You invite.  They register.  They mark their calendars, make travel plans, take time off school and work.  They commit.  They show up and you’ve got them for the day.  This is an in-person event.  Where once the student and their family has made the effort to get there, they’re more than likely going to stick around to hear everything you have to offer.

You invite.  They register.  Or not.  They’ve got the time.  They’re curious.  You send them a link.  They click it and join.  Your content is ok.  Or not.  They click.  Goodbye.  They’re gone.  This is your virtual event reality.  Where the audience is only one click away from leaving your event.

So how do you keep them?  How do you create content that is informative, fun, exciting, and authentic, all of which are necessary for engaging virtual events?

I recently read through the latest industry research for a white paper providing actionable insights for virtual engagement and, at the very least you should:  go beyond transactional information shared in a PowerPoint presentation; stop sharing your information in the same 45-minute event format as everyone else and start thinking creatively about how to differentiate your virtual experience; let your speakers engage with your audience instead of speaking at them; segment your content by audience (parents and families are important!); and maximize the virtual event space to both share information and build relationships.

  • Want to share information about campus dining options? Ask the dining hall/campus chef to host a cooking class while sharing information about campus meal plans.
  • Are there places off campus your students love to hang out? Instead of simply talking about those places, have your students go live from those locations and share personal stories about why those spaces are so important to student and campus life.  (Or better yet, pre-record your students in those spaces and broadcast them later as a simulated live event.)
  • Do your prospective parents and families have a lot of questions? Embrace transparency!  Host an Ask Me Anything session with administrators or current student parents and be comfortable with answering the tough questions or saying, “I don’t know” to the questions you don’t have answers for.  Invite parents and families directly and do it at a time that’s convenient for them, maybe over the lunch hour instead of the dinner hour.
  • Is your mascot a huge part of campus tradition? Don’t just talk about what it means to be a Roo, invite Kasey Kangaroo to your event and have him face off against your students in a “What it Means to be a Roo” trivia contest.  And I know Kasey probably can’t speak, so teams write or draw their responses rather than speak them and your attendees vote on who drew the best answer.  The team with the most votes at the end wins and your attendees have had fun and learned so much more about student life on your campus.

While we are slowly returning to in-person events, where students and families will show up and commit to the event, we will also see virtual events remain an integral part of the college search process.  Students will use virtual events to research your school and decide whether they even want to make the commitment to visit your campus.

And I would bet – you don’t want your virtual event to be that one click away from crossing your institution off their list.