How to create an impactful university open day

November 28, 2022

Using Open Days to stand out from the crowd

University is a formative period in many people’s lives, where lifelong friends and memories are made, and skills are learned that set the course for the years ahead.

Deciding which university to go to isn’t a choice to be taken lightly, with students often visiting at least three universities before settling on their first choice.

Open Days are the perfect opportunity for universities to stand out from the crowd and position themselves as the ideal place for students to spend such important years.

Play to your strengths to attract new students

A successful Open Day is a celebration of all that makes a university unique. In an increasingly competitive landscape, it’s important universities play to their strengths to attract and inspire new students.

Whether it’s the quality of teaching, the world-class sports facilities, incredible culture, great industry connections or historic buildings, the Open Day should ensure these unique selling points are front and centre when designing the event.

If your landscape and architecture are unique and distinctive, then make the most of them. Rental items can be used to augment your natural features and enhance the canvas available to you.

A strong look and feel can bring the whole event and experience together

A brilliant experience starts with a great idea and great design.

A strong look and feel, reflective of the university’s brand, values, and ambition, can bring the whole event and experience together.  It can create a sense of occasion to inspire and excite prospective students and instil a sense of pride in the wider university community.

Indeed, how a university looks and feels on Open Days, can be as important as the quality of the course, or what the city can offer when students imagine life at university.

The campus needs to ‘feel’ right – in the same it does when deciding on a new home. Forming an emotional connection is key.

A professional Open Day will reflect on how students perceive the quality of the university – and that starts from their first touchpoint on campus.

Whether it’s using a branded arch or gantry to welcome guests to campus, or placing wayfinding at car parks or transport hubs, impactful branding can create an atmosphere that sets the tone for the rest of the event.

The on-site experience needs to feel consistent with all pre- and post-event communications too. Whether it’s landing on the university home page, or landing on campus, there needs to be a common thread that reinforces the university brand.

The brand can be reflected on campus in the choice of colours, in the fittings & fixtures, and through branding and signage throughout.

These elements create a sense of occasion, of one overall experience, adding energy and vibrancy to the event. They can also play a key role in the smooth running of the event, through clear and effective signage and wayfinding.

Maintain event flow to create a coherent open day

Event flow is crucial in creating a coherent Open Day event and experience.  It’s important to consider and maintain people flow to avoid congestion and keep the day to schedule.

For most people, wayfinding will be their first touchpoint of an event experience and consequently, their first impression.

Clear and simple wayfinding can take the stress out of the event for prospective students, who may be nervous anyway, helping them make the most of the occasion and immerse themselves more freely in the university experience.

To ensure visitors have a seamless and enjoyable journey, it’s important that information is delivered clearly and efficiently, irrespective of the route taken.

Event schedules should be clearly marked throughout, informing guests when and where things are taking place, so they don’t miss out on what’s important to them.

The ease with which visitors can view and understand wayfinding will not only guide them around the venue, but ultimately determine their university experience and lasting impression.

Help people explore the wider area too, beyond the university campus – it’s as much about the local area as the university, so help see what it has to offer.

Create photo opportunities to extend the reach of your event

Well-thought-through photo opportunities and spaces to gather can keep people moving and disperse crowds. Photo opportunities can be created using giant letters, spectaculars and large super-graphics. These photo opportunities bring the added benefit of the university brand being represented widely on social media by prospective students themselves, extending the reach of your event.

Use existing students as advocates

Your students can be your biggest advocates, so make sure to incorporate them wherever possible into sessions. Whether it’s showing guests around campus, offering their perspectives on courses and university facilities, or showcasing the wide range of social clubs and activities the university can offer, existing students are an authentic and trustworthy source of information.

Enlisting existing students will help potential applicants to feel comfortable, giving them the chance to ask any questions they may have.

Involve parents and loved ones

For many students, their choice of university will be heavily influenced by parents and loved ones. Of course, all parents want to feel their child is attending the best university for them, however this is as much about the safety of the environment as it is the quality of the education.

When planning content for presentations and campus tours, don’t forget to consider parents. Inform them on statistics such as pass rates and average grades, along with job opportunities and prospects post-degree. Don’t forget to mention the pastoral care available too as this can be an important factor in winning the support of parents and those who care for your students’ wellbeing.

Get prospective students involved

We know students take in more information when they’re actively learning, so factor this into the planning of your Open Day program to make it more interactive. Consider using seminars, workshops, or lab experiments applicants can get involved in, rather than simply giving talks from department heads. This will ensure your sessions are not just engaging, but memorable too.

Would you like to talk about creating an impactful Open Day?

If you’d like to explore how CSM Live can help you deliver open days that attract and inspire new students, please do get in touch. We’d be delighted to share our insight and experience from working with many of the UK’s leading universities.