1) Increased reach into international markets
One of the really interesting things about leaning into the virtual events space in higher education is that institutions have been able to unlock new markets and reach prospective students they may not have been able to engage with before. Craig Cockburn, Head of International Recruitment at the University of St Andrews explains more:
“We wondered, by going online, would we get greater engagement from other parts of the world? The answer to that was a resounding yes. There have been three or four times as many international students coming to our events as they have previously.”
2) More accessible for students
Campus tours are great, but if your campus is tricky to get to then that can pose a challenge. You may end up with students choosing simply not to attend your open days because of logistical reasons. Virtual events are a cheaper, convenient, and much more accessible option for many. The fact that they also alleviate your institution’s carbon footprint is also a win, and can also score points with Generation Z for whom sustainability and the environment are critical issues.
However, it’s also important to ensure your virtual events comply with online accessibility guidelines. Do your website and the platform you’re using for your event align with current guidelines? Is the text large enough and is the check-in process easy to navigate? There are all really important questions to consider for your next hybrid event.
3) Meaningful data to inform decisions
With in-person events, gathering meaningful data can be a bit of a minefield. You probably know how many students attended your open day in total, but will you really know how many people actually showed up to each talk, tour, or session? Possibly not, right? On the flip side, a hybrid event allows you to extract meaningful data much more easily.
With a virtual session, you know how many prospective students signed up, how many actually showed up, how many dropped off halfway through – and you can use that data to shape and inform how your events look in future. What sessions were most popular? What had a high drop-off rate? What could you do more or less or in the future? It’s all there.
With more meaningful data, you can continually iterate, and custom design a programme for maximum input.
4) Increased flexibility and convenience
Up until last year, open days were pretty rigid in the sense that they took place at a certain time on a certain date. If that didn’t work for a particular student, they could attend at another time, but wouldn’t get the full experience of an open day. That’s not the case anymore.
With hybrid events, you can run multiple sessions to create an experience that is both engaging – and convenient. You can also deliver your events on demand so that if students are signing in from a particular time zone, it still works for them. In short, you have an opportunity to globalise your virtual events in a way you simply couldn’t before.
5) They keep your students safe
One of the great things about virtual events is that they’ve meant that institutions have been able to continue showcasing their campuses to students through the pandemic. They’ve effectively kept students safe, and now as we move to a more hybrid approach, they can still offer flexibility – even if you have to pivot your live events to virtual at the last minute.
Having the right processes in place – with the support of technology – means that doesn’t have to be as much of a headache as you may think. And, if you are holding in-person events, you can utilize technology to send important reminders regarding compliance with Covid regulations. In the times of mask mandates and social distancing, these communications really need to land – and that’s why it’s much better to communicate with students using the platforms that they actually use.