An open house or campus tour is the perfect opportunity to encourage prospective parents and students to visit your school and see what it has to offer! We know that hosting an open house at your school isn't a new concept so it's likely that your marketing and events team already have a detailed process down pat.

But, times are changing and so too are your prospective parent’s expectations. The new generation of millennial parents are ready for more authentic and genuine interactions and your open house is no exception!

In this post, we'll cover a few tricks of the trade that your school can incorporate to help drive attendance and ensure that prospective parents are left with a memorable experience.

When to host: weekday vs. weekend

What's the best day to host an open house? Well, that's still an ongoing debate. Each option has its pros and cons, but your decision should be largely based on your school’s calendar and availability for the year. You might be surprised, but simple event logistics, such as the date and time have the ability to affect your attendance.

Here are a few things to consider when selecting your time and day:

  • Parents tend to have increased availability on the weekend however, your school grounds will be quieter than usual and it may be hard to portray the school’s usual character.
  •  Peak hour traffic and working overtime could make weekday afternoons difficult for working parents to attend.
  • Running your open house for around three to four hours gives your attendees plenty of time to engage in the available activities and complete a full tour of the school. 

Kick things off early!

Running a dedicated social media campaign for your open house is essential for event success! Ideally, you'll want to kick off your campaign two months prior to your open house to start building hype and provide those key initial details. While you're at it, create a personalized hashtag for the day so that you can easily find user-generated content across your social channels.

On the day, focus on leveraging  Instagram and Facebook stories to promote your event authentically. Don't forget to leverage any photos or videos from the event for post-event content. If you're after more event marketing techniques, check out our blog, Planning a school event? Here’s how to market it.


Provide an easy check-in process

Having a well-organized and stress-free check-in process at your open house will keep your attendees happy and encourage them to attend future events. To streamline your process staff can use a school CRM, such as Digistorm Funnel, to check-in prospective parents. Using the events functionality on the Funnel app you can individually check off each attendee on an iPad as they arrive. If an attendee contacts you pre-event or on the day to change their registration you can quickly update their details in Funnel.

After your event, you can also jump into Funnel to access a list of who attended your event and who didn’t. From here you can send a follow-up email with any relevant information to the individuals that attended on the day.

Don't be afraid to shake things up

We're all for keeping some of the expected formalities that come with open houses, but we strongly encourage you to think outside the box and mix things up a little. A welcome address from your Principal is great for kicking things off, but why not reach out to your school alumni, star students, or evangelist parents who can share their own genuine success stories? Prospective parents are looking for creative and inspiring environments that will help their child thrive, so be sure to leverage all of your resources.

Once you've wrapped up the speeches, here are some creative ideas to start building an emotional connection with your prospective parents:

  • Show your school's promotional video to pump up attendees and get them excited.
  • Include a performance from co-curricular activity groups such as your dance or drama troupes.
  • Host a student 'fashion show' to showcase your current uniform options. 

Include your current students

Existing students make the best tour guides, especially those in leadership positions! Encourage your students to volunteer as guides and take prospective parents and student groups on tours around the school. Student tours provide that extra level of personalization and give prospective parents a chance to ask any burning student-related questions.

A basic tour of the classrooms, grounds, and facilities can sometimes be a bit of a dry experience for attendees, but there are plenty of opportunities to get attendees involved! Consider implementing the below into your student tours. 

  • Chemistry and biology workshops in your science labs.
  • Poem writing workshops in English. 
  • Create your own sculpture or lino printing in an Art workshop.
  • Field hockey, water polo, or basketball games running in the sports facilities.

Don't forget about brand activation opportunities

Activations and photo opportunities are a fun way to incorporate your school’s branding into the open house. Photo Opportunities encourage attendees to take and share photos from the event, which creates – you guessed it — user-generated content! A balloon arch, arbor, or backdrop branded in your school colors is an awesome photo opportunity to put at the entrance, exit, or oval of your school grounds.

If you're looking for something that attendees can take home, branded merchandise can be a great way to keep your school top of mind (just make sure your merch is useful and eco-friendly). Everyone is either a tea or coffee lover, why not think about your designing some keep cups for your event? Other fun items like custom cookies and canvas bags are also a fun option for prospective students. 

We hope that these event ideas will help you to deliver a killer open house! For more school event tips and tricks, read our ultimate guide.

Published August 4 2020