As the COVID-19 pandemic puts the world in lockdown, higher education institutions are increasingly hosting events online to engage with their key audiences. We’ve been working with our university partners for years to maximise digital event registration, attendance and ultimately conversion to enrolment. Ramping up these efforts in response to the coronavirus crisis, we’ve supported our university partners with webinars attracting several thousand attendees across the last two and half weeks.
Through this experience, we’ve spotted some surprising trends in our student behaviour data and have compiled steps we’ve found to be good practice for successfully engaging prospective students and achieving enrolment goals. We hope this helps as you get into the swing of online events.
1. Choose a relevant topic
Carefully consider the needs and interests of your student audiences and craft event content accordingly. A great way to get a sense for topics that are top-of-mind for students is by analysing trends in student FAQs.
2. Determine the best delivery format
Think critically about HOW your speaker is going to present on your chosen topic. There are various formats to choose from – like a traditional PowerPoint lecture, a TED Talk style speech, a mix of slide and webcam sharing – and it’s just as important to be strategic in your delivery as it is in choosing a topic.
3. Use interactive features to engage your audience
Online event systems offer a variety of features to interact with your audience like polls and Q&A chat boxes. As you’re building the content for your session, think about opportunities for audience participation and which interactive features best fit with the goals of your event.
4. Promote persistently
Include speaker bios and photos on the event registration page to show credibility and garner interest in your experts. Launch an omni-channel promotional plan that continues right up until the point you go live.
5. Prep and practice
Even the most seasoned speakers get camera-shy. Schedule practice sessions to acclimate your speaker to the event technology and to exercise the nuances of managing tone of voice, hand gestures and facial expressions when in front of a camera instead of a physical audience.
6. Build your post-event survey
Publish a survey to launch at the end of your event that asks for feedback on the content and format of the event. This is also a great opportunity to ask students what topics they’d like addressed next.
7. Set up your presentation environment
Make sure your speaker is in a quiet space with a strong internet connection. If your presenter is using video, ensure there is nothing inappropriate in the background of the video and that there is good lighting.
8. Anticipate student questions
Despite all the news on the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of questions students are asking in virtual events is typical of any recruitment cycle – visas, accommodation, entry requirements, fees/scholarships, employment prospects. Since March 2020, only 5.8% of questions asked during virtual events hosted by UniQuest have been regarding COVID-19.
9. Launch segmented follow-up communications
Your event may have ended but your campaign hasn’t. Be equally as persistent in your follow-up as you were in recruiting students to register. Nurture interest from both your no-shows and your attendees with segmented, personalised communications across multiple channels like email, WhatsApp and phone calls.
10. Measure results
Review registration and attendee reports generated in your event system to calculate attendance rates. UniQuest has seen an average attendance rate of 45% across its UK university partners since March 2020 with attendance rates rising as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Beyond attendance rate, it’s key to track your digital events’ impact on enrolments which requires the right platform and processes to manage and measure the complete student journey.
We have conversations with thousands of students daily and are busy reporting the latest trends in student demand and perceptions amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Follow us on LinkedIn for weekly insights to help you engage your prospective students in these uncertain times.