Key campus event metrics — and how to improve them

Taking a scientific approach and getting really analytical about the factors that affect your enrollment funnel has, historically, proven challenging for various reasons: limitations in CRM capabilities, lack of tracking functionality, and the use of disparate systems to name a few. And so, being able to close the loop and accurately analyze the success of campus events hasn’t really been possible for many institutions.

But today, (thanks, in part, to the development of modern event management tools) institutions are able to uncover which event activities move the dial and successfully drive students through the enrollment funnel.

So what are these metrics and what can they tell us about enrollment success?

Metrics: a high-level view

Essentially, event success can typically been judged using two overarching, easy-to-assess measurements:

  • The number of students registering for an event.
  • Show rate (the percentage of students that have registered and turn up for the event in question).

All things being equal, if you get these metrics increasing year-on-year, you’re winning!

But while these two metrics are important, and are good indicators of final enrollment rates, they don’t tell the whole story. And more importantly, there hasn’t been a clear way to improve them.

There are several key factors (metric influencers, if you will) that feed into these two measurements. Below, we’ll discuss a few of the more impactful influencers.

Metric Influencers: getting detailed and moving the dial

Registration form completion rates

Statistically speaking, we know that if you get students to register in greater volumes, the number of students attending your events will likely be higher. But how do you positively affect the number of completed registration forms? Our recommendations include:

  • Make it mobile. Having fully branded, intuitive, mobile optimized registration forms will have an impact on final registration numbers for your digitally-savvy students. No more generic, clunky CRM web forms or worse, dog-eared paper forms to fill in. And please — don’t ask students to provide a username and password just to register for an event!
  • Make it easy. If students have engaged with you a number of times in the past, don’t make them fill-in information they’ve already given you. Pre-fill registration forms with contact details, for example, making it as quick, easy and convenient for them to register.

Open rates from your communications

Open rates are an obvious but often overlooked factor when it comes to show rate, as students are invariably more likely to take action if they’ve opened and read your event communications. Variables worth testing that affect open rates include:

  • The channel (i.e. email vs text). Start by asking which channel should be used to drive action. The channel you choose can have a significant impact on your event metrics, depending on the context in which it is used. For example, a content-heavy message to students asking them to register for an event is probably best done via email. However, you might consider using a text message for students that haven’t opened their emails, when you’re sending a timely reminder, or when you’re driving students to complete a simple action.

    One Gecko client tracked 11% of all event registrations back to text messages sent to students who hadn’t opened their emails.

  • The email subject. Make sure the subject lines of your communications are attention-grabbing and relevant to the students in any particular distribution list. It’s also worth trying to convey the “ask” in a subject line, if you require the student to undertake an action.
  • The send time. Ensure emails or other forms of digital communication are sent to students as quickly as possible after an action (such as an event registration) — within 24 hours, at the very, very least! Or, if the communication is to be triggered in-advance of the event, think about how far in advance you’d want to send it. Information-rich emails should be sent earlier, while text reminders should be sent in the days running up to the event.
  • The from field. Consider whether communications should come from a specific person, for example within the admissions team, or whether it should be sent from “the institution”. If students have been dealing with a specific person, it’s more compelling, and feels more personalized, if they receive communications from that individual. If it’s early on in the journey — before the student knows any members of your team — then be sure the ‘from field’ contains the name of your school.

Give students control

When institutions allow students to manage their own event schedule (hand-picking sessions that interest them, learning about who they’ll interact with, etc.) they significantly increase the number of touch-points they have with those students.

Think about the events you’ve attended as a professional; when you’ve had the chance to curate your own event schedule around your interests, did you have greater buy-in than when the schedule was chosen for you? And how much longer did you take interacting with each of the session widgets in the event portal?

It’s the same with students. Putting the power in their hands, letting your attendees manage their own event experience, increases the time you’re front-of-mind — and this has downstream effects on show rates.

(As well as helping to deliver a differentiated experience, self-service event portals offer the added benefit of easing the workload for staff. Because the portal acts as a self-service channel for information, staff have to field less email enquiries, thus freeing them up to focus on more impactful tasks.)

One Gecko client reported a 44% reduction in the number of schedule-related emails their team had to field.

Using post-event information to improve the next batch of events

Post-event, ask students for their thoughts.

Surveys are an excellent way to uncover information that can fuel improvements in next years’ event calendar. (And if you automatically trigger them to be sent via text directly after the event, you’re more likely to get a response.)

You won’t just uncover information that will improve the event experience, either. You can ask a student questions about how an event — or individual sessions — impacted how likely they are to attend your school. If you find a correlation between session attendance and “likelihood to enroll”, that could give you food for thought for next year.


As you can see, although event success can often be boiled down to a few high-level metrics, there’s many more ways you can influence those numbers!

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