How to Host Effective Online Open Days

7 min read

A complete guide for marketing and student recruitment teams that plan on hosting effective online open days.

NUMed's Virtual Open Day powered by Fairwiz

It's crucial for marketing & student recruitment teams to regularly host events such as online open days to generate interest and get students excited to apply to your educational institution. Why are virtual open days important to your overall student recruitment strategy?

This guide is best suited for you if:

  • You're part of the marketing & student recruitment team at your school, college or university.
  • You're new to marketing and student recruitment.
  • You're looking to improve your marketing & student recruitment strategy.

In this article, we'll guide you through all stages of a virtual open day, from pre-event to during the event and post-event.

Pre-Event

Planning is an essential part of the event process.

Identify your target audience and establish your event objectives.

If your objective is not student recruitment, you may consider another event format rather than an online open day.  Your objectives should be SMART: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-Bound.

  • Specific: states what you'll do and uses action words.
  • Measurable: provides a way to evaluate and.
  • Achievable: it's possible to accomplish based on historical data or benchmarks.
  • Relevant: makes sense within your job function and improves the business in some way.
  • Time-bound: this should be self-explanatory.

Example: To receive applications from at least 5 Year 11 students for our Foundation / Pre-University courses in the region I handle before our upcoming enrolment deadline of date/time.

Find the right platform to host your virtual open day.

Choosing a suitable online event format and supporting tech is crucial for your student recruitment strategy to succeed. Should you host a webinar or a virtual open day? Can a virtual open day be hosted on Zoom, or would you need a different application? What about your event objectives? Depending on your goals, the resources that you'd need to fulfil them would change.

Many of you are currently using video-conferencing technology to host your online open days. Check out this article to find out whether that's suitable for your objectives or not.

Decide on your date(s) & time(s) and work backwards to plan your advertising & promotions.

To maximise participation, have your events on days best suited for your demographic. They also shouldn't clash with special occasions like national holidays or important local or global events.

As for time, remember your target demographic. For example, if your students based in a time zone that's different from yours, hosting your event at an hour when they'll be fast asleep would be a mistake.

Try to strike a balance between when your most qualified people can manage the event when it's live and when your target audience is most likely to tune in.

With that said, your focus should always be the event audience because if they're not around to experience all your team's effort, you won't meet your objectives.

It's essential to promote your online open day on all your marketing channels at least two weeks in advance. Best practice = 5 weeks in advance. Make sure that you use Google Tag Manager and add UTM tags to all your links from different marketing channels if your marketing channel doesn't have tracking links available for you. Check out this article on the various digital media you can leverage to promote your event.

In Fairwiz, we integrate with Google Tag Manager and you can see the source of where all your registrations and attendees come from – as long as you properly place UTM tags in your marketing links!

Design your event programme.

What kind of live or pre-recorded sessions would benefit your target audience, and that would drive traffic to your online open day.

Example: A final year student shares their journey at your institution and answers any questions from the audience.

Create a high-conversion event registration landing page.

Before you can even promote your event, you're going to need a landing page to showcase your event and the value of attending it. Learn the anatomy of a successful event registration page.

Create an engaging online open day environment.

Provide variety and something unique to make them want to click around, explore further, and initiate a 1:1 conversation.

Examples: virtual booth order/layout, upload 360 video tours, provide downloadable brochures, and so on.

REAL Schools customised their booths with Fairwiz's Hall Designer. They made them visually appealing at a glance. They also uploaded a background image to make their virtual booths like like they were in a virtual event space!

Schedule follow-up reminders.

Send an email, SMS, or other types of notifications to all your registered users to remind them of the value of attending your event. We recommend at least three reminders: a week before, a day early, an hour earlier.

If you choose the right event tech, you should have the function to send a follow-up reminder to registrants automatically. Automating these reminders frees up time for your team to focus on understanding your applicants and making better decisions.

In Fairwiz, you have the option to send emails and web push notifications automatically. 

Assign roles to relevant team members.

Assign people to tasks that will contribute to the event's success should have people assigned to them for accountability, e.g. live chat agents, webinar moderators, event managers, and other relevant roles.

Schedule a dry-run or test run for all live sessions.

Ensure all your technology will not fail once your event is open to the public.

Example: Mics and speakers for audio sessions or slides are correct.

Schedule a post-event survey.

Gather feedback from your attendees and participants. The right event tech should help you automate this process.

Event

It's the day of the event, what do you need to do?

Track attendance rates.

If attendance is low when it should be higher, figure out what you can do to bring in more traffic, e.g. schedule a reminder email.

Ideally, whatever event tech you use should allow you to track attendance rates in real-time like Fairwiz.

Check-in during the event on the overall performance.

Be on standby to monitor traffic (overall & to each booth).

Monitor live chats.

Ensure there are no chats that are left idle or unresponded.

Monitor attendance to live sessions.

If attendance is low, schedule an announcement. Is nobody asking questions? Get your colleagues or other students to come in and ask backup questions. Have a few people on your end (that don't look like they're from your institution) engage with participants. Check out these ideas for how to make your event more engaging.

Post-Event

Phew, you did it! Now, what's next?

Debrief with the team immediately after the event.

It's best to schedule a debrief right after the event, as whatever you remember of what went well or what didn't go well will still be fresh in your mind. Use this time to share feedback with everyone, discuss how the next event can be better, and schedule a more in-depth session at a later stage to review a post-mortem report.

Create a post-mortem report to review with the team.

Analyse the event database, chat transcripts, most successful marketing channels, and any other crucial information.

A good event platform will allow you even to study the behaviour of your attendees.

In Fairwiz, you can track an individual's activity throughout the event. Which booths they entered, what files they downloaded, and so on.

Once you have all that information ready in a digestible format, share it with the team. When you should be doing a post-mortem depends on your sales cycle. Think about how long it takes for you to enrol a student from when they attend your event.

Follow up with your attendees.

It's essential to contact attendees within 24 hours post-event. By getting in touch before the lead goes cold, you'll prove to them that you value them. This helps them to build a sense of belonging and often leads to improved conversion results.

Calls are a great way to ensure the connections you made during the event build into mutually beneficial relationships post-event. Just remember to ring at a pleasant hour! If they're unresponsive to your calls, consider sending a customised email that summarises the event and any discussions you've had that reinforces what your institution can offer them. At the end of the email, encourage the student to reach out to you when they're ready, in whatever way suits them, and you can also remind them to take your survey.

So that's it! This is your ultimate guide on how to host effective online open days regardless of whether you use Fairwiz or not.

Many educational institutions use Fairwiz, with the help of our Customer Success Team, to host their virtual open days effectively. Want to learn how Fairwiz can power your virtual open days and join our network of customers? Book a demo or send us an email to learn more.

Written by Lauralyn (Laura)