Are you looking to host a virtual housing fair for your incoming students this fall? Great choice! With the advent of virtual event hosting technology, it has become easier and effortless to host a housing expo online and help your students from around the world find accommodation before they get to their new home city.

We have put together this guide to help you host the best virtual housing fair for your students. Here, we will cover the following:

Let’s get started!

What is a Virtual Housing Fair?

A virtual housing fair offers an opportunity for current and prospective students to connect with housing providers, ask questions about the available accommodation, and find out more about living both on and off-campus. 

Student housing services present several housing options for students to choose from such as apartments, rooms, etc. Presentations and virtual tours by specific housing providers are also available within the booths. Additionally, virtual housing fairs include sessions for students from different university reps about the tips to find accommodation, legal advice for incoming students, renting do’s and don’ts, on-campus facilities, etc.

Online housing fairs are a great way for students to kick off their house hunt for the semester, and get all their questions answered. In addition, student legal services can help them understand their rights during their stay.

Benefits of Virtual Housing Fairs

virtual housing fair

There are several reasons why you should host a virtual student living fair for your current and prospective students. Let’s look at the top 5 reasons:

1. Ease of Access

Ease of access is perhaps one of the most important benefits of hosting virtual housing fairs. In person, events are mostly restricted to or limited by the geographical location but that is not the case with online events. You can easily connect students and accommodation providers from different locations.

Not just this, students can attend from anywhere they want – whether from their favorite coffee shop or the comfort of their home. Additionally, you can accommodate as many students and exhibitors as you want – since there are no space limitations when you are hosting virtually. 

2. Cost-Effective

Virtual fairs cost significantly less than physical fairs. This is because there are no venue, catering, and staffing costs. If you are inviting speakers to give valuable sessions to students, you can work with a smaller budget since there are no travel, transportation, and accommodation costs. 

All you have to do is pay a small fee to set up and customize your virtual platform and you are good to go. 

3. Time-Efficient

Organizing in-person events can take days, weeks, and sometimes even months of planning. You are required to book the venue months in advance. And don’t get us started on the marketing activities to attract attendees for registrations. All this not only sounds overwhelming, it actually is. 

On the other hand, virtual events don’t take as long. You will be able to successfully host a housing fair even on short notice. In fact, virtual event hosting platforms always offer a dedicated project manager to make sure everything runs smoothly. Also, some good platforms come with in-built marketing tools to take care of your pre-event hype. All this and more! 

4. Networking Opportunities

When you’re organizing a physical event, you may have noticed that many landlords don’t even get a chance to meet every candidate one-on-one. Similarly, long lines at booths make it impossible for students to interact with providers and many of them go home empty-handed.

Through virtual housing fairs, students get a chance to individually e-meet housing providers through real-time chat and 1:1 meetings. They also get to collect as much information as possible about available options. Moreover, students can seamlessly navigate the event to visit their preferred booths.

5. Measurable Results

You can easily track your event’s ROI and results if you host a virtual fair. You can easily collect valuable information such as how many students have visited the booths, set up their profiles, instigated a chat with an accommodation provider, and viewed a video, among other things. Based on all the insights, you can improve your strategy and plans. Whereas during physical events, even taking an individual student’s feedback can become a headache!

How to Host a University Virtual Housing Fair

virtual housing fair

Preparing for a virtual housing fair takes a great deal of work. Let’s look at how you can host a successful virtual fair: 

Step 1: Determine your Goal

The first step is always the most important because if you are not clear about your event goals, then you are in trouble! If your university is hosting an online housing fair for students, your main goal is to connect students with as many accommodation providers as possible all in one place – so they can narrow down their housing search. 

You also want to offer your students the opportunity to chat with providers and student services staff, get virtual tours of available spaces, ask questions and find out more about living on and off-campus.

Step 2: Select the Virtual Event Hosting Platform

Now it’s time for you to select your event hosting platform. You need to consider the features you need to host a striking fair. We will talk more about that in a bit. Apart from features, you can evaluate your choices based on the provider’s years of experience, cost, support, and user interface. 

Remember to browse case studies and client success stories of every platform you are considering. This will help you understand the platform and know whether it is the right fit. Good virtual event solutions will offer you a live demo to answer all your questions.

Step 3: Set up your Event Schedule

Next, focus on setting up the logistics for your virtual housing fair. Here you will decide the complete schedule of your event including the date and time. You will also need to decide how many exhibitors will attend and how many webinars will run. Also, make sure to have your complete schedule on the event’s landing page because it would make it easier for students to seamlessly navigate the fair and connect with housing providers they are interested in without any confusion. 

Step 4: Promote your Event

After you have planned out your schedule – creating a pre-event hype to attract attendees should be next on your checklist. Because even if you have everything planned out, launching the event without attendees is meaningless. Now you must be thinking, ‘how can I get people to join?’ – it’s not a big deal. All you need is a well-thought-out marketing plan! 

Since the fair is for incoming and existing students – leverage email marketing and your university’s website to get the word out. You can inform everyone about the fair through newsletters and by posting ads on university soft boards and student forums. Moreover, you can share the event platform’s screenshots and a list of companies who are participating to stir up the excitement.

Step 5: Invite Potential Speakers

Now you need to make a list of all the potential speakers that you should invite to deliver sessions such as legal advisors, real estate advisors, campus staff, etc. To support your search, you can either use practical tools to find speakers in your industry or use the contacts you already have to save both time and effort – all up to you!

Must-Have Virtual Housing Fair Platform Features 

housing expo

Your choice of virtual housing fair platform should not only enable you to create amazing attendee experiences, but it should also allow you to engage them through virtual tours, 1:1 chat with housing vendors, and more.

Make sure that your event hosting platform has the following features to make your student housing fair successful:

Customization Options

Event branding is one of the most important ways through which you can excite and interest the students to attend your event. 

You should look for a platform that not only allows you to showcase your university or college but also the housing providers through ample branding options. You should be able to add logos, relevant imagery, brand colors, videos, and all sorts of items to highlight your identity. 

3D Virtual Environments

The platform should provide a ‘real’ experience to attendees through virtual environment features, something that is closer to physical events. Therefore having 3D interfaces is a game-changer. 

We all know how hard it can be for university student affairs to engage students during the virtual event and let’s not talk about webinar fatigue. But interactive 3D designs such as auditoriums, virtual lobbies, booths, avatars let you bring your virtual event to life and help you keep your audience glued to the screen.

Virtual Exhibit Halls/ Booths

You need individual personalized and fully customizable booths for your exhibitors or accommodation providers. Because booths should enable them to deliver virtual tours of available spaces, upload floor plans, and other documents. Virtual booths will make it easier for students to find the information they need in real-time. 

Chat Features

Features such as chat/ group chat and 1:1 meetings are a great way for attendees and exhibitors to connect and develop relationships throughout the virtual housing expo. 

Your students should be able to get the conversation going with video and audio chat options. A meeting scheduler is another great way to let incoming students reserve appointments with student housing services, property agents, or landlords within the exhibit booths to ask direct questions about on-campus living or off-campus housing.

Live & Pre-recorded Webinars

Speakers such as legal advisors and university staff should be able to conduct live, semi-live, or pre-recorded sessions to familiarize prospective students with on-campus facilities, available spaces, etc. Additionally, at the end of webinars students should be able to ask questions through a live Q&A session. 

Event Reports

Your event hosting platform should also enable you to measure the performance of your virtual housing fair through event reports such as fair turnout, student engagement, and ROI. Additionally, data analytics helps filter out meaningful event information, that allows you to improve attendee engagement to create more personalized content. 

Moreover, it helps you better understand your audience and their behaviors, and make your future virtual events more impactful.

Tips to Find the Best Virtual Housing Fair Platform

on campus / off campus living

Finding the best virtual housing fair platform can be very challenging for university and college student housing services staff. There are so many options available in the market. Here are some tips to help you choose the best virtual student living fair platform:

Know What You Need

The virtual event hosting platform looks great, but does it offer all the features necessary to make your event a success? This is where you have to be very smart about your decision. List all your ‘nice-to-haves and ‘must-have’ features and then choose a platform. Because at the end of the day, platform features should help you achieve your goals. 

Stick to Your Budget

Some virtual event platforms are free with basic features and others are premium solutions. So it’s crucial to set up a budget and make a list of must-have features before jumping straight into it. This will not only save you time by narrowing down your research but also help you find the right fit. 

Compare Reviews

Top review platforms like G2 and Capterra offer unbiased customer reviews about products including ratings and reports on user satisfaction. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check them out to compare platforms. Choose the platform that has the highest ratings and positive customer reviews by other universities and colleges. 

Reach out to Similar Event Hosts

There is no harm in reaching out to universities or colleges that have hosted similar events before you. You can always ask for the platform that they have utilized and their experience and whether they would recommend the same platform to you or not. 

Request for Demonstration

Have you performed an extensive search and narrowed it down to a couple of platforms that interest you but still find it hard to make one final decision? The best step forward is to book a one-on-one demo session with the product expert. Product demos are highly effective because they enable you to understand how the solution truly works. Also, you can visually see the ‘value’ for money that the platform offers you.

Virtual Housing Expo Examples 

vFairs is wow-ing its customers with top-notch features and tools necessary for hosting striking virtual housing fairs for universities, and colleges. 

Liverpool Student Homes

liverpool students home

vFairs helped LSH to host its virtual housing fair in March 2021. LSH is owned and managed by the University of Liverpool, and other colleges in the area. The LSH virtual housing fair provided students with an opportunity to meet a selection of LSH accredited landlords, and explore their accommodation options for the 2021/22 academic year.

Penn’s Off-Campus Housing Fair

penn off campus service - vfairs

Similarly, Penn Off-Campus Services partnered with V-fairs to host a virtual housing fair. Off-Campus Services (OCS), is a department of Penn’s Business Services Division that provides resources and tools to assist and support student’s housing searches. They provide them with information to help make finding an off-campus home less stressful.

Through the event, students got a chance to live chat with both Penn departments and local landlords, from any location and on any device, without downloading any type of software. They also virtually visited as many booths as they chose without having to travel anywhere. 

Virtual Housing Fair Tips for Universities

Want to host a fair that becomes the talk of the town for weeks, if not months? Here are some tips to help you host the most valuable virtual housing expo for your students:

  • Have a beautiful landing page for your virtual housing fair with all the necessary information such as event agenda, speaker bios, sponsors, time, day, date. Landing pages act as a gateway to your event and are considered essential. 
  • Make sure your landing pages are optimized for SEO to boost the page ranking in Google search results. 
  • Offer a user-friendly registration form so that students can easily register for and attend your fair.
  • Use email marketing to attract your students to the event. You can also send out email blasts to create some pre-event buzz. 
  • Set clear expectations for your exhibitors who are showcasing their spaces. 
  • Prepare content way ahead of time. Teaser videos can always spark some level of excitement and curiosity among event attendees. 
  • Market your event through social media channels since they offer the most influential places today. 
  • Ask your speakers, and exhibitors to spread the word. 

Read more about – How to Promote your Virtual Housing Fair

Virtual Housing Fair Tips for Accommodation Providers

Have you decided to exhibit at a virtual fair? Here are some tips for you to get the most out of your virtual booth:

  • Focus on branding when you set up your booth to help you stand out from other providers.
  • Make full use of text, audio, and video chat. Use both group and private chat to address questions and connect with students.
  • Upload content such as guides, floor plans, checklists, and property flyers that students can browse and download.
  • You should include a virtual tour of the available space in your booth to attract tenants.
  • You should host at least one webinar with live Q&A to boost your brand visibility

Key Takeaway

A virtual housing fair is an effective way to connect incoming students with accommodation providers to ensure your students secure on/off-campus housing. Because by going virtual you are breaking down the limitations and barriers. You are essentially bringing your event to the student body spread across different locations and giving them an opportunity to secure accommodation before stepping onto the campus. Just remember to follow our tips as you navigate your virtual event journey.

Considering a Virtual Housing Fair? Book a demo now.

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