Posted on 4 Nov '20

Into the Unknown: Taking Postgraduate Events Online in a Hurry

As a follow up to our September Marketing Conference Webinar, we asked Elliot Newstead, Head of UK Student Recruitment and Outreach at University of Leicester, to share what he and his team have learnt from taking their postgraduate events online.

It seems an age ago. Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, Liverpool lost their first Premier League game of the season and Dave won Album of the Year at the BRIT Awards. What do all of these occurrences have in common?

People. In-person. Visiting venues.

It was also a month where the focus at the University of Leicester was delivering a high-quality, in-person postgraduate Open Evening in late-March. ‘Have we booked catering?’, ‘It’ll be dark so we need the rooms close together’, ‘How many banners is too many?’.

People. In-person. Visiting venues.

28 days later

Fast-forward four weeks. McDonald’s was closed. Pubs were closed. Everyone was on mute. The world had changed, the world was adapting. Universities had changed, universities were adapting.

At Leicester, our initial adaptation of a physical event into a virtual event was somewhat a needs must exercise with one key question.

‘How do we offer the same experience in an online world as we would in-person?’ (Spoiler: this is not the right approach to take).

There were some live chats, there was hastily-collated web content and, hang on just a minute, there were INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. For the first time in forever at a university event, actual international students! Well, this was a turn up for the books. This made us sit up and think, ok so what are our possibilities here?

  • Timings – are we ensuring our key markets can engage?
  • Content – are we offering what our audience wants?
  • Format – how do we keep internal and external stakeholders happy?

28 weeks later

Five virtual Open Days down with another two on the way. Our timings have adapted to a subject level with talks and chats scheduled to meet our key market peak times. Our content is ever-evolving into an on-demand resource hub with additional live content. Any changes to formats are based on staff and visitor feedback.

It’s not perfect but when were physical events perfect?

If I could offer anyone reading this three top tips for running virtual postgraduate events from what I know now:

  1. Keep your key academic colleagues engaged and on-board.
    • These are your trump (or Biden) card, show them some love.
  2. Postgraduate events are all about quality not quantity.
    • Bounce rates, time on page and chat engagement are your real indicators of success, not bookings.
  3. Thinking of taking your physical events and plonking them online? Think again.
    • People won’t come for three hours, pick up a random goody bag, go exactly where you want them to go and then leave, they just won’t. Your programme should not expect this of them.

As a final note, I wanted to repeat something I mentioned at my recent FindAUniversity webinar.

We, as a sector, need to be talking and sharing more about postgraduate study. We can share best practice, we can bounce back from failures and we can collaborate.

Virtual events are here to stay, we’d be foolish to think otherwise but to take them to the next level, I really think we need to learn from each other.

Want some football and random Higher Ed tweets? Follow me on Twitter

Want less football but more Higher Ed posts? Connect on LinkedIn

Get in touch if you'd like to find out how FindAUniversity can help you promote your postgraduate events to our FindAMasters and FindAPhD website visitors and email subscribers. Contact your Account Manager, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)114 268 4940.

FindAUniversity take pride in being experts in postgraduate education. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for regular insight, comment and case studies.

You may also like...

What We Learnt Taking our Study Fairs Online

Our Events Manager, Nikki Hodgson, shares her experience and learnings from us taking our study fairs online for the first time.

7 Email Marketing Tips

Our Head of Client Services Department shares her top email marketing tips for success from the insights she's gathered over the years.