It’s that time of year again! Many schools are starting to plan for the most important recruiting event of the year: open day. While some schools have reopened, many are without plans to reopen their K-12 school campuses in the coming months. This leaves school admissions and marketing teams with a big question: what’s the best way to host a successful open day in the current climate? In this post, we’ll cover how your admissions team can continue to nurture prospective families through three different open day deliveries.

Choosing your event delivery

Safety and social distancing during the pandemic is the number one priority! Accounting for these two important areas in your school’s event delivery is essential — thankfully there are several best practices in place to help deliver a successful open day (even during a pandemic). Given the current climate, we believe that the best way to deliver your open day is virtually, on-campus (if this is feasible and safe to do so), or a combination of the two. 

Virtual open day

If we learned anything in 2021, it’s how to run a virtual event. It’s safe to say that by now, many schools have become virtual event pros, learning how to navigate online platforms and careful planning to deliver experiences that engage prospective families from afar. 

It can be hard to replicate face-to-face connections online, however, there are some practices you can put in place to create an interactive and immersive virtual open day.

First, you’ll need to pick a suitable online platform to host your event. We recommend using Zoom, as it’s a well-priced hosting platform that has interactive features such as; live polling, Q&A, and breakout rooms. Once you’ve chosen your hosting platform, it’s time to cement the event content. You should start your virtual open day with an address from your principal, school leaders, or crucial staff members. To keep attendees engaged you can then move into Zoom breakout rooms. In these rooms, your prospective families or students can meet with current students, teachers, or community members as well as interact with your school clubs or extracurricular departments. 

Make sure that these breakout sessions aren’t just an information overload, you want to ensure that it’s an interactive session instead with live polling and time for questions and answers. A major part of a school open day event is the campus tour, the best way to create a virtual tour is through a 'walk through campus’ video or a 360-degree virtual tour that's hosted on your website.

In-person open day

Depending on your state's restrictions, it may be possible for your school to host an in-person open day event. To abide by the current guidelines and regulations, you’ll need to ensure that your in-person event follows and implements safe practices. Some things that you’ll need to implement include:

  • Small tour groups with specific time slots that your families can register for
  • Easy and quick check-in processes
  • Hand washing or sanitisation stations
  • Encourage attendees to stay home if they are sick
  • All staff and attendees must wear a mask and maintain the six feet of distance. 
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces at your event 

To add that extra element of personalisation to your event, you can even create school-branded COVID-19 signage and COVID safe gift bags that include a spare disposable mask, hand sanitiser, and wipes for your attendees. Your registration and check-in process at your event is key to a safe and well-organised event. A custom registration form will allow you to know exactly who is attending your event and at what time. You need to ensure that your check-in queues are guided by social distancing signs and measurements and your check-in process should be quick, easy and collect all of the necessary details from your attendees. 

Hybrid event 

Hybrid events use both virtual and in-person aspects to satisfy and engage your audience. It gives attendees the option to choose between participating virtually or in person, which is helpful if your venue has capacity limits, attendees feel uncomfortable attending the event or they aren’t able to travel to your school. When pulled off successfully, hybrid events provide access to two different sets of prospective family groups, so it’s important to organise each format to a high standard.

Ensure that your virtual and in-person attendees feel equally involved in the event and are both receiving a valuable experience. To involve your virtual attendees you can send them an open day package the week of the event, this package could include; branded school merchandise, brochures, or any other material that your in-person attendees will receive. Likewise, If you want to allow your virtual attendees to access your live speeches, you’ll need to accommodate different time zones. You should give your virtual attendees the option to access a live link for the in-person speeches and a recording link that they can watch back at any time.

Pre and post-event communication

Event success relies heavily on pre and post-event communication and in the current climate, it’s likely that your prospective parents’ inboxes are being flooded with work and personal emails so it’s important that you distribute this information across multiple platforms. You can promote your open day event on your school website, a school app, through an EDM, and even on social media platforms.

Pre-event communication

Your pre-event communication should be direct and provide all of the relevant event information such as start time, event date, and how to register. If it’s a virtual event specify this and include which platform you will be hosting the event on so attendees are aware of this prior to registering. If it’s an in-person event, include information on COVID-19 safety and regulations that your event will follow. If you’re hosting a hybrid event the concept can sometimes confuse attendees so it’s important that you communicate the specifications of the event clearly. You should communicate that the open day will be delivered both in-person and virtually on the same day and although it’s two different experiences it’s still one event. 

Post-event communication

To continue to nudge your prospective attendees down the admissions pipeline you need strong post-event communication. If you used a registration and check-in system through a CRM, such as Digistorm Funnel, you can use this lead information to send a personalised follow-up. Your email should include a link to any recordings or resources from the open day,  a CTA to book a meeting with your admissions team, and a link to any upcoming events that may interest the family and student. 

We hope that these tips will help you host a successful and safe open day, if you’re organising your schools next open day make sure to: 

  • Communicate event details on your school website, through an EDM or a Digistorm school app
  • Implement COVID safe practices and abide by government guidelines 
  • Make your event accessible to all attendees whether they are attending virtually or in-person
  • Send a personalised follow up to all event attendees
Published 5 October 2021