Planning a hybrid higher education event requires a huge amount of juggling – not only must you plan a phenomenal experience for the students, faculty, and alumni attending in person, but you’ve also got to do the same online. Planning and executing either type of event is a challenge, but to pull off both simultaneously takes some serious organization.
We understand the challenges facing academic event professionals, and so we’ve put together an easy-to-follow University Event Planning Guide to help you plan and execute a memorable hybrid event for all attendees, no matter where in the world they are. To download the checklist, click here, or read on to learn about the ten steps you need to take to plan an event with high engagement.
How to Create a Valuable Hybrid Ed Event
Step 1 – Create an Event Planner’s Checklist
Your first step is to create a checklist of big picture activities you need to do to make the event a success. Most academic event professionals only wear their event planning hat a few times a year, which likely means you’re also handling other ongoing tasks and responsibilities while you plan. This checklist will help you stay on track and focused whenever you sit down to work on the event, and it should include things like setting and aligning goals, finding the right school event management software, and planning the marketing campaign. For the entire checklist, click here.
This checklist focuses on increasing engagement and creating value, but for more guidance on the logistical aspects of planning your hybrid event, see our Event Strategy for Higher Education Planners.
Step 2 – Align Your Goals
The main goal for the event is often obvious – if it’s a fundraiser, the goal is to raise funds. If it’s a job fair, then the goal is to help students jumpstart their careers. But you also need to ensure the goal you choose aligns well with those of your team and university. This will help you have more direction when it comes to creating your marketing strategy and setting your KPIs.
Once you’ve nailed down your goals, create those KPIs. What is most important to track depends on the focus and purpose of your event, but it’s always a good idea to track the number of registrations, email open rates and click-through rates, session engagement through live chat and polling features, and more.
Step 3 – Create Event Marketing Collateral
You can’t move forward without your marketing collateral (sometimes called assets). You need to create this now to ensure all your assets, such as graphics, copy, and content are in alignment with your goals. Consider how you’ll use your school’s branding, how many different audiences you’ll need to speak to, and how you can evoke an emotional response in your audience so they’ll take action.
Step 4 – Implement Your Event Marketing Strategy
Your online promotion strategy will be the driving force of your campaign, driving traffic to the landing and/or registration page. Think carefully about where your audience(s) is most receptive online, and get in front of them there. If you want to attract people who aren’t currently directly involved with your school, consider reaching them on LinkedIn and Facebook. Make sure your marketing isn’t sporadic – post regularly on your social media platforms and optimize your posts. If something’s not getting engagement but another post is, rework your social media plan. You may have created months’ worth of social media posts in the last step, but there’s no point running with them if they aren’t having an impact. The same goes for your email marketing – focus on increasing engagement and improving your open rates.
Step 5 – Streamline the Registration Process
A cumbersome registration process will not only make your life more difficult but can turn away potential attendees. It’s essential to make sure you’re working with higher education administrative software that will streamline the process. This will not only make your life easier because it will automate the entire registration process, but it will make the experience better for your attendees.
Step 6 – Incorporate a Branded Platform
Often, the sophistication of the tools you use won’t change the quality of the content of your event, but it will dramatically improve the experience. Working with a sophisticated, brandable school event management software and university event app will improve the experience and better align it with your school’s goals for both those attending in person and online. If your school has prestige, this is all the more important. Remember that people will be proud to be attending an event held by your institution, so remind them as they attend the event that they’re experiencing something of real value.
Step 7 – Enable Attendee Matchmaking
One of the primary reasons why people choose to attend higher education events is for networking opportunities. With the right software for higher education events, you can use the data you’ve collected about your attendees to intelligently match them based on relevant mutual interests, which will help foster meaningful connections. This doesn’t just work for those attending in person, either, and you can ensure those who want to connect remotely have the opportunity to do so.
Step 8 – Maximize Session Engagement
Maximizing session engagement is even more important when a percentage (or the entirety) of your audience is attending virtually. In the comfort of your own home, it’s easy to get distracted, especially if you’re just listening to a speaker. Your university events app should encourage engagement through live updates, quizzes, polls, downloadable content, and more.
Try not to get so wrapped up in the marketing before the event that you forget to consider this – if you want high engagement levels, you need to support your attendees until the end of the event (and sometimes, even for a time after). Research how your attendees best like to get involved and make it easy for them to do so.
Step 9 – Gather Event Data
Your event will offer you a goldmine of data, so don’t leave it untapped. Your data will tell you if your strategy is aligned with your goals from step 2, helping you gain invaluable insight on what worked and what didn’t. If you’re hosting an annual event, you’ll be able to use this data to implement changes for the next event that will further increase engagement with your attendees.
Step 10 – Measure Your ROI
Higher education ROI isn’t always as straightforward as a monetary value, so lean on your student, faculty, and alumni events management system to give you the best data to calculate your ROI. Once you’ve got that data, analyze it. Did it meet your expectations? Exceed them? Fail to meet them? If the latter, consider what went wrong – sometimes it’s something as simple as you set your goal too high, but sometimes there are lessons to learn that can be applied next time to drastically improve your ROI.
These 10 steps will help you figure out if you’re in good shape to create a valuable hybrid event experience both on and off-campus, but for more information on any of the steps above, make sure you download The Higher Ed Planner’s Checklist. If you’re interested in learning about how Aventri can be your hybrid event solution and help you streamline your event technology and improve engagement rates, click here to request a demo.