"Last week I signed up for a virtual education fair. 50 universities from 15 countries signed up for it as well. Some of these universities are on my shortlist. With a lot of excitement, I connected to the online platform, only to disconnect 30 minutes after. Yes, I missed the opportunity to engage over 3 hours with my shortlisted MBA schools. What happened? Before getting into my reasons, here is what you can expect:
- Online classes or school presentations
- Every university has its own virtual booth with brochures and videos.
Not much more. And this is precisely the reason I left. I connected with the expectation to engage with current students, alumni, or faculty. Leveraging on the virtuality of the event, I would have loved to see that extra PLUS."
Virtual education events have become an extension of the university web. Digital brochures are uploaded from the web. Videos are links to existing videos on Youtube. The school presentations are the same that schools are offering through their own events.
Here are 3 ideas to make virtual education events more engaging, and ultimately more successful:
Online events create a level playing field. There is no advantage if your campus is nearby. There are no budget considerations as every university has access to the same online tools of the fair provider. Creating interaction with candidates beyond the student recruiter is key and just a logistical challenge to mobilize the respective stakeholders. Imagine how many conversations you can create with alumni, current students, and faculty on your virtual booth. Panel discussions, AMA sessions, and mini-learning snippets, you name it. Convert your booth into a micro-engagement platform during the fair. Every 15 minutes something new, something different is happening.
Showcase Online Capabilities
Since March 2020, universities are forced to deliver classes online in almost all parts of the world. Universities have been adapting their academic content to a virtual environment. Some have been more successful than others but for those who have a solid online/hybrid teaching model: showcase it! Hybrid learning will stay on for a while. The more you showcase your reinvention of the learning experiences, the more confident candidates will become.
Offer Original Content
Education Fairs, virtual or physical, are for many universities an essential tool for candidate outreach. Like any vital event in other industries, provide attendees with original content produced especially for the event can end content fatigue as many candidates have already visited schools web. With an outreach to candidates prior to the event, the content can be featured as "fair exclusive" or "global launch".
The bigger MBA fair providers (QS TopMBA, The MBA Tour, Access MBA) should give sufficient flexibility on their platforms to universities to enable these 3 recommendations for their own benefit. More engagement creates more value for the candidates, they stay longer on the fair platform, provide positive feedback on their fair experience. This positive candidate experience helps fair providers to onboard more universities on the next tour.