Open days or open houses can be an extremely effective way of casting some light onto your institution, business, school, university, gallery, or even a literal house you might be trying to sell. But the very premise of an open day – opening your doors to the public – immediately casts a rather narrow perimeter around your possible target audience. It seems to limit the people who could step through your open door to those in the close vicinity, or able to travel to you.
This can, of course, seriously reduce the number of people you get through the door and subsequently can show the excellence of your institution. Taking the example of university open days, we can quickly see how detrimental this could be.
Why are open days important?
With the seemingly ever-mounting costs of attending University, as well as the intense competition for places and later for employment, prospective students seem to be thinking more seriously than ever before making any decisions regarding higher education. Whether it be an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, there are so many different areas to consider, and convincing prospective students that of all the hundreds of different courses they may be able to apply to yours is the one that they should choose can be a rather daunting task.
One of the key pieces of advice which is offered to prospective students is to try to attend as many open days as possible, to get a feel for different courses. Of course, time and money can place serious restraints on students’ ability to do this, which means the options they are giving themselves might be unduly limited.
This is especially true as recent research is indicating that in making their decisions, students are increasingly prioritising impressions formed at open days. The cohort of students who graduated last year were found to have ranked open days as more important than their counterparts in any previous year since 2005.
This aligns with findings that universities are now setting aside a larger chunk of their budget for open days and the marketing that surrounds them. But wouldn’t that money be better spent if you could translate the global reach of online marketing and engagement to actually enabling international students to attend your open day – and your university?
Can you widen your Open Day’s reach?
It seems a bit tricky. Of course, it isn’t unheard of, but students would need to be either extremely invested in the specific university in question (in which case they are probably already fairly convinced by your institution), or part of a tiny, wealthy minority who can afford to fly around the world checking out different courses.
Another tack which universities have traditionally taken is to pay the costs themselves; fork over thousands to enable representatives to attend large international recruitment fairs around the world. What if you could slash these costs? What if you could even save money on the open day itself?
Teleconferencing in education
That’s where the features which Call.Group will be offering can revolutionise your open day.
Call conferencing has already proven its utility in the education sector for teachers and tutors, as well as for students conducting study groups, or just keeping in touch with friends from school who have been scattered around the country’s universities. But virtual meetings could have an even wider reach and more global significance for open days.
With Call.Group, you’ll get the proven reliability of WHYPAY?’s teleconferences, with a whole host of added features to enable you to demonstrate your university’s excellence to students the world over through the inimitable powers of teleconferencing.
Which features could you use?
HD video will have the evident benefit of showing online attendees the magnificence of the halls in which they could be studying and living, as well as allowing you to replicate traditional talks and taster lectures to give students an informative and realistic experience. Similarly, screen-sharing makes giving presentations through applications like Powerpoint or Prezi easier and more effective than ever: no more squinting from the back in a too-bright lecture theatre with excitable students chatting from the row behind.
With the capacity to share files with everyone on the conference, you can pass on all the usual documents which prospective students like to pick up from open days: brochures, application guidelines, course manuals, module catalogues, materials for taster lectures and much, much more. And this way, they can immediately download them onto their computers to peruse at will, rather than losing them on the train or scrunching them up in their backpack with the other four they’ve picked up that month.
Another great feature which Call.Group’s conferences will give you is text chat. With this tool, you won’t need to compromise on one of the most crucial features of an open day: giving prospective students an interactive experience. Thanks to the ability to chat via text, you can easily conduct question and answer sessions without students having to talk into a microphone one-by-one.
Instead, you can allow participants to type in their questions and have your team answer them one by one in the text chat, or pick them out and give some answers verbally. The specially created Q&A mode which Call.Group offers will also let you give participants the ability to unmute themselves so that they can verbally ask questions if they so wish. Thanks to the infinitely useful speech-to-text feature, all students can have a written copy of the questions asked and the answers given, along with the whole presentation or lecture.
This is a seriously powerful tool for open days, as it means that prospective students can actually sit back and take in everything you’re saying without having to worry about noting down important dates, figures or advice. You can provide a full script to every attendee once the teleconference is over. And if they don’t feel like reading, they can always fall back on the simple but mighty tool, the audio recording which Call.Group can provide of the entire conference. If that wasn’t enough, you can even give them a video recording of the whole thing, including the HD video feeds, the screens that have been shared, and any documents that were uploaded.
You might have some concerns about the practical accessibility of this kind of virtual open day. Mightn’t a lot of prospective students still be unable to attend, if they don’t have specialist equipment? And isn’t it much more likely that they’ll forget, or simply choose to do something else, if they aren’t committing to booking transport and spending the day in a new city?
Call.Group has plenty of features which mean that these areas won’t cause any problems. Its conferences are fully accessible – participants will be able to join simply from a web browser, with no need for any applications to be downloaded or equipment for their computers. They can simply click the web-link and there they are! Alternatively, everyone has the option to dial in by telephone, meaning that there isn’t even a need for a computer or internet access. And don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that prospective international students will be left out or landed with extortionate phone fees – Call.Group provides local dial-in numbers for multiple countries.
As for the potential for students (particularly those often disorganised and notoriously busy young people studying for A-Levels), Call.Group provides tools which make remembering the open day really easy. First, there will be automatically generated email invitations sent out to anyone who may have signed up for the open day. After this, you can send out automatic reminders, too.
There is also calendar integration with Outlook, Google, Yahoo and Mac, meaning that as soon as the invitation is sent out, attendees can have it linked into their calendars on their phones so that they won’t forget. There’s even a handy time-zone help tool which will let you select the best time to hold the conference, depending on which area of the world you might be targeting with that specific open day.
And don’t worry, you won’t need to compromise on the all-important branding that open days are so good at. Although students won’t leave brandishing pens with the university crest, Call.Group doesn’t have any garish styling which might clash with your colours. You can white-label the conference with your own custom URL, logo and colour scheme.
With so many prospective students doing the vast majority of their research and preparation online, it makes sense to give the option for a virtual open day, too. There can be little doubt that it will allow prospective students, buyers, clients, or guests who would otherwise have been unable or unwilling to make the journey to get a fuller insight into all that your institution offers. People won’t need to clear out a whole day (or even weekend) and set aside a budget for travel, food and accommodation. School won’t need to be missed. Extra staff won’t be needed to herd people in the right direction, or refreshments provided, or rooms lit and heated.
The costs which could be saved for both sides, and the unquestionable comfort and practicality of hosting your next open day with Call.Group make it a no-brainer. As students are starting to make their decisions about what universities to consider and which open days to attend this spring and summer, make sure you’re offering access to as many as possible.