Your applicant pool was stronger than ever.
Your offers of admission are out the door, this year you’re feeling better than ever about the strength of your applicant pool. It was all going according to plan until [cue the record scratch] COVID-19 entered the scene.
Now, just as you thought you would finally be able to take a breath, it’s suddenly madness again.
While we’re all busy developing our plans for tackling this new threat to our schools and the markets at large, we’re still faced with the same enrollment goals. We’ve still got to find a way to convert our “Accepted” list to “Enrolled”–and possibly without the benefit of in-person revisit days or welcome events.
All is not lost. You CAN create an amazing experience for your prospective students that increases yield and helps you reach your enrollment goals all without having your newly admitted families step foot on campus. Here’s our advice for creating winning virtual events.
Here’s how you can set up an unforgettable virtual event to win over your newly admitted students:
1. Start with your goals and let that shape your approach
Set SMART goals for the event, so you know what success looks like before you even get into the planning phase. From there, pick the format that is most likely to help you achieve that goal.
2. Pick a format and develop your plan
A virtual event will likely look very different from your typical welcome event, but that doesn’t mean it should be any less effective. Decide ahead of time what you want to accomplish with your event. Create a clear plan and organize your event. Make sure everyone involved knows the order of speakers, information that will be shared, and who is sharing the information.
Will you have a set script to share or will it be structured more like a Q+A? One way to create a more personal feel is to have different faculty members record video clips ahead of time or appear live to welcome new students and families. Additionally, you may want to have different faculty and staff members cover different portions of the information to mix it up. Another thing to think through is whether you want to request questions ahead of time or accept them live.
3. Choose a platform for your virtual event
Pick a platform for your event that works best for your team. Explore different options like Zoom, Facebook Live, or Google Hangouts. Take advantage of free trials if you want to try something out but aren’t sure what will work for you. That way, you’ll save on cost and can invest in the platform that has the best results and is easiest for your team and families to use.
4. Remember your audience (and try to make it fun + interactive)
Your welcome event is one of your first interactions since your new students have been accepted, so you likely have some important information to share with them. But you also want to delight, support, and encourage them at this stage of their journey. Make sure you provide a good balance of information and fun and exciting moments. Try to mix it up with fun visuals or different speakers to help them enjoy the event, get to know more about your school, and help them feel excited about your school in the same way as being on campus. Create polls or points of interaction to keep them engaged. And make sure you leave time for questions at the end of your event so the event feels like a conversation.
5. Make sure you have a designated event host or coordinator
A designated host is key for live virtual events with multiple speakers. A host can mediate the flow of speakers and keep the conversation focused and moving. They can also facilitate the Q+A portion of your event if you choose to have one. Without a host, you may get a lot of confusion or end up with people talking over one another. Avoid awkward pauses or messy transitions with a host that can keep your event organized and on track.
6. Practice, practice, practice
Virtual events may be a new muscle that you’re flexing for the first time. Be sure to do a dry run (or three) with one of your teammates dialed in from another room so you can get a true feel for the attendee experience and iron out any wrinkles.
7. Don’t forget about marketing your virtual event
Send out a series of emails inviting families to your virtual event. Include your featured speakers, topics that will be covered, and exciting things they can look forward to. Make sure you’re clear that the event will be virtual and provide them with the value of hosting a virtual event, like safety and accessibility. You can also highlight the goal of serving busy families.
Virtual events are a great way to help as many families as possible make it to the event, even allowing parents that are out of town for work to attend. Additionally, many platforms allow you to record your webinar or video, which makes it easy to upload and send to families who couldn’t make it but don’t want to miss out.
8. Help families connect afterward
One thing families may express concern or disappointment over with virtual events is the lack of time and opportunity to form relationships and personally connect with other new families. Luckily, with a little creativity, you can easily overcome this.
There are lots of great ways you can use social media to help your new students feel connected. You can help families connect by setting up a Facebook group for new admits. Encourage your event attendees to communicate, ask questions, and get to know each other there. You can also set up a poll or ask a question on your school’s Facebook page to start a conversation, and then engage with families by responding to their comments and answering their questions. Ask something like “what are you most excited about for the coming school year?” or “what on-campus activity do you want to hear more about?” and then have teacher or leader of the class, club, or sport go live on Facebook and create a video to explain more.
Another idea is to facilitate virtual 1:1 “coffee chats” so newly admitted students and parents can start building meaningful relationships without ever setting foot on campus.
While COVID19 may be creating some extra stress when it comes to planning a welcome event for your newly admitted students, all is not lost. Virtual events are a great way to interact with your newly admitted families, increase your reach, and minimize concerns. Virtual welcome events still give your school an opportunity to reach out to new families, answer their burning questions, build excitement for the coming year, share information, and help them get to know more about your school. With admission decisions sent out and excited families waiting to hear more, it’s time to start planning your virtual event!
Want to learn more about planning and executing a virtual event? Watch a recording of our webinar “PIVOT: Shifting to Virtual Yield Events in Two Weeks or Less.”