10 steps for hosting a digital international student recruitment event that converts

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put the world in lockdown, colleges and universities are increasingly hosting events online to engage with their prospects, applicants, and admitted students. We’ve been working with our university partners for years to maximize digital event registration, attendance, and ultimately conversion to enrollment. Ramping up these efforts in response to the coronavirus crisis, we’ve managed over 251 digital events on behalf of our partners since March 2020.

Through this experience, we’ve compiled the steps we’ve found to be good practice for successfully engaging prospective international students and improving conversion rates. We hope this helps as you do more online events.

1. Choose a relevant topic

Carefully consider the needs and interests of your student audiences and craft event content accordingly. A great way to get a sense for topics that are top-of-mind for students is by analyzing trends in international student FAQs.

2. Determine the best delivery format

Think critically about HOW your speaker is going to present on your chosen topic. There are various formats to choose from – traditional PowerPoint lecture, a TED Talk style speech, a mix of slide and webcam sharing. It’s just as important to be strategic in your delivery as it is in choosing a topic.

3. Use interactive features to engage your audience

Online event systems offer a variety of features to interact with your audience like polls and Q&A chat boxes. As you’re building the content for your session, think about opportunities for audience participation and which interactive features best fit with the goals of your event.

4. Promote persistently

Include speaker bios and photos on the event registration page to show credibility and garner interest in your experts. Launch an omni-channel promotional plan that continues right up until the point you go live.

5. Prep and practice

Even the most seasoned speakers get camera-shy. Schedule practice sessions to acclimate your speaker to the event technology and to exercise the nuances of managing tone of voice, hand gestures, and facial expressions when in front of a camera instead of a physical audience.

6. Build your post-event survey

Publish a survey to launch at the end of your event that asks for feedback on the content and format of the event. This is also a great opportunity to ask international students what topics they’d like addressed next.

7. Set up your presentation environment

Make sure your speaker is in a quiet space with a strong internet connection. If your presenter is using video, ensure there is nothing inappropriate in the background of the video and that there is good lighting.

8. Anticipate student questions

Although COVID-19 is an important topic of concern for prospective international students, the majority of questions students are asking in virtual events is typical of any recruitment cycle – visas, accommodation, entry requirements, fees/scholarships, employment prospects. Since March 2020, roughly 27% of questions during our US partners’ virtual events have been regarding COVID-19.

9. Launch segmented follow-up communications

Your event may have ended but your campaign hasn’t. Be equally as persistent in your follow-up as you were in recruiting students to register. Nurture interest from both your no-shows and your attendees with segmented, personalized communications across multiple channels like email, WhatsApp, and phone calls.

10. Measure results

Review registration and attendee reports generated in your event system to calculate attendance rates. UniQuest has seen an average attendance rate of 50% across its college and university partners since March 2020 with attendance rates rising as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Beyond attendance rate, it’s key to track your digital events’ impact on enrollments, which requires the right platform and processes to manage and measure the complete student journey.

We have conversations with thousands of students daily and are busy reporting the latest trends in student demand and perceptions amid the COVID-19 crisis. Follow us on LinkedIn for weekly insights to help you engage your prospective international students in these uncertain times.