The “Say Hi” Pledge

by Matt Mattson

sayhiA link to this article in Inside Higher Ed made the rounds last week, and the implications for our Social Excellence message were obvious.  Clearly “The Social Experiment” at Columbia could have been profoundly bolstered by a little Phired Up Social Excellence training.

But there were two links buried inside that article that both surprised and inspired me.  These two links directed readers to background information on two college traditions.  One at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA (The “Speaking Tradition”), and one at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee (The “Passing Hello”). [Take a moment to read those].

Social Excellence is about momentary choices.  Daring yourself to connect with others using the Best Version of You. Choosing to engage with the people and society around you.  It is about being present and aware of the power of interpersonal connection.

Is there any simpler way to engage with the world than to just SAY HI to people as you pass them?

If you choose Social Excellence as your lifestyle.  If you want to be the best version of you today.  If you want to create a tradition in your community of engagement, interaction, connection, and relationships… start simple. Take the “Say Hi” pledge.  Raise your right hand and repeat after me.

I, [state your full name], pledge upon my honor, to say “Hi” to people as I walk past them today and every day.

I will do so with an authentic smile and a genuine wish in my heart that they might feel my positive presence in their life, if just for a fleeting moment.

I understand I am not to wink, giggle, or give a creepy stare while taking this action. I further understand that this requires an aversion of my gaze away from my cell phone or other text-messaging device.

Because I maintain this simple commitment, my community will be more connected and in some small way I will have enriched the world.

I recognize that this is just a small gesture, but that it will move me toward a full Social Excellence lifestyle.

[Since your hand is up, high-five someone to make it official.]

Note to Greeks: Since you’re members of SOCIAL organizations, what if you took a similar pledge as a whole community (or chapter)?  What if you were the people on campus who said “Hi” to people as you walked past them?  It sounds simple, yes.  But what if that was the story your campus told about you… “The Greeks here are the ones that make you smile as you pass them on campus.”  How might that help with recruitment?  How might that change the long-term behavior of your members toward your original social mission?

Note to AFA 2011 Attendees: Look for an opportunity at the Phired Up exhibit booth to make your pledge to Social Excellence.

Getting Students that “Get It” RESEARCH REPORT

by Colleen Coffey

The results of the first phase of Phired Up’s first research project are in and we are phreakin’ excited about them!

Download the full research report here:

Coffey, C. (2010). Getting members that “get it”: What makes the best of the best students. Phired Up Productions. Carmel, Indiana.

This study represents a major first step in the direction we want to push our fraternity/sorority partners in thinking about organizational growth.  To put it plainly, our 100+ year-old organizations have done a poor job of gathering helpful data to support decision-making around the most important part of our operations – recruitment.  Everything we do (and don’t do) springs from the way we recruit.  We are proud to significantly add to the base of public knowledge surrounding recruitment and membership selection.

Through years in the field of fraternal advising, we’ve noticed a trend: many organizations are seeking a sustainable, data driven process by which they can select the members that are most likely going to fit, persist, and succeed in their organizations. This study, “The Best of the Best Assessment” sought to examine common traits and common life experiences of fraternity and sorority students who are the best of the best. The best of the best students are defined as those who are exceptionally excellent. These members stand out among all the rest. We define common traits as a skill or personality characteristic (e.g., making others happy, kind, smart) and life experiences as a concrete encounter, situation, background, or condition. Examples of life experience include athletic involvement, large family, or chess player. Our primary focus was to answer the overarching question: What makes the very best members of fraternities and sororities?

Here is how we began to answer that question:
We asked over 100 professionals open ended questions to identify common themes, interviewed  and/ or surveyed almost 200 best of the best students themselves to find out their traits and experiences, and analyzed the results of all three of those methods. We used a technique to analyze this data called “coding for words and themes”. The analysis resulted in the 15 themes you see below.


  1. Altruistic- Students who are compassionate and passionate about service
  2. Change-Makers- Students who are not afraid of change and are excited about it
  3. Passionate- Students who “get it” and really love being Greek
  4. Outgoing Listeners- Students who are outgoing but still really value listening to others
  5. Reliable Work Ethic- Students who are very reliable and work really hard
  6. Respectful and Inclusive- Students who respect diversity and get excited about including everyone in decisions and social situations
  7. Values Focused- Via religion or personal commitment they are able to articulate a strong set of values
  8. Conference Attending- Students who have attended a leadership conference (although we do not know the causal effect)
  9. Focus on Family Dynamics- Students are supported by at least one family member and are often members of large families, many are the oldest child
  10. Involved- MEANINGFUL involvement in outside groups in high school and college, positional leadership is also important
  11. Employed- Many of them are financially responsible for a portion of their education or college experience and therefore hold jobs
  12. Learners- They love learning and going to class, they are not 4.0 students but they dig school
  13. Mentees/ Mentors- Students have a mentor and mentor others
  14. Travelers- Many have traveled extensively and abroad
  15. Those That have Overcome Adversity- They have all overcome significant adversity in their young lives.

What we are doing next? We are now creating and testing a survey to measure whether or not a potential new member is a best of the best student. We are testing that survey for content and construct validity to make sure you get the most valid and reliable tool possible. We are also creating a values based selection criteria for use during more formalized recruitment processes. When this is all over, communities, organizations, and individuals will have a reliable and revolutionary way to select members.

Good research always sparks more questions.  We would love to hear yours! Here are just a few from our staff:

  • What if our expansion/extension professionals and recruitment chairs had objective data-backed tools to determine qualification for membership based on likelihood of high-performance (instead of gut feelings)?
  • How do our fraternity/sorority professionals provide more educational opportunities that help to unearth and cultivate these “best of the best” students?
  • How do the traits and experiences of “the best of the best” students differ for each organization?  How can we help organizations answer that question?  How do culturally-based groups differ from NIC/NPC groups?  What do gender differences in traits and experiences tell us?
  • What systems, processes, assumptions, and culture does this small piece of research strongly challenge within our communities?

At Phired Up we are all about innovation but nothing can ever be innovative without participation. Your participation in this research study through answering questions, being supportive, participating in interviews, or just plain getting phired up about it were vital to our work. Thank you!  Be on the look out for even more from the Phired Up research area. Until then- keep on being curious…

Missed Rush? (or Sneak Peek)

by Josh Orendi and Matt Mattson

Missed Rush?

NKU (Northern Kentucky) Sigma Phi Epsilon deserves credit for a brilliant idea that helped spark their young chapter’s recruitment burst.  After a poorly attended fall rush week the chapter took matters into its own hands and hosted a campus-wide “Missed Rush?” marketing push and information session about 3 weeks after formal rush week.  The group was able to generate interest from dozens of men that didn’t know about the first rush week or were not able to participate.

As an alumnus of the group reports, “this was our first time experiencing taking members throughout the year … it worked … so we kept doing it.”  It’s a great feeling picking up men throughout the semester.

Sneak Peak


Take that idea one step further and apply it to the end of the semester (around NOW).  How about a 3-5 day period called “Recruitment Sneak Peek.”  Offer a preview opportunity for students considering membership in fraternities/sororities next semester.  Perhaps it includes highly visible marketing activities (all-campus event, tabling, etc.)  Perhaps it includes a targeted push to get RA’s, Student Government Leaders, Orientation Leaders, Cultural Student Organization Leaders, and other students in positions of influence to have lunches with your members.

No matter the details, make sure to create opportunities like this to gather names, start forging relationships, and driving interest in your organization (and show interest in non-members).

It doesn’t require a lot of planning.  You don’t have to wait for your organization’s governing council to make it happen. It just requires effort.  Go.

Be Social. Be Happy.

by Meghan Ward-Bopp

“Research shows that the happiest people report having at least seven hours of social interaction a day.”  I was watching a segment on Good Morning America this week about the happiest places on earth when the guest shared that little nugget.    The guest, Dan Buettner author of Thrive, clarified only face-to-face or phone interaction counted as interaction, not texting, facebooking, tweeting, etc. 

As I sat in the Newark, New Jersey airport on my way home from a Social Excellence and Recruitment visit at Rutgers University, I couldn’t help but wonder.  SEVEN hours.  That’s an incredibly long time.  But then it started to click, of course the happiest people are the most interconnected people.  We’re social creatures, we feed off the energy of others. 

I couldn’t help but think about what could be, though.  What if we all embraced this idea of seven hours of social interaction daily, but combined that with Social Excellence.  Not only just talking to people during those seven hours, but being generous, curious, authentic and vulnerable.  How different would each of our lives be if we intentionally connected in the deep zone or fun zone? 

If we knew we had to get those seven hours in, would we sit blankly staring at our fellow passengers on the bus?  Would we greet our co-workers with the same “do anything fun last night?” or could we push and challenge ourselves to share a smile and helping hand to make someone’s day?  Would we sit down with our co-workers and ask about their family or volunteer at a homeless shelter to help with career counseling?

I’m going to start small, for one hour a day I’m going to interact with someone that isn’t in my normal, daily scope.  Maybe that means volunteering at a new organization, chatting to strangers on a plane, or simply picking up the phone to call a relative that I rarely talk to.  I have no idea if this increased social interaction will actually make me happier, but I know it will make those I reach out to happier – and maybe that’s what it’s all about anyway. 

Successful 1-on-1 Meeting Tutorial

by Josh Orendi

Chapters practicing Dynamic Recruitment understand the deep value of the 1-on-1 meeting.  This is often the first personal interaction with a potential member after adding him/her to your Names List.  With so many things you could choose to talk about, here’s a little insight into what the top fraternity/sorority recruiters in the country are focused on during their initial meetings:

Set Up:

  • Meetings take place during the day (never late, never with alcohol)
  • on campus (not the chapter house)
  • in common areas (e.g. coffee shop, lounge, etc.)
  • confirmed via text message before the meeting time
  • 10-20 minutes long (never more)


  1. Inception.  Focus the conversation on him/her while planting the idea (inception) of fraternity/sorority. (Here’s a blog with more information)
  2. Chunking 3-5 additional leads. (see here for more details)
  3. Secure a follow up appointment to an interest meeting or small activity.  (Here and here are 100+ examples)

Remember to update your Names List immediately.  Consider sending a text or Facebook message right after to say “thanks” for meeting and remind them when you’ll be getting back together.  Now you’re doing “results producing” Dynamic Recruitment!

Is This Social Excellence? (And the Power of Poster Boards)

by Matt Mattson

i-will-talk-to-anyoneI saw this guy (his name is Max Oman) on campus at the University of Minnesota yesterday.  Needless to say, I just HAD to go talk with him.

[In case you can't read it, his sign says, "I will talk to anyone about anything. free."]

Is this Social Excellence?  It certainly is bold.

Here’s what I loved most about this guy after having a short conversation with him.  He wasn’t trying to get anything out of people except a conversation.  He was kind of just playing.  Trying to make people smile.  Being generous.

I asked him why he was doing this, and he said he had seen a picture of someone do something similar, and it looked fun.  So, there he is.

Most people, of course, passed him by with a smirk on their face.  Some people stopped and engaged him.  Nearly everyone that walked past probably remembered him.  He entered people’s lives.

Maybe more importantly, interacting with Max got me thinking about the power of poster boards.  Seriously.  See here, here, and  here.  It seems like a poster board, a marker, and minimal creativity provide a good reason to talk to strangers, to engage socially, to meet potential members for your organization… put plainly, poster boards seem to be a simple, cheap tool to make life a little more interesting.

What would happen if you walked around wearing a poster board around your neck like Max’s?  How would your day be different?

Thanks for talking to me, Max.  You’re an interesting dude.  I’m guessing people like Max would like our Dare Cards.

Facebook and the Values that Define You

[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)

“Bosnia. They don’t have roads, but they have Facebook.” -The Social Network

0930-film-review-the-social-network_full_600It’s amazing to think about, really. Places where they don’t have developing roads have a way to connect to the entire world at the click of a mouse. It seems that Facebook itself is constantly growing, as is the story behind it. I recently saw the new movie The Social Network- mainly for Justin Timberlake, but I also wanted to learn more about this entity that is defining a generation.

In the movie, we are introduced to Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook. The movie begins with a conversation based around Final Clubs.  After listening to the dialogue, a light bulb goes off in my head, “A Final Club is similar to a fraternity! Greek life in the movies, hurray!” It is Zuckerberg’s goal to be accepted into one of the clubs, sealing his place in the Harvard social scene.

Without giving too much of the movie away, the portrayal of one of the Final Clubs is similar to that of a movie or TV fraternity – hosting raging parties, hazing new members, and an odd sense of recruitment.  In the movie, Zuckerberg’s friend Eduardo gets “punched” to join one of the top clubs, and their friendship takes a hit for it. While he doesn’t come out straight and say it, Zuckerberg is jealous. As the movie progresses, this reoccurring theme of “You didn’t get in, maybe you aren’t good enough” seems to prosper.

I can’t help but think of what may have been if he did get into the prestigious club – would we even have Facebook? How would we connect? But that’s not my point.

My point is this: You shouldn’t be defined by what organization you’re in. You should be defined by the values you choose to live out every day. Whether they are values specific to your organization, or a general set of fraternal values you are holding yourself to — standards that you believe in and that are important to you.

Your organization challenges you to understand and live your own personal values in relation to the stated values of the group.

When you recruit, do you have this conversation with your potential members?  Do you know about their personal values set before you ask them to join?  How many of them can name the values of the organization they’re joining before they accept an invitation for membership?

Another member of the Ring of Phire, Steve Pasdiora, began a conversation on our Facebook discussion board (thanks Mark Zuckerberg!) that I would highly recommend you check out… here. Join in on our discussion. Sometimes we all need a little reminder.