This summer, students will choose from hundreds of university Open Days. And you know that they’ll all have the obligatory welcome / sales pitch, the classic hall of information (with department staff behind desks), and those student-led campus tours.
Of course, we all have to include these – they’re the building blocks of your open days. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t have fun with the wallpaper.
Creating an event that is memorable, effective and unique is a priority for all Higher Education institutions. But it’s not always that straightforward.
I’ve organised over 25 large-scale student recruitment events including many Open Days. Here are five things I’ve learned about creating events that stand out from the crowd.
With an ever-increasing number of providers, universities are always looking for their unique selling point. Find that one thing that makes your University different from competitors and make it the focus of your event. If that’s great industry connections, invite partners along to network with prospective students – or if it’s your location, offer tours of the local area. Find that USP and offer something outside the box to demonstrate this which will pique the interest of your attendees.
We know that students take in more information when they’re actively learning, so feed this into the planning of your Open Day programme. Instead of the standard department introduction talks, mix things up with seminars, workshops, or lab experiments that your prospects can get involved in! This will ensure your sessions are not just engaging, but memorable too.
Your students are your biggest advocates, so make sure to incorporate them wherever possible into sessions. Don’t stop at campus tours. Ensure there is a student presence across the board in both department and advice talks throughout the event – offering their perspective alongside the key factual information that staff will be delivering.
When trying to be conscious of spending, quite often the ’nice touches’ are the first things to be cut. Don’t forget that these are often the bits that guests remember, which make you stand out as the sort of place they’d like to be. That free cup of coffee after a long journey to an Open Day should never be under-estimated!
Open Days answer many of your prospective students’ questions, but they often create a lot more too. Make sure that across the event you are clearly communicating the different ways students can get in touch following the event.
One way to facilitate this post-event communication is through Unibuddy. Hand out Unibuddy business cards to encourage peer to peer conversations to continue beyond the day.
Putting on an Open Day is a huge undertaking, but the rewards are enormous. Nothing compares to seeing the university in person and meeting the students and staff face-to-face. By making sure your event stands out from the many others that prospective students will attend, you can ensure you’re maximising your return from these crucial events.
Image via woodleywonderworks