For schools and colleges to maintain their student levels its vital to keep a strong presence within the catchment area. The most effective way to do this is to host a special open day or evening when all potential students and their families can visit before enrolling.
But with competition for new students on the increase and every child or young person considered high value, how can these establishments make the greatest impact when planning their next public event? How can they communicate the benefits of their school or college in the simplest yet most effective way?
What are the benefits of holding an open day?
The open day or open evening is the most important event in the academic calendar. Most people who live locally will be vaguely aware of the school or college's presence, but when it comes to choosing the right learning establishment for their youngsters ongoing education, these places take on a new perspective. Parents will be looking for a place that not only provides a good standard of learning, security and opportunities but they will want to walk into a suitable establishment for their offspring, where their young one will fit in and be happy. Having the opportunity to visit the potential school or college provides reassurance the right choice is being made. Very often it's not so much the educational credentials that 'sells' a school but the feel when walking into the building for the first time. That said, the task group assigned to plan for the open day will need to ensure every aspect of presentation is up to scratch, creating the right impression of all the school has to offer. Public events are useful because:
They enable potential students and parents to view the facilities
- They showcase the strengths and benefits of attending the school or college
- They communicate the key attributes of the school or college to a wider audience, improving public perception
- They allow students to meet teachers and lecturers in advance
- They enable students to widen out in their friendships
- They help students to get a sense of where they will be learning
- They tell others what it will be like to attend the college or school
- They provide an opportunity to find out exactly where the school or college grounds are
How to start planning your open day
1) Select the best task group for the job, covering as large a skill set as possible of talents and experience, from creative input to detail and logistics.
2) Agree the format and timescale of the event. Will the school or college be open to the public all day, just the evening or both? What would the group like to include in order to show off the school in the best light? An introduction from the head of staff or principal always gives an impression of order and organisation. Will students take visitors on a tour of the premises or will the visitors be allowed to wander round themselves? When making these decisions draw in experience from former years including aspects that worked and excluding those that didn't. Try to eradicate any negatives and always explore new opportunities to put on a great 'show.'
3) Keep your audience in mind. What will the new students want to know about the school or college. What questions will the parents want answered? What does your college offer that is different from others nearby? With these ideas in mind, highlight the key messages that will be displayed around the site on the day of the event.
4) Decide on the timetable or agenda and how that will work best given the irregular flow of visitors.
5) Check the grounds and buildings are looking their best for the event. Are all signs to specific rooms and areas clear?
6) Is the website up to date and user friendly?
7) Is there a large supply of prospectus on hand or will there need to be a reprint ordered?
8) How will a positive first impression be made? Will students be there to meet and greet new arrivals. Will there be background music demonstrating the talents of existing students? Will there be large displays of students creations and artwork in the reception hall?
Once these logistical elements of the event are agreed the focus needs to be on drawing in as many visitors as possible.
How to promote your school or college open event
Social Media - make sure posts are active well before and on the run up to the event to let all know locally what will take place, where and at what times.
PR - is there something interesting behind this year's event or an intriguing story to send out to the local press? Keep in touch with journalists in the area and convey well thought-out information to build anticipation for the event.
Advertising - schedule a run of advertisements in the local paper or appropriate journals and magazines if the budget will allow. If funds are limited, a short print run of posters to distribute around the town or city will work well to raise local awareness for the event. According to TGI research, students are 34% more likely to respond to outdoor advertising than any other form so external banners and hoardings are a good choice to let everyone know. These could be set up in areas of high public volume such as supermarkets, shopping malls, bus stations and shelters and on primary routes to and from the site.
On the premises roller banners are great for advertising USPs, key messages such as ethos statements or mottos, and OFSTED and exam results. Photoboards effectively capture the atmosphere of the school and how students learn in the specialist environments. Display these images around the various departments to show students actively engaging in and enjoying their learning. External banners on site perimeters help visitors to locate the entrances and outdoor roller banners signpost the way to reception areas.
If all this advertising seems a little too much to take on why not employ the services of a local graphic designer and digital printer who will undertake the job for a reasonable fee without all the fuss. Check out Eazy Print's quality products and services and read the feedback from numerous satisfied customers.
As a final check that all the bases have been covered for your special event, get a member of staff to walk through the site viewing the school through the eyes of visitors or students. This way any minor negatives can be easily ironed out creating the best open event to date.