bowl Party,” someone from my chapter would say—dressed in a suit and carrying a bouquet of roses. “We will be inviting a bunch of prospective members, so we want a bunch of ladies there to help us recruit them.”

Some would plan ahead and order enough hot wings, sandwiches, and beverages for everyone. Others were in charge of finding four of the biggest TVs around so that there was enough room for everyone to watch. 

Everyone would panic because the women would show up late; meanwhile, all 120 members and the four prospective guys we convinced to come would sit around awkwardly, texting to make sure the women were still coming. There were hardly any prospects there because everyone we knew was already a member. 

When the girls finally arrived, the recruitment chairman would stand on a chair and point to each guy that was visiting and introduce him to the group. Although the focus of the event was to meet the potential new members, this was always challenged by the laughter from funny commercials on TV.  Meanwhile, Big Al would dip into the food table and grab his own bucket of wings.  Food was at a premium after kick off.  Though we all wanted to meet the new guys, no one could spare a moment during the excitement of the intense game. 

“None of them fit in,” someone would say at chapter meeting the next week. “They were all quiet and didn’t seem to make an effort.”

After all was said and done, we had spent $1,200 on food and had to reimburse someone for a broken TV.  No new members signed their bid cards, and we were left scratching our heads wondering where all the good guys were on our campus.

Recruitment, as I said, is all about assessing that which is not or is no longer working.  In dissolving our “Big Event,” we created a names list of the men who we would have invited over.  We took recruits out to group dinners and brought them around our chapter house to show them what daily life was like in our chapter.  In that one semester, we doubled the number of signatures we normally received and saved nearly $1,000 in doing so. 

Challenge your chapter’s current methods!  Just because it’s what you have always done, doesn’t mean it will always work.

To contact Ring of Phire Members, E-mail

Maybe, We’re Supposed to Run?

[RING OF PHIRE: The Ring of Phire is a team of undergraduate fraternity and sorority members dedicated to delivering the messages of Phired Up Productions to their peers around the country.]

by Amelia Mieth, Ring of Phire Member

A couple of months ago, I saw something that has resonated with me to this very day. Watch this video to see if it resonates with you too…

Video Credit: Maybe, we’re supposed to Run? from on Vimeo.

Although this story wasn’t intended for Greek life, I think it is extremely applicable to being a member of a fraternity or sorority. Do you remember how excited you were to become members of your organization? How do you think our founders felt when they created our groups? They probably weren’t thinking, “Yeah, this is cool,” and left it at that.

So where did we lose it? When did our organizations stray from what they were founded on? I don’t have the answer, I don’t know who does, but I am excited to say that after hearing this message, I want to help make a change.

My name is Amelia Mieth, and I am a senior at Drake University, where I serve as the President of the Panhellenic Council, and am a member of Alpha Phi. I’m lucky to be in the Greek community at Drake – we have thirteen (soon to be fourteen) thriving chapters, an extremely successful recruitment program, outstanding student leaders, and exceptional academics. But I feel that there is always room for improvement, and am excited to be at the forefront of a lot of change occurring for our community.

I am also thrilled to be a member of the Ring of Phire. It’s going to be an awesome adventure for the six of us to begin, but we can’t do it without YOU. Talk to us! What do you feel you need help with in your fraternity or sorority? What do you see that you want to change?  It doesn’t just have to be about recruitment – nothing is off limits. While we may not have all of the answers, I am sure that we have the resources to help develop a successful answer.

I would love to hear from you. Questions, comments, just a quick hello – I’m open to it all.

To contact Ring of Phire Members, E-mail