Open Days – The preparation, the day itself, and the follow up
Open Days are a great opportunity for prospective parents and pupils to get a good look around a school – checking out facilities, ethos and general practicalities such as the courses and extra-curricular experiences on offer. Every school wants to show themselves in the best light to ensure they are fully subscribed for the upcoming year. So how do you maximise the opportunity for the school and the experience for the parents/students?
If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Of course, we all know this. So how best to prepare for an Open Day? Well, we are sure you are on top of that from an organisational sense; which teachers are needed, resources for special activities and experiments on the day, and having current students on hand maybe to conduct tours and answer questions. However, how do you best get the word out about your day? What are the channels for ensuring every potential parent knows that you exist AND when to come?
Social media is a great place to get the word out to a wider audience. This especially applies for independent schools, where students may travel from further afield than your local catchment. However, any school could use social media to gather a following of parents who may start reading posts long before their child is old enough to join the school. We have written a guide for getting started with Facebook as a school, and for getting started with using Twitter as a school/teacher to give you a helping hand. Once you have dipped a toe in the water you may want to go further and actually use Facebook to advertise your Open Day. This is cheaper and easier to set up than you may think. It also means you can target people living in a specific area and who have children of certain ages.
Don’t forget to use your school website to publicise your open day.
Add a diary date to your website calendar and use the “Pop up alert” feature to add a professional-looking overlay to your website home page if you use the Greenhouse CMS.
The Open Day Itself
On the day you will no doubt have lots going on. Many parents will want to speak to everyone they can, including teachers, plus admissions teams and, of course, the headteacher. But not everyone will get round to everything on a busy day. So how do you ensure you maximise their time at the school?
You may want to have a prospectus to hand out, with a sheet about the day inside so parents can see the timetable of activities or a map to find their way around. Prospectuses seemed to go out of fashion for a while but we have seen a real resurgence in their popularity of late. You can host yours as an ebook version on your website as well as having some printed prospectuses to hand out on the Open Day. Our blog looks at some of the key benefits of a prospectus and some of the features you may wish to include. We even have bespoke prospectus designs to save you time and money.
A prospectus can also include great photos of the school day in action which is a useful angle for parents to see. This is especially relevant if your Open Day is not during school hours.
For those who cannot visit on the Open Day, your website is a great place for them to find the “as good as visiting” information too. Our drone footage and video packages give parents a view into the school which provides an extra layer to the experience versus still photos alone. You could also host a video tour made by students for a different view. Our 360-degree virtual tours also offer something a cut above the rest by giving parents a chance to visit facilities via the web. These also serve as a great reminder for parents when looking back at schools. When you have visited numerous schools it can all merge into one a bit and they may forget which school had which facility, so a tour online can help to jog their memory and remind them of the great day they had with you.
The Follow Up
After they have visited your school make sure to follow up with a link to your website via email so that parents can look again at information they heard on the day. Also, consider sending the PDF or ebook version of your prospectus; this is a great way to minimise print costs as well. Prospective parents may also want to look at the more “mundane” information in policies and curriculum pages. It is natural on Open Days that we look at the parts which might get our children excited and interested in the school and let’s face it – policies probably are not top of the agenda there! But the website can back up the happy feelings of the Open Day with the hard facts of everything you can provide prospective students with.
Again, photos and videos can jog a parent’s memory; having a school website with good quality stills or a video can help to recreate the Open Day experience from their own home. This can make such a difference for schools where local competition is high.
If all goes to plan and parents and students see how great you are, don’t forget to also point them towards all the information they will need when they get that wonderful letter to say their child has gained a place at your school. Our blog details some of the key things to include on your website for new parents so that they don’t panic over the summer holidays and arrive ready to start in September.