Published - Friday, July 22, 2016
You know your school better than anyone but if you're stuck for some ideas we've put together a few tips to help your run the perfect open event.
Make sure that both students and parents are clear about the timings of your event and what to expect at each stage. Having cards made up with the event schedule and a map of your school site on it will help your visitors feel at ease and ensure they get to the right place! They can better plan their time if they can see exactly what is on offer and will be impressed that you care about the smallest of details.
Most of your visitors will have never been inside your school so allow extra time for them to get to the right location. Even those that have been before may want time to take good look around as they walk around so it's a good idea to allow some time for them to do so. You want your guests to feel relaxed and comfortable while they are with you, so try not to rush them.
Open evenings can be extremely effective when run well, especially when you put yourself in the shoes of your visitors. For some this will be the first time they have visited your school so making sure that the experience is positive is crucial. Laying on nibbles, providing refreshments and playing music before and after your presentations can put them at ease and is relatively inexpensive, especially if you recruit older students to serve canapés or soft drinks. Ensure that faculties or departments are clearly and consistently signposted and presented and that there is enough circulation space (not always easy). Consider if one large open event is the best solution for your catchment or if you will be better proving a more flexible 'come when you can' approach, or a series of smaller events that feel more personal and friendly.
If you are inviting parents, students and other stakeholders to attend your event then think about giving a free gift that they can leave with. For minimal cost you can create a positive memory of the event and of your school , as well as give your visitors a physical reminder of the event, even if all you are giving away is a free bag that they can pop your prospectus into. If budgets are tight then perhaps your technology departments can run student projects to create something truly unique.
It is important that your prospective parents/students leave your school or event with the right information. While they are with you, they will soak up your talk/presentation and the overall feeling of the school. This should provide a good emotional response to their time with you. However, once they are at home, when the time comes to discuss and compare schools they will have forgotten 80% of what you said so make sure that the literature pack that they took is compelling, professional and can answer their post-event questions.
Of course, this really is the tip of the iceberg. Every detail, when done right leaves a positive impression of your school. Be consistent in looking for the small (and large) details that you can improve upon and start early to build a long-term picture of your school.