68. Strategies For Conducting Successful Admissions Events
In this episode, we’re excited to guide you through the intricacies of planning, executing, and following up on admission events for schools. We’ll highlight the critical aspects of strategic planning, including choosing the event format (be it in-person or online), setting clear goals, and optimizing your promotional efforts. We also talk through the importance of creating a memorable experience for prospective families, leveraging students as guides, and applying the reciprocity principle when it comes to event giveaways.
About Tara Claeys & Aubrey Bursch:
Tara Claeys is the founder of Design TLC – a professional website agency for small schools. She’s passionate about helping organizations provide enriching experiences for children by creating a great first impression online. Aubrey Bursch is founder + CEO of Easy School Marketing. She’s also a mom, lover of green smoothies and Peloton, and podcast host. She is passionate about supporting small + independent schools to increase enrollment, retention, and revenue.
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The following content has been automatically generated by an AI system from the audio recording of this podcast. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, or completeness of the information provided, and we apologize for any errors.
[00:00:00] Welcome to Mindful School Marketing. I’m Aubrey Bursch. And I’m Tara Clays. Today we don’t have a guest. Aubrey and I are going to talk about admission events. So it’s a new school year and it’s time to start planning for and scheduling all the opportunities for prospective families to learn more about your school.
[00:00:23] So of course, having successful open houses and information sessions is more than just putting it on the calendar and taking people on a tour, right? There’s a lot of planning and other things that go into making those events a success. So today we’re going to break down some thoughts on how to make this year’s admissions events better than ever before.
[00:00:42] Um, so Aubrey, why don’t you start off by talking about sort of what goes into planning these events, decisions that need to be made and when schools should be doing this planning. Oh, I love this event. I’m so glad we’re, um, we’re talking about it today, Tara. Um, well, a lot of times when you’re planning event, you’re kind of looking at your internal calendar and you’re saying, where can we put in this admissions event, but kind of the better question to ask is, you know, what’s going on in the world around us?
[00:01:09] Are there days when the public school is off? So if we want families to come tour, or maybe, um, you have, You know, I know in the Washington DC metro area, there’s a federal government. So what are days that they might have off where you could schedule these admissions events? Um, also when are other independent schools in the area hosting admissions events?
[00:01:29] And that can be both be a plus and minus. Do you want to be part of an admissions? Like if everyone’s hosting on a particular Saturday and families are making the rounds, do you want to be a part of that? Um, Like all these questions are really good. So strategically planning the time of your event, like in the date, and then also looking at the format of your event, um, it’s always a good idea to like scope out what other people are doing for their admissions events and then deciding what works best for your, um, particular school.
[00:01:57] Um, and when I say what works best, I mean, what format. Are you going to do it in person online? Are you going to do tours as part of it? Is your admissions event going to be part of a larger community event? We’ve seen this actually successfully implemented at a few schools. Um, so kind of looking at all that and deciding on the format.
[00:02:18] And then I think this next piece is super important. It’s deciding about your goals and expectations for the event. What. At the end of this event, and at the end of this process involving the admissions event, what do you consider a success? What are your goals for attendance? What are your goals for conversions?
[00:02:35] All of that, because that’s going to help you determine in the end if the event was a success. And then making sure you’re sharing those goals with not only your team, but in your administration, but also the faculty and staff and telling them the why, why is this event important? That’s often really helpful in convincing people to support an event like this.
[00:02:54] Now, I’m curious, Tara, um, you know, we’ve talked about planning and everything like that, but can you share some tips on setting up, because that’s part of the planning almost, setting up event announcements on the website and anything else having to do with setting up and promoting an event? Yeah, for sure.
[00:03:11] So this is really important because people have to know about your events. So, really a key is, uh, is successfully getting the word out about your events. your events, whether they are in person or online. A lot of schools are doing both, because now families really want the convenience of being able to access an information session online or virtual tours.
[00:03:32] So being able, you know, once you’ve decided in that planning that you’re going to do both, how are you setting those up? Um, how are you promoting them? So starting out with your website. Whatever platform you’re on, you know, are you going to, are you able to, are going to set up the event on the website itself, um, where it will show up on a calendar that people can view different options, different dates and times, or are you going to use a separate system like event bright, because maybe what you’re using doesn’t allow you to create a robust enough, um, set up a robust enough situation for people to be able to.
[00:04:08] RSVP and get automated reminders and confirmations, which is super important as well. So you want to investigate what your website platform offers, and then also a third party, like Eventbrite or something, if your website doesn’t allow you to do that, or if you’re, you know, if the person who’s managing the events doesn’t have access to the website, or maybe doesn’t have the Technical savvy or comfort level to work with the website set up event, right, or something like that is super easy to use.
[00:04:36] So that could work to, um, if you can do it on your website, that’s definitely preferable. It’s more professional to have it all in one place. But, you know, for a small school, you do have the other option of something like Eventbrite, which, um, Or, you know, there’s I think there’s brown paper tickets, those types of things.
[00:04:52] So you want to make sure that they also have some kind of automation reminders. If you’re doing a zoom type of virtual session, then you want to make sure that you set up your situation on your website. Or wherever you’re promoting it, that that zoom link is not publicly accessible, that it’s something that gets sent either manually by you to your list that you pull afterward or through an automation that you’ve set up within your website.
[00:05:18] So that that zoom link is only sent to people who have signed up, um, and you can even do some vetting of that if you need to, to make sure that, you know, they’ve confirmed their email or something like that. So that. you don’t have any, um, any interlopers on your virtual session. Um, so Zoom, you can do a Zoom webinar as well, which is a format which allows you more control over your attendees interaction.
[00:05:42] So deciding that as part of the planning, but also then Embedding that information into the website event itself so that people can sign up either through your website or through Zoom webinar is another option as well. So once you’ve done that, once you’ve set that up, then you need to think about how you’re promoting it.
[00:06:00] And one more thing I’ll mention in terms of setup also is that in addition to Public events like open houses or information sessions. You may also offer some one on one opportunities for people. So these are, you know, these are still events because they’re still coming to meet with you. So you have to plan in a similar way, but maybe you only do.
[00:06:20] You know, one on one appointments, and you don’t do big mass kind of open events, in which case you want to make it easy for people to sign up for those one on one appointments by using something an appointment scheduling tool like Calendly, which is very popular. I know schools that, um, that we have set Calendly up on their website for their, uh, their school tours and visits are just amazed at how much time.
[00:06:48] This saves and how much easier their life is when they use something like that, rather than just going through email and trying to find a time. So I highly recommend if you if you’re doing one on one events that you use something like Calendly to allow people to schedule the appointments automatically.
[00:07:04] And then that also sends out reminders. So that is really important as well. Um, so once you have your events set up, then you need to promote them. So they’re on your website or on the web in some way, but people are not going to necessarily find them if they’re not coming to your website. So if you have a list of people who have signed up for it.
[00:07:26] Information people who have clicked that inquire button on your website, and they’re in your pipeline. Those people get an email from you with a link to sign up and then also advertising. So, doing digital ads is a really successful way to promote your events. And we reached out to Trevor Waddington of truth tree to ask him about a little bit about.
[00:07:46] Um, some considerations for the digital advertising that you’re doing for open houses, and he pointed out something really important, which is that the term open house is flagged by Facebook and Google. So you want to make sure that when you’re doing advertising that you’re aware of that it has to do with housing and discrimination laws, mostly for real estate, but they want to make sure that.
[00:08:11] That term is not being used for reasons different than what a school would, but they do flag that term. So you want to make sure that in any advertising that you’re not using that term so that your ads don’t get flagged. And then so once you’ve got your, your, your Everything set up on your website and you’re starting to advertise once people click that button and they sign up what happens.
[00:08:37] So those tools that we talked that I talked about in terms of setting up the events, you want to make sure that there’s some kind of automation set up so that immediately people get a confirmation that they’ve signed up in their email that they get the zoom link if it’s online. And then also, um, that they get reminders and some platforms allow you to actually do a text reminder.
[00:08:58] If you’re collecting a phone number, which can be really helpful because people do forget and you don’t want to you want to see you’re going to have people not that don’t show up for sure. But you want to try to improve that the rate of people who are who are actually going to be showing up at your event.
[00:09:15] Um, Aubrey, do you have any other thoughts on promoting the, uh, your admission events? Yes, and I’m so glad, by the way, you mentioned Calendly and text reminders, as I think those are so helpful to ensuring that parents are actually taking the next step and also being reminded to come, um, in terms of promotion, um, we also like to think about organic promotion.
[00:09:37] How are you promoting the event organically? Um, and that means use the tools you already have. So if you have a LinkedIn account, which I hope you do, you know, you can do a LinkedIn event. You can do a Facebook event, Google business profile event. There was so many ways organically to showcase your events.
[00:09:54] Um, you can put it on the next door app, which is like a community or any other community listservs, um, those tend to be helpful, um, and encourage your board and parent, current parents to share with friends, especially in a target. Like if you’re targeting a certain grade or enrollment, reach out to those parents, because usually if you’re a parent of a fifth grader, you know, other parents of fifth graders.
[00:10:16] So that’s just typically how it works with parents. So definitely make sure using those organic channels. And then, of course, your local association. I know the ones in our area always are posting open, um, open houses and admissions events on their channels as well. So just some things to think about in terms of organic promotion.
[00:10:36] Yeah. Excellent.
[00:10:41] All right. So your events are scheduled and they’re posted online. People have signed up and you’ve done some initial planning, but now you have some additional planning to do, right? You have to make sure that you have all the bases covered to ensure that the visitors to your events are going to have the best experience possible.
[00:11:00] Um, and Aubrey, you’re really good at this. Can you share some of the key considerations for planning the actual event itself? When people are on campus. Absolutely. So my background, one of my first jobs in an independent school was event planning for them. So I planned a lot of events in person and also virtually.
[00:11:17] Um, so, uh, one of the things that we kind of forget as we’re putting things together is like, what is the customer experience? Um, and customer experience is so important. Often we don’t think of our prospective families as customers. customers, but they are potential customers. So from the moment they enter your campus and even how they find your campus is so important to have the experience that they’re going to have.
[00:11:39] If you have a windy campus that requires security, I had to go through this with a school recently, like that. They didn’t tell me that I had to like have my ID out and like all these different things. Like, You need to make sure that your visitors know the protocols, know where to park, know how to find your school.
[00:11:54] Um, and then from there, like, so I, I even like, like to walk the campus, like how, as like, as if the event is happening. So then I know, okay, they’re coming in the front door. What if it’s raining? Where do we get do like who’s greeting them? Like who’s guiding them? Where do we want them to go first and really walking through it, um, with the customer in mind of their experience and everything like that.
[00:12:18] Um, Also, I like to say, like, I look at every piece of an event. So, for example, if you’re a school that values sustainability, and that’s one of your pillars, if you are serving plastic water bottles, then that is not aligned with your mission. And it’s going to be a very big, um, disconnect for people who are coming to your event.
[00:12:37] So looking at customer experience through that too, from the, from what you’re serving to how they’re moving through your space and the experience they’re having. Um, and also understanding. If you haven’t already collected data from your new families and from people who are gone through the admissions process, why are people attracted to your school?
[00:12:55] That would be great for you to back in that and say, okay, as a customer, they particularly like this part of our campus, or they’re very interested in the arts program. Like those are big draws for us. Let’s make sure that we’re reading it into our customer experience and making sure we’re giving them the information they want on these areas.
[00:13:11] Um, so collecting data on that in advance is usually a good idea as you’re planning them in and then thinking about the customer experience. Also, what we’re noticing, and this is across the board, is that students you know, it can be even younger than fourth grade, but those types of students, definitely fifth and above are really starting to have a say in where they go to school, like what they’re, where they’re going, um, what sort of, uh, you know, educational institution they want to go to school at.
[00:13:39] So, um, it’s understanding that as you’re planning these events and as you’re thinking about the customer experience, you’re thinking about. How the customer experience is if you’re either having students, um, come through that event, um, and how you’re using students. to kind of highlight your programs. Um, uh, definitely if you’re having like older middle school and high school students attend your admissions event, it would be very wise to, um, have several students from your institution there as guides, they’re answering questions, um, because that peer to peer marketing is very powerful.
[00:14:13] And with the decision makers for middle school and high school, typically being, you know, students, uh, along with their parents, but Students definitely weigh in a lot. Um, we want to make sure that our admissions event, our customer, customer experience reflects this. Um, also I would say there’s the law of reciprocity along in, in marketing and everything like this.
[00:14:32] And if you’re able to use that in your admissions events, like a lot of times admissions events, or if you’re somewhere they’re giving away like tchotchkes or something like this, but what is a meaningful way to, um, to use the law of reciprocity, which is when you give something to someone. They are more likely to instinctually want to do something for you.
[00:14:53] Now, does it mean they will automatically enroll in your school? Absolutely not, but it might be that they speak highly of you to a friend or something like that. So, um, what is mission aligned that you could give away? For example, that sustainability school might give away a seed packet as part of their parting gift.
[00:15:07] Um, maybe the student gives it to them or a plant, or maybe they pick something out of the organic garden. I don’t know, figure out what works in his mission like you, but using reciprocity, um, in your event is very helpful and ensuring that your customer experience works. Well, um, also always considering like, what are the key takeaways?
[00:15:24] Are you going to include printed materials? Um, and if so, you know, how are you going to ensure that, that parents and the people who are walking through your events have access to that, um, Tara, is there anything else that you have to add regarding this? Um, I think all that you’ve shared is great. And I think then, you know, kind of want to talk about while while people are at the event, that idea of, um, once the information that you have that that you’ve collected and collecting additional information.
[00:15:54] So I want to kind of jump back because I didn’t mention this when we didn’t mention this when we were talking about the posting the event and getting people to RSVP probably should have. Have drilled down a little bit on that because you mentioned, you know, understanding some information about the people who are coming and getting information about them.
[00:16:12] So we know that people are less likely to fill out a form if you ask them too many questions. So you want to find the right balance in your. Registration RSVP, where if you’re collecting their phone number, for example, that you’re doing a text message, but also what grades they’re interested in. So having the form have a little bit of information that you can gather and then in your follow up in your confirmation message or your reminder, maybe you’re sending a note including asking them a couple of additional questions.
[00:16:41] Are they, you know, are they interested in a specific sport, um, or a specific academic subject, um, at your school so that you have that information and you can keep those notes when they arrive so that you’re connecting with them on a more personal level and making them feel like they’re being listened to.
[00:16:59] So before the event even happens, um, getting some information there, but then once they’re at the event, right, you want to Take the opportunity to learn even more about them. So how are you collecting information from them at the event? Um, you know, how are you tracking the families who and their interests with your school’s mission to see how they align?
[00:17:21] Um, you know, what is the format? Are you doing that when they initially arrive? Is there a form that they fill out? How are you getting that information? Um. Are your teachers and your student ambassadors participating in that process? You know, what are you using to collect that information? Are you doing it?
[00:17:38] Maybe you’re using QR codes, right? Where they can scan that and answer some questions on a Google form or a form on your website so that you can get that additional information. Also, yeah, I was going to say, and also having someone keeping notes so that any questions that are asked can be added to your FAQs on your website is great, too, so that you can also, you can add them to the website and then also follow up with those FAQs for people who were there just to remind them of the information that you shared specifically addressed to what they wanted to know.
[00:18:13] Absolutely. I’m so glad you brought that up. The collecting of information is really important. I would say the collecting of information from your staff is equally important. So what we often see is people put on an admissions event and they’ve got the information from the people, but they didn’t. Give their student ambassadors a form to check off like this is the family I talked to and they were interested in this and there’s their questions.
[00:18:36] And that’s a big drop right in in the potential information. In addition, if you have teachers or administrators working around, it’s always good for them to give feedback about particular families, especially if their mission aligned. Um, and any questions asked, um, and We find that having a form or some sort of electronic way that’s easy for for your parent volunteers, your student ambassadors, your administration, anyone participating in the event can easily give you feedback is is the best way.
[00:19:05] In addition, building in time right at building in. Um, the event for anyone else who’s there to really debrief to make sure you’ve collected all the events you have forms from everyone. Um, and that you have everything you’re going to need, um, to move to the next step. Yeah, that’s great. Um, so what about calls to action?
[00:19:28] How do you, what are you asking people to do before they leave or after they leave in your follow up? What are some calls to action that you recommend, Aubrey? So, so I think this is great. This goes back to when you were planning your goals. Like, what is the next step? Like, obviously, you know, they’re attending the event.
[00:19:45] So, your end goal is probably you want them to enroll, but what is the next step? Like, there is always a next step. Is it apply? Is it schedule a tour? Is it take, you know, do X, Y, and Z? So from figuring out what you want your call to action to be, and then making sure that you’ve wrapped that call to action in some sense of urgency, is there a priority enrollment deadline?
[00:20:07] Um, what is the thing that’s going to move people from one step to the next and to make sure that that’s part of your admissions events call to action, um, so that you’re actually getting people interested and then creating some urgency so they take the next step.
[00:20:24] So I, as we’re thinking about, you know, moving through the process. Can you talk to us here a little bit about, you know, that last step, the follow up and what are some things to think about when you’re following up and tracking results? Yeah. So you’ve collected this data, you have met. Interesting people and you have this list.
[00:20:47] Hopefully you’re using some kind of a tracking system, whether it’s within your CRM or a spreadsheet that you’re using internally with the information that, um, that you mentioned like that you’re collecting from other people who were at the event, your student ambassadors and parent volunteers and things you have.
[00:21:03] All of this information about all of the families who attended. So now taking that information and making a personal connection as a follow up is a really effective and important thing to do. I’m a fan of handwritten notes. So maybe it’s coming from a student or a teacher, uh, but having a handwritten note and you can have a team of people who are working on that.
[00:21:24] And again, you have this spreadsheet, you have this, this data. Base that you can use that anyone can connect with these families, sending them a handwritten note just to thank them for coming and addressing any particular specific thing that you noted about them is really helpful. You can also follow up.
[00:21:44] In addition to that, with email, right, which is really important as well, so that you have You’re creating a digital footprint here, too. So using templates, so you can use a basic template and then add a little personal information at the top. Um, you, your CRM may have this, it may be harder to do them one on one through that system.
[00:22:02] So you may be doing this, you know, depending on how small your school is, it might, you know, it might not be a ton. So you’re just, you know, spending a little bit of time crafting a personal message, but you can start with a template that you copy and paste from a Google doc. Or, you know, or or a word doc or whatever.
[00:22:20] I like to use a system. I use Gmail and there’s something called cloud HQ and you can store templates. They actually go into your Google Drive, but then you just click a button within Gmail and it automatically creates your template that you can then customize. That’s called cloud HQ. Um, that’s really easy to use for one on one emails.
[00:22:39] Um, what about you? I’ll be. What are some key follow up ideas that you have? Absolutely. These are great. Tara. I’m so glad we’re discussing Bob. So one of the key kind of challenges we had working in schools is there’s not a lot of time to do anything. And once an event is finished, we’re usually on to the next planning thing.
[00:22:58] So what I always recommend is that everyone who’s involved in the event that has an action step. That would include a follow up action step. They block off time after the event. And then the day after the event, or if that event, you know, happened on the weekend, the next business day, um, where it’s non negotiable time where they set set aside that time to make the follow ups so that you’re distributing among your teachers, your administration.
[00:23:21] In your team, you know, those follow-up pieces, whether it’s that handwritten note or if you wanna do a video messages. We’ve had a lot of schools have success with those like follow up personalized video messages, um, you know, all that kind of business for follow-up, um, needs to be on the calendar. Um, and then remembering that, you know, it’s not just following up with the people who attended the event.
[00:23:44] Everyone who volunteered for the event, um, and any administration and administrators and teachers involved should also receive a thank you note or some kindness from you as they’re more likely to volunteer in the future if, uh, you do so. And plus it’s just nice because They’re living busy lives too. So they took the time out of their schedule to help with this event.
[00:24:05] So let’s make sure that we honor them. Um, in addition, um, it’s, we always see the follow up for like immediately follow the event for prospective families. And we’re usually urging them to the next step. Um, but some families don’t end up enrolling and some families are just on that wait and see, or they’re touring two years prior to like maybe when they’re thinking about coming.
[00:24:27] So we always encourage. We encourage people to make sure that they add this new list to this new kind of generated email list from all these people who have attended or if they didn’t attend, like, and you should still follow up with those that didn’t attend, by the way, that might be a different message and a different call to action, but still follow up.
[00:24:44] We encourage them to add to what I call like your soft touch list. So this is list, maybe you’re sending once a month emails, or four times a year that has like, hey, this is what we’re doing at school here come to our community event. That sort of thing. So soft touch, warm and fuzzy. So people still remain connected to your school, regardless about what, what stage they are in, in your admissions process.
[00:25:07] Um, so Tara, what about you? What are your, as we’re, as we’re thinking about follow up, there’s, there’s something that we always need to come to when we talked about setting those goals. And now what do we need to do? Yeah, we need to track the results and, uh, you know, and measure, just look back at the goals that we set.
[00:25:25] And I want to mention one more tool, actually, because you know me and my tech tools. So I’ll mention a tool, because I love the idea of sending a video message. And you know, how to do that effectively and embed that in email might be tricky. So we use a tool called video ask. I’ll put the link in the show notes and you can check it out, but it allows you to embed the email in the video into the email and it’s, it’s kind of catches your eye and it’s really engaging.
[00:25:50] So I would recommend that there are some others as well out there that do that. I love your tech tool recommendations. Yeah, I know. I always have tools. Um, so, okay, so let’s talk about tracking the results. So you have, hopefully, as I mentioned, this spreadsheet where you, you can then indicate what has happened.
[00:26:10] Has, has that family enrolled? Um, have they let you know why they are not enrolling? Um, and and go back and look at what your goals were. So, you know, was it worth it? Uh, what do you think, Aubrey? What are some other things to think about when it comes to tracking the results and the return on your investment in this event?
[00:26:30] Absolutely. So, um, often it, it, it goes to, it goes, it’s not just how many people attended events. So we’re really good at tracking like, or we should be really good at tracking that. It’s also how much time and energy and money went into producing this event. I’ve seen, um, several, especially high school admissions events that get, their budget is Is big because they’re trying to compete with the school down the street and stuff and it starts to skyrocket and eat into your budget, but in the end, was the event worth it, we talked about those goals that you had for the event.
[00:27:02] And like what conversions you wanted to see. So, in the months following the event and then as you’re going through your admission season, it’s indicating it’s figuring out, okay, out of the people who came to the submissions event. How many moved through the process and where did they stop in the process and why, and then how many actually ended up being.
[00:27:20] Converted to enrolled students, because that is your end goal. So if you’re spending a whole bunch of time and energy producing an event, and it’s not giving you conversions, then it’s time to reconsider is the event worth it is the format, you know, off, was there something that, you know, maybe you could tweak to make better, or should you look at some other format?
[00:27:40] Um, and that’s always a good thing to do. Um, it’s why I always encourage. Um, debriefing after the event and then debriefing after admission season too to make sure like, okay, we get this is what we would do differently about the event. That’s usually what you realize right after an event. You’re like, Oh, he totally messed up with this part.
[00:27:58] And then it’s at the end of the mission season like was that event really worth it did in the end of this admission season, was it worth our time, money and energy. Excellent. Yeah, well, this is all great information and I hope that our listeners find it helpful and we’d love to hear from, uh, from other admissions professionals about what they do, what’s been successful for them.
[00:28:21] So maybe we can have a little conversation and in a chat, um, online on. LinkedIn or something about how other people, um, what are their suggestions that they have. So I’m really so happy we were able to discuss this. I hope it’s timely for people and, um, we’ll look forward to having a guest on our next episode, but thanks for listening, everyone.
[00:28:43] Have a great day. Have a great day. Thanks for listening.