On-campus events: how tracking session attendance leads to better ROI

Let’s face facts: during on-campus events, checking students into individual sessions involves more work.

(With GeckoEngage, tracking session attendance needn’t involve too much more work, but more on that later.)

For many Admissions teams, just knowing that students have shown-up (or not) is good enough. But here are 3 arguments why going the extra mile — and tracking session-level attendance — could pay dividends.

In short, you’ll be able to:

  1. Segment — and action — post-event feedback.
  2. Create more-impactful post-event comms.
  3. Reverse-engineer which sessions correlate with increased enrollment (so you can double-down — or divest).

Let’s start by defining what we mean by “tracking session-level attendance”.

During most open houses (or admitted student days) students can select which sessions — or presentations or tours or classes or one-to-one meetings — they’d like to attend. Events like these aren’t single-track — students can tailor their agenda to suit their needs. And as such, each attendee experiences your campus in their own way; often based on which sessions they attend. Ergo, the only way to start getting a true glimpse into how students experience your campus is to track which sessions they attend.

If your institution only logs when students arrive on campus — meaning you don’t track which individual sessions they attend — then you’re missing out a treasure trove of actionable data. This session attendance data can boost the impact your events have on this year’s enrollment cycle, as well as providing a platform for continual improvement across all future enrollment cycles. Here’s how.

Segment — and action — post-event feedback

If you’re like many of Gecko’s partner institutions, you’ll frequently be making decisions on the future-viability of every individual part of your open house (or admitted student day) itinerary.

Gathering feedback on how individual sessions impacted your attendees’ experience is an integral part of that process. And the best way to do that, is to track which students attended each session and then automatically feed that data into a short, specific feedback process.

With data showing that, for example, a student checked-in to a student aid presentation, a campus tour, and a one-to-one meeting, you can automatically trigger an email which links to a dynamic feedback form. This form can ask the student specific questions about how those individual sessions impacted their opinion of your school. And this needn’t be generic rate-this-presentation-on-a-scale-of-1-5-type questions — you can really dive deeper and gather granular feedback, such as “How did Dr. Johann’s presentation affect your understanding of how we can help students with the FAFSA process?

(Most teams fail to gather sufficient feedback for two reasons. Firstly, the process isn’t automated. “I forgot to send out the post-event survey again”. And secondly, the feedback forms are way too long (and we all know that shorter forms have a higher conversion rate). With GeckoEngage, the whole process can be automated. And we can keep your forms super-short. How? By dynamically tailoring the form to match the sessions each student attended, and then by eliminating unnecessary fields (like name/email, because we can identify who they are if you’re already emailing them!).)

Tracking session attendance can also make the answers to even generic follow-up questions much more powerful. Asking “how likely are you to enroll at our school based on your experience today?” is great. But it’s even more insightful when you segment students’ answers based on which sessions were attended. Then, if you identify that students who attended certain faculty-led sessions are more likely to want to enroll, you could dig in deeper and find out what’s working well. Conversely, if there’s a group of students with a low overall score — whilst also having a stronger-than-average correlation with the attendance of a particular session — then this session could be identified for review.

Level-up your post-event comms

So we’ve learned that tracking session attendance can result in a whole raft of information, letting you dive into students’ thoughts on individual sessions. Clearly this feedback can be critical in improving next year’s event calendar — but it can also be used to uncover opportunities to engage with students now, if you feed these insights into your communications plan.

According to research from Longmire and Co, 52% of students “experienced something unappealing” whilst on a campus visit. This could have occured on a campus tour, during a presentation, or within an individual session. Furthermore, 72% of those students would be comfortable discussing those feelings if asked — but only a fraction of students surveyed were given the opportunity to elaborate on their feelings. However — and here’s the kicker — those same students stated that their overall perception of a school is enhanced when a counselor “encourages them to be open, honest, and forthcoming” with their feedback, whilst “respecting their decision to attend elsewhere (and not trying to convince them otherwise)”. Therefore, if a counselor accepts the fact that their school isn’t perfect in the eyes of every prospective student, and then engages the student around their feelings, the counselor can positively impact the way the student feels about the institution. It is entirely possible to turn a negative perception into a positive, by candidly discussing the student’s point of view.

This gives schools the perfect opportunity to reach out and engage students on a one-to-one basis.

(Within the GeckoEngage platform, actions can be triggered upon certain feedback questions being answered. For example, if a student provides in-depth feedback, a phone call from a counselor can be scheduled automatically, and a corresponding text message is then sent to the student, advising them to expect the call. This enables schools to automate the feedback process, but also to set-in-motion the next steps: reaching out to students on a one-to-one basis.)

But you needn’t wait until after you’ve received feedback to enhance your post-event communications plan. There are other ways to up your game, using session-level data. You could:

  • Automatically reach out to students one-to-one, whenever they meet with a specific member of staff on campus. For example, if a student meets an athletics coach at an admitted student event (or attends a presentation given by a member of your financial aid team), you could automatically send them a text message inviting them to ask any follow-up questions they may have.
    (Aside: speak to us about how we’d advise triaging this, so your team aren’t on the hook for replying to students questions 24/7.)
  • Incorporate session-specific content into your follow-up plan. If a student attends a specific presentation, you could automatically include the slide deck in a post-event email.
  • Identify who didn’t attend sessions they were scheduled to attend. Not only could you send them any information they might have missed out on, but you could also schedule a follow-up conversation to fill in the gaps.

Reverse-engineer which sessions correlate with increased enrollment

Asking students about their likelihood to enroll is one thing (and an important thing at that!). But asking anyone about future plans is never as accurate as looking at past actions. Therefore, you really only see the proof in the pudding when you can analyze which students actually enrolled — and then you can look backwards and see which sessions they attended earlier in the enrollment funnel.

When you have the ability to link granular, upper-funnel activities to lower-funnel results, that you can make informed decisions about where to invest future resources. Matching session attendance with session-level feedback, and then having an image of exactly what you earned in return (in tuition revenue) can give you the confidence to commit additional funds to specific sessions.

Perhaps you’ll find that a specific session isn’t that well attended. However, if the feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and the correlation between attendance and enrollment looks to be strong, then it could be worth identifying how to funnel more visitors into that session.

This tactic is particularly useful for improving faculty-led sessions. Often, faculty members are one step removed from the enrollment process, but you can boost their motivation (and the how much they’re bought into the process) by sharing data on how their participation has impacted enrollment numbers. They’ll also be thankful if you pass on any granular feedback you’ve received about their sessions.

Tracking session attendance with GeckoEngage

Within our Visit Experience Platform, the session management tools have always been some of our most heavily-utilized features. And now, tracking session attendance is even easier.

In addition to our cross-platform mobile check-in applications — where campus teams ‘scan’ students into sessions — we now allow students to “self-check-in” to individual sessions. Students can mark their attendance from their personalized event itinerary screen (the same mobile-friendly screen that houses their event ticket).

(And don’t worry, this feature can be toggled on and off — GeckoEngage Administrators can choose which sessions they’d like to make self-check-in available for.)


So there you have it: three overarching reasons why tracking session attendance can ramp up the ROI you see from events — and one simple feature that makes it super-easy to track session attendance at your next open house.

 

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