The most effective way to increase student engagement during University or College Open Houses is to run your event virtually.
I can already sense there may be people preparing to debate that statement and defend the value of in-person events with comments like: "There's value in actually seeing the campus that can't be matched by watching an online video' or 'students have to be here to truly experience what we have to offer at our school."
You're not wrong, there are benefits and advantages to in-person events that are difficult to replicate in an online format. It is the same rationale that results in 14.7 million people traveling to Egypt to see the pyramids each year instead of just taking an online tour of them. But, when it comes to maximizing student engagement during your open house, a virtual open house is your best option. Let me explain why.
For University and College open house events, student engagement is arguably the most important metric for success. The more engaged your students are with your sessions, the more likely you were to make a positive impression that will contribute towards their decision to accept an admissions offer. Virtual open house events are designed to facilitate engagement by improving these three key factors for your event:
- Attendance rate
- Quality of experience provided
- Number of engagement opportunities
Virtual Open House Attendance Rates
In case you're still feeling skeptical about my claim that virtual events will increase your event engagement, it's important to know that 63% of people are more likely to attend a virtual event than an in-person event.
The most obvious reason for the increased attendance rate is that making your open house available online breaks down many of the logistics, time, and socioeconomic barriers that would prevent out-of-state, or international students and their families from attending an in-person event. Additionally, using a virtual event format can make your event more accessible by allowing people to engage at their own pace and allows your audience to integrate apps like Otter to enhance their learning experience.
Of particular importance right now during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the need for an open house experience that is aligned with the social distancing measures and global travel restrictions that are in place, virtual events fulfill this criteria too.
From a purely quantitative perspective, more prospective students attending your event equals more engagement.
Quality of Virtual Open House Experiences
We know that audiences are most engaged with a presentation when the presenters are passionate and knowledgeable about their topic. Unfortunately, not all presenters who meet this criteria also have the charisma to captivate audiences and encourage high levels of engagement. The quality of your presenters during your open house are directly correlated to the quality of your engagement and interactions with prospects and leads.
One of the biggest benefits of virtual events is their scalability, this eliminates capacity issues for your most sought after sessions. Moving your open house online allows you to have thousands of students attend a single session or keynote speaker presentation.
The other benefit that short people like me will appreciate, is that you never have to worry about getting stuck sitting behind the tallest person in the room during a presentation. Everyone watching a virtual open house session gets a perfect view with adjustable audio which enhances the quality of their event experience.
Providing the highest quality content for your audience during your virtual open house will improve the quality of your interactions and engagements with prospective students.
Increased Engagement Opportunities
During traditional events, one of the first things presenters tell you is to hold your questions until the end. More often than not, you forget what you wanted to ask by the time you're allowed to ask a question, or you're limited to asking only one question that may not even get answered. This is not the case with virtual open houses.
During a virtual open house, students and attendees can submit their questions directly to the presenter at any time throughout the session. If you're running your event as a simulive webinar, presenters can answer questions directly using the live chat features in real-time during the event. If your running a live virtual open house session, your team can respond using the chat feature while you present, the presenter can answer the questions during the live Q&A, or you can use a combination of both methods. Whichever format you have chosen, virtual events allow more people to ask questions and ensure that everybody's questions get answered.
Fact: 47% of people are more likely to ask a question during a virtual event.
Beyond Q&A sessions, virtual open house events can include other standard engagement opportunities like polling questions, audience chats, and links to additional resources. They can also be customized to include app integrations or interactive experiences to maximize engagement. For example, if your campus has been mapped by Google, you could embed the interactive map into the auditorium where your campus tour session will run and have a tour guide tell people about the campus, while your audience follows along and explores the Google map.
Transitioning your college or university open house to a virtual event is the best choice you can make to improve the level of event engagement you receive from prospective students. They are designed to maximize the quantity, quality and frequency of engagements from students, which will help you make a better first impression and achieve your desired enrollment rates for your upcoming semesters.
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