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A successful Open Day is only measured by the number of attendees that showed up! The more attendees you have, the better the chances there will be more applicants. So how does one attract applicants to their virtual open day?
In order to maximize the number of participants, there are a few best practices to follow. If you are new to the sphere of virtual open days, we have some tips and tricks ready for you. Courtney Rivard, Special Events from Cambrian College and Luke Seamone, Outgoing Executive Director, Admissions from Appleby College gave vFairs some excellent insight.
First and foremost, the objective according to both panelists is to provide as much information as possible to prospective students. The aim is to help them make the most informed decision they possibly can in choosing their post secondary institution, which means being exhaustive with information.
This is usually targeting those individuals at the top end of the funnel. vFairs client and Outgoing Executive Director, Admissions at Appleby College Luke Seamone has mentioned that they have begun using vFairs for conversion tactics. That is, for those who have already been admitted to join in a different format, to help them feel part of the community. Appleby college has also used the virtual events for onboarding for registered students in springtime events.
Courtney Rivard, Special Events at Cambrian College, stated that, through virtual events such as these, they have expanded their reach to prospective students across the globe. Without geographical limitations such as through a physical event, they had 43 countries participate in the Zoom sessions and 65 countries participate in the event over all, at the recent springtime virtual open day. Within the Zoom session this was a 70% increase in a year and overall it was 30% increase.
Luke echoed Courtney’s view that 30% of the current student body at Appleby’s was from overseas and so they wish to target those audiences. This is enabled much more easily through virtual open days.
The application process is always nerve wracking for students. So the event has to be informative in anything you can imagine students would need to know in order to make their decisions.
The aim is to develop interest, and thus it is important to include current students, alumni and faculty members. Give them an opportunity to connect with the community, so it opens up the opportunity for having more in depth conversation.
Word of mouth is still quite huge in marketing for the demographics they wished to attract and still plays a very important role. Both panelists said it is key to encourage people to share their posts on social media or to engage with alumni in order to promote the college.
A lot of current students speaking to prospective students is a great win. For instance, international students speaking to their friends and family at home about their experience, greatly encourages other students to participate in open days.
However, for communication they rely over email and drive to their website, where they share schedules of the day and how to register. Promotion is also market dependent and so push through their existing inquiry database where there is already a buy in. One can advertise on their website and main page and some print, advertising within local organizations,
Courtney stated that they make use of student social media ambassadors who do a lot of cross content and guest spot lighting. They post about the virtual open days and even conduct social media takeovers. They have noticed that talks with other students really help. For their demographic, they have seen that Facebook and Tiktok are more popular. Linkedin is for an entirely different avenue, such as parents.
Luke however mentioned that there are regional differences in success of social media outlets. They target students more than parents with their social media content. Their reliance is heavier on instagram than Linkedin.
SEO and target marketing, radio campaigns and television ads, international communications are avenues they use to communicate with other regions.
Courtney mentioned that their paid impressions reached about 1M in some of their ads and that they do usually convert. She even said Spotify offers great reach.
When asked if SMS and text messaging still works, Courtney stated that a few years ago they did implement a text avenue. They have sent about 30k texts, with only 8 people who unsubscribed. There isn’t a lot of data on text messaging but they have seen a good response. People actually respond, even months later and proceed to ask questions. Everyone is on their phone and that is how people want to communicate
Both Courtney and Luke agreed that they promote two to three months in advance because if they do it too soon attendees will forget. Prior to the event they send emails and reminders. Registrations usually open a month in advance to avoid a disconnect.
Luke said they usually start with teasers and within one month window the tune changes to registration. After which three reminder emails are sent to all registrants: a week before, a day before and the morning of. According to Luke, too many reminders might become overwhelming.
Courtney also mentioned that they have seen that a registration reminder email sent two hours before the event brings a significant increase in numbers.
In order to be an event that is remembered, it is important to promote the gamifications and prizes in the social media leading up to the event. This, Courtney says, creates a buzz.
The panelists expressed a varied strategy on training. They said they merely wanted their faculty and students to understand what the platform looks like, what might be occurring in the day and simply provide a lot of resources. They train in advance so everyone can navigate the platform and give prior access. They even hold mock conversations with attendees.
They stated that with the help of vFairs they had a lot of chat guides, what to expect and what is available.
Both panelists said they typically have things done live. Where participants can come and speak to everyone. If there are live sessions, they do record these sessions. Live events are the highlights of most open days, they said.
Luke said they usually have a three day Open Day for Appleby College. This includes a student panel to showcase the school and what to expect.
According to Courtney, gamifications really encourage engagement with one attendee gaining 300k points. They tend to give amazon gift cards, local vendor gift cards and even scholarships. She said they tend to see great excitement with those prizes and its great for engagement on social media. Attendees post pictures with their prizes and share their experience.
To get an in-depth look at this topic, vFairs hosted its 6th Edition of our webcast series, Epic Events, with ‘Tips to Attract the Best Applicants with Virtual Open Days’ on 21st April, 2022. Wasif Arshad, vFairs sales expert, was joined by panelists Luke Seamone, Outgoing Executive Director, Admissions, Appleby College and Courtney Rivard, Special Events, Cambrian College.
They had a lot of interesting insight to offer on how to best attract applicants to their events.
To see for yourself, you can watch it all here.
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