This year’s monumental shift to online learning has forced student clubs to adapt their event planning. As many clubs transitioned to virtual recruitment and meetings, the IRL (In Real Life) Events app kicked off its #irl11k contest in December 2020. The contest encouraged student organizations at universities across North America to propose virtual campus event ideas, with the winning campuses receiving a reward. At the start of 2021, McGill was awarded $11,000 to be distributed between three organizations on campus.
After a competitive evaluation process, events submitted by the McGill Hellenic Students Association (MHSA), Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), and McGill Formula Electric (MFE/FSAE) were selected by IRL to split a prize of $11,000. Campus ambassador for IRL Events, Ionna Tzima, U3 Arts, explained the contest.
“The competition split $11,000 between three clubs, adjusted to the budgets appropriate for virtual events,” Tzima said in an interview with //The McGill Tribune//. “Three McGill clubs won on the basis of the number of RSVPs.”
The EUS used the prize money to make admission to E-Week, an annual event that promotes friendly competition between engineering departments, free for the first time. This year’s E-Week saw virtual events like Escape Rooms and Scavenger Hunts spread out over the month of February. Tzima described how organizers used the prize money from IRL Events to make E-Week more accessible.
“After the [IRL] sponsorship [of prize money] in January, E-Week used the funding to make admissions free, and gave back all of the tickets to participants,” Tzima said.
MHSA’s February Trivia Night saw similar benefits, with an impressive lineup of guest speakers inaugurating the event. IRL’s financial contribution allowed event organizers to distribute gift cards ranging in value from $20 to $100 to trivia winners. Tzima, who is also the VP Internal of MHSA, explained how #irl11k helped the event come to fruition.
“[The IRL prize money] definitely had an impact on feasibility for the MHSA,” Tzima said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this without IRL and have the gift cards [and the] the prizes [to] make it as grand as it was.”
The MFE plans to use the funds to ensure that the entire team can attend international races over the summer. Budget restrictions often limited the number of team members that can participate in competitions and events abroad.
“Usually, the MFE has difficulty in adjusting their budget to include travel for the car and the members,” Tzima said. “The funding from IRL gives them the opportunity to transport every member, which hasn’t happened in previous years.”
While collaborating with IRL Events, the three student associations were mindful of the ever-changing circumstances surrounding planned events due to the pandemic. Tzima elaborated on the accommodations that MHSA and EUS made for event participants not currently in Montreal.
“It’s obviously very different to not have in-person events, especially in terms of funding,” Tzima said. “To adjust to the virtual format, gift cards were a huge part of everything [….] Everyone can use them no matter where they are.”
In light of this uncertainty, MFE has prepared for the possibility of cancelled international competitions. Team co-captain Benjamin Munt, U3 Engineering, described an alternative plan for the summer break in the case of unforeseen circumstances.
“If we are unable to compete internationally, we are hoping to spend [the money] organizing a local race for some of the schools in Ontario and Quebec,” Munt said.
Noting the success stories coming from the #irl11k competition, IRL Events looks forward to continuing and expanding its involvement and outreach within the McGill community.
“IRL is always looking for new event ideas, and they have a lot of cards up their sleeves in terms of student events,” Tzima said. “I think they’re an excellent resource for the deserving clubs on our campus.”