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COVID-19 is causing a lot of organisations to reassess how they host online events. With safety and accessibility at the forefront of everyone’s minds, this is not a surprise. And, it’s not just large corporate entities and marketing agencies - colleges and universities are increasingly turning to virtual events as a way to connect with prospective students.
Specifically, the higher education industry is seeing a massive increase in the number of virtual open days being planned and run across the globe.
But, before we get into why colleges, universities and educational institutions are taking their events online, let’s go over some of the basics about the who, what, why and how of virtual open days.
So what types of organisations are using virtual open days? I’ve already mentioned colleges and universities, who are by far the primary consumers of this type of virtual event.
That’s because virtual open days allow these institutions to expand the reach of their event and open their doors to a global audience. More and more schools are trying to attract international students, and by embracing online events, colleges and universities can have a truly global reach.
But, it’s not just colleges and universities who benefit from virtual open days. Real estate agents are seeing some success in hosting their open houses online. Not only is it a great way to showcase a listing without putting prospective home buyers at risk, it’s what buyers want.
The majority of people want a virtual tour or open day of some kind, with 67% of surveyed participants saying they want to see this aspect when they’re looking at a listing.
Virtual open days and open houses are great for any organization that wants to expand their reach, increase interaction, and showcase their institution with relative ease.
Let’s back up a second though, and look at what a virtual open day actually is.
Like the name implies, virtual open days are open houses that take place online, rather than in-person. Prospective students (or prospective buyers in the case of real estate agents) can access curated content where they can, for example, take a virtual tour, attend online information sessions, and ask questions using elements like live chat.
Usually they are multi-session events combining webinars, webcasts, panel discussions, etc. This means that once you register and hit the event landing page, attendees can choose between different options. Maybe you have a keynote address and then some smaller breakout sessions. Or, perhaps you want to stream events to attendees by subject interest. You would have different sessions for each, all accessible via an event lobby or landing page.
In a word, nothing.
The difference between a virtual open day and virtual open house is semantic; it depends on what term you prefer and this is largely dictated by what industry is running the event.
For colleges and universities, virtual open day is probably more common as they tend to be a bit more robust and include a number of different streams or sessions.
Virtual open house is a term that is more popular among the real estate industry, which makes sense, as it mimics the term they already use when referring to viewings of a property. The industry may also use open house versus open day to indicate that the tour or session is a few hours rather than a longer, all-day event.
Other than that, these two terms mean essentially the same thing - a virtual session wherein prospects can gather more information and take a virtual tour of a school or listing.
Why do organizations run virtual open days? Well, there are a number of benefits to this type of event:
Now you know the what and the why, the question is how. Here is a quick list to get you started:
What does a virtual open day actually look like? Here are a few examples from the world of WorkCast.
Durham University Business School
Founded in 1832, Durham University Business School (DUBS) is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world. Consisting of 16 colleges, 25 departments and over 175,000 students, Durham University’s international alumni spans over 100 countries worldwide.
The main goal for DUBS’ university virtual open day was to break down geographical barriers, and extend their reach to prospective students around the UK and internationally.
In the end, DUBS exceeded their registration target by 36% with their virtual open day and over 60% of registrants engaged with the event. It was also able to extend its global reach, with 26.5% of registrants coming from international students (i.e. outside the UK and EU).
The Toronto, Canada-based Applied Arts & Technology Institution has 10 campuses throughout the Toronto area, with over 30,000 full-time students and tens of thousands of applications every year.
Using a virtual open day, Seneca College created an orientation event that was easily accessible to new starters on a global scale, so students could access the event wherever they were in the world.
The result? The college exceeded their targets for audience interactions and attendance rates for the event, with over 1,238 registrations, a 72% attendance rate and over 370 questions were asked throughout the day.
Now you know the who, what, why and how of hosting virtual open days, you can transition your in-person university or college open days to inclusive online events and open your doors to international audiences.
Download our free eBook to learn everything you need to know about planning, hosting and promoting virtual open days.