How to make your virtual open event a success

Oxford virtual open events

For education providers, virtual open events are currently an effective way to engage a community of prospective parents and students during COVID-19 restrictions. If you are thinking of holding a virtual open event, there are some key things to consider.

For education providers, an open event presents a unique opportunity to engage a community of prospective parents and students via tours and one to ones. 

They are an effective marketing tool in the education sector as schools, universities, colleges and training providers compete to attract students to join them. During the COVID-19 pandemic they have been unable to host traditional open days and many are turning to digital solutions to engage. 

Video and virtual events are increasingly being utilised by educational establishments to showcase their facilities, courses, tutors and culture and to facilitate Q&As. It is likely this will continue beyond the pandemic with a hybrid approach being adopted combining physical and virtual open days. This will be particularly appealing to those marketing to an international audience. 

Engaging content


To successfully host a virtual event, you will need to plan the structure of your session. It will be important to consider your objectives and the key information and access the guests will need from the limited time available. Consider who your target audience is and what form of communication would be best to appeal to them. Keep your language and delivery simple.

We would advise starting the event with a video that provides a tour of the facilities and interviews with key people. This will engage your audience straight away and draw them in by telling your story visually. 

A personal welcome should then take place followed by talks by key members of staff. You should also consider including current students in a virtual event for guests to hear from and talk to about student life. 

A further effective engagement tool is a Q&A session offering guests the opportunity to ask questions. Furthermore, you could also create smaller break-out groups where each key tutor hosts smaller groups for further conversation. This enables your guests to focus on the topics and courses that interest them, ensuring maximum engagement is achieved and your visitors obtain the information they need. Digital platforms enable the host to create rooms for smaller breakout meetings to take place and for Q&As to be managed via a chat function. This help ensure enhanced interaction with your guests. 

Video


Research confirms video is a powerful way to engage your audience. In 2020 Wyzowl found 89% of marketers said video gives them a good ROI and 80% said it has helped increase sales. 

With social restrictions meaning people cannot physically visit schools and colleges video provides a fantastic alternative. It means you can showcase your facilities, people and culture via the powerful medium of film. 

Fortitude Communications produced a video for national apprenticeship training provider Ignite Sport UK to broadcast at virtual open events, use on its website and in wider marketing activity. 

Without video our recruitment campaign during the pandemic would have been so much harder,” said Hannah Bladen, general manager at Ignite Sport UK. The video really communicates our story effectively and is now a central part of our recruitment campaign. It has proved to be a fantastic investment for our business.” 

Ignite Sport UK have held series of successful online open events via Zoom as part of its recruitment campaign.

Sustainability


Video provides schools and other education providers with a timeless marketing tool that is relevant for digital and in-person scenarios. It can it used repeatedly in different ways and in different places, providing a sustainable showcase digital product that keeps working for you. 

Further education provider Velocity Football commissioned Fortitude Communications to produce a marketing video. It has been used for a series of virtual open events, is hosted on its website and YouTube channel and has been utilised on social media to further develop its audience. 

Video has helped us to tell Velocity’s story to our target audiences,” said Louise Merritt, Velocity Football’s operations director. But even when we begin to welcome people to physical open events, we will be able to re-purpose our film – making it a sustainable investment.”

Online platforms


A key consideration is which online platform to use to deliver your event smoothly. 

Lockdown has seen many families become familiar with Zoom calls as virtual quizzes and group chats replaced physically meeting family and friends. The platform offers a video webinar option that supports presentation engagement tools including group chat, live broadcasting and polling. 

Zoom generates income via its four-tier structure with pricing plans ranging from £11.99 per month to £39 per month. All plans allow for up to 100 participants by default, this can be expanded to 1,000 with large meeting add-on. 

There are other options available too. Adobe Connect is a web conferencing platform that allows users to develop presentations and online training materials that can add a practical element to a virtual open evening. This option is more costly though with packages ranging from £36 to £95 per month. Adobe’s most expensive option accommodates 1,500 viewers in one meeting. 

ON24, GoToWebinar, and Skype provide similar features too. To provide your viewers with a smooth video call experience, we suggest an internet speed of 600kbps for basic one-to-one video calling. This rises to 1.0Mbps for group video calling, though, and 3.0Mbps when broadcasting high-quality videos. 

The best way to have full confidence in your technical capabilities is to run a dress rehearsal at least two days in advance of your broadcast. 

Sign-ups


Alongside planning an engaging virtual open event you also need to market it well to achieve a good number of signups to each session. 

This will require a multi-pronged approach. Firstly, informing the public of your open event details via the news or blog section on your website will help to get the ball rolling. 

A news story launching your open event should contain several key pieces of information: When your open event is taking place and how long for, who your event is targeting, what your company provides, comments from a director or chief executive and details of how to sign up. This story can later be re-purposed into a press release to target local media and trade press to further grow exposure. 

A news story can then be published onto your social media platforms which in turn can benefit from paid advertising that targets audiences you want to reach.. 

Consider too if your business has any partners, and can they help promote your open event via their outlets. Lastly, E-Shots can help current members of your existing audience act as a bridge towards new business. Remember not to overdo E-Shots though, you will quickly lose engagement so timing is key. 

Get in touch 


If you would like to discuss hosting a virtual open event, or a video, for your business please get in touch here.

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