A successful university admissions event will need careful planning, expert execution and of course, thorough evaluation afterwards to ensure the next one is even better.
Measuring the success of your event is crucial, not only because it enables you to adjust your marketing approaches and the direction of your next event’s content , but also because you can use these metrics to showcase insights to the rest of your team.
Event evaluation should actually form part of the event planning process. You should map out your KPIs at the very beginning of the process and ‘evaluate as you go’, as well as after the event has taken place. Just as an academic would map out their lesson objectives before teaching a seminar group, having a clear vision of what you and your team are aiming for will allow you to adapt your planning in real time, and to understand what worked well and what to improve.
Measuring the success of an event isn’t always easy - you can measure the overall success of an event to a large extent by comparing the outcomes with the goals set out in your first meeting, but it’s also important to acknowledge achievements that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, but are of equal importance.
For this reason, it’s key for admissions departments to set general KPIs such as ‘number of students who attended’, but to also establish others that are unique to the institution and its overarching vision. For example, as an institution, you might be focusing on attracting more international students, and although the overall number of attendees was lower than originally estimated, the proportion of international students who attended was greater.
Why are KPIs important?
A Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that signifies, in an education context, how effectively an institution or department is in achieving their key objectives. Organisations use KPIs to evaluate their success at reaching targets established at the beginning of the journey.
Before planning an admissions event, you should establish KPIs so that you and your team are working towards common goals.
A good KPI should be:
- Concise and well defined;
- Easy to communicate and understand;
- Closely linked to the main goal.
When tracking the success of an event, ultimately, you should compare the ‘desired number of attendees’ with the actual number of attendees on the event day. However, you should also collect metrics pertaining to : invites sent, invites received, invites opened, and invited replied with ‘going’.
You can also break the overarching KPIs down even further for each channel. Let’s take social media for example. It’s easy to track likes, shares and engagements through the platforms themselves, and a strategic use of hashtags will help spread the message to a wider audience. Although social engagement is important, when reflecting on the success of your event you really want to know how many people registered on the back of a social post.
So, when you share an admissions event on LinkedIn for instance, create a unique URL so that, if someone clicks through and registers their interest, you can see where it came from and collect this data to use as part of your evaluation after an event has taken place.
In terms of promoting your event through email, you can track the KPIs as you go along, and use the information to improve your strategy as you approach the event. For instance, you could measure the invites opened after the first email has been sent and schedule a second targeted at those who didn’t open it, in an attempt to re-engage them. Why not also A/B test the subject line to determine which approach works best?
A visual representation
Displaying KPIs in a visual way is very useful and gives an overall impression of an event’s success at a glance. Consolidating metrics visually in this way enables you to share it with anyone and easily compare results year-on-year.
The funnel approach is a great way to understand your event's success.
Evaluate with admissions software
Admissions software built especially for educational institutions will make evaluating the success of a student recruitment event very fast and simple, so if you’re not currently using one, we’d highly recommend it as an option. As well as streamlining the entire admissions process from a marketing and administrative perspective, inbuilt visual analytics, and tracking, will enable you to gather metrics in one place.
When using multiple systems, like spreadsheets and email marketing platforms, the process can become arduous. With a CRM, on the other hand, you automatically track open rates, replies, attendees etc. automatically through the platform, and even compare these metrics with those from previous years.
Planning for next year
Measuring the success of your admissions event means nothing if you don’t use the data to inform your strategy for next year. Use the information to your advantage and sketch out ideas for what you and your team will do differently next time whilst the experience is still fresh in your mind.
Here are just a few questions to consider:
- Which promotional channel worked best for you this time, and how will you optimise it moving forwards?
- Which channel didn’t get high levels of engagement and how will you turn this around?
- Can you identify a cohort of prospects, e.g. international students, for whom attendance was low?
- Was the gap between ‘invited, replied with going’ and ‘attendees on event day’ particularly wide? What will you do next time in order to close it?
- How many students applied to the university following an event; how many enrolled in the weeks or months following?
We hope you’ve found this article useful - feel free to use any of our resources to help inform your admissions event planning and evaluation in the future.
Planning, running and evaluating an admissions event can be overwhelming at times, but help is at hand! Download our FREE Event Management Checklist to ensure the journey to student recruitment success runs smoothly.