What a difference a day makes – the challenges of a university open-day event manager
Mar 15

What a difference a day makes – the challenges of a university open-day event manager

Never has the competition amongst the UK’s leading Universities been so tough. The ripples of recent political decisions have been felt by everyone.  Compounding this are the rapid changes in technology and how best to interact with potential students. The pressure on University Marketing and Event departments to not only attract prospective applicants but keep them actively engaged throughout the application process, is challenging.  That’s why the attendance on a University open-day event is often seen as a critical milestone in the student journey.

How do you measure the success of a university open-day event?

Measuring the success of a University open-day event consists of multiple components.  These include the number of prospective students signed up to attend, the actual number who attended and the prospective students’ experience on the open-day event itself.

As an Event Manager your responsibility is to ensure the maximum number of attendees are signed-up and converted to actual attendees. Therefore, your first measure of success is the sign-up rates and to achieve this you need to keep a close eye on sign-up numbers.

How do you measure open-day event sign-up numbers?

When comparing open-day event sign-up rates, you would usually compare this year with the numbers from equivalent events in previous years.  The phrase I often hear is:

“Are our event bookings up on last year?” 

This is normally the starting point for a more in-depth discussion….

The reality is University open days tend to take place on a day of the week rather than on a particular date.  This means the actual date of the event begins to fluctuate.  Add to this, external factors that might push the event backwards or forwards by a week. The obvious ones being clashes with other institutions’ open days. However, things like concerts, Royal weddings even sporting events could hugely impact attendance on your event.  Let’s be honest a University open-day event that clashes with the world cup final is always going to see a dip in attendance.

You are now in a situation where  you are struggling to assess the current sign-up numbers. In order to compare these with last year, you have to try and work out what last year’s event sign-ups were. But it’s not that simple.

The same event last year took place a week later because this year’s event was moved forward to avoid a clash. And this approach can be quite limiting and quickly become very complex. You can only really compare the current event with an event that took place on a similar date last year. Often there are two summer open days.  How can you compare the two summer open-day events? Or compare the 1st summer event this year with the 2nd summer event last year? Or taking it further how is the current event doing compared to the sign-ups for an event that took place last Autumn or Winter?

The ideal solution – track the days to your event

To keep it simple why not use a calculation of days to the open-day event?  What do I mean by this?

Build into your reporting the number of days until the event takes place. This will allow you to compare sign-up levels regardless of the event date.

The Achiever CRM’s University open-day event tracker dashboard easily allows fair comparison of how your two summer open days are performing against each other. The interactive dashboard below shows that the open-day at the start of June has more bookings. However,  looking at the “Days before Event” breakdown in the screenshot below, you can clearly see that the open-day at the end of June is performing better.  This is because 110 days before the events are due to start this second event has more sign-ups.

University Open Day Event Dashboard

University Open Day Event Dashboard

Your University open-day event attendees are down – how can you boost bookings? Armed with the valuable information above you can begin to make better informed marketing decisions. And you can more accurately time your activities for optimum return.

Looking at the trend in the Achiever CRM for Universities dashboard below, you can see that historically the summer open-day bookings spiked 100 days before the event. To boost your first event you could introduce social media advertising or increase your  website presence. You could even send a targeted email shot to any enquirers who have not yet signed up to an open-day.  Hopefully this will give increase your event’s exposure and give it the boost it needs.

Open Day Event Dashboard Event Booking Comparison

Open Day Event Dashboard Event Booking Comparison


About The Author

John Nicholls has over 19 years’ business analysis and systems development experience. He has worked with several large and small-scale organisations in the Medical Science, Education and the Manufacturing sectors. John has implemented a wide range of corporate systems, specifically in UK Universities and latterly Laboratory Sample Management software using the Achiever product range. John enjoys working with customers to optimise processes and help them seek additional value from their systems. Working in partnership with customers to deliver solutions to ever changing markets gives insights into common themes that can help other customers often in very different fields. This allows John to input back into the suite of products to ensure they are market ready and can easily be adapted to changing and evolving requirements.