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by Oliver Rossetti

Outreach Manager at the University of Leicester

posted on 21 Nov '19

Top tips for organising a higher education event for your school or college

Organising a higher education event worthy of repeat supporters

For some of you, organising a CEIAG event at your school or college may seem daunting and for others, you could organise one in your sleep! Whatever your experience in organising events, this guide will provide some advice and top tips on how to successfully organise and execute your event so that those higher education institutions (HEIs) supporting your careers strategy want to come back again and again.

Top Tip #1: The earlier you book, the more HEIs that can attend

The Gatsby Career Benchmarks states that pupils should understand the full range of learning opportunities and putting a date in the diary up to a year in advance will ensure you best meet benchmark 7. Universities and colleges receive a number of requests for support, from attending a higher education careers fair to delivering talks, subject-specific workshops and everything in between; ensuring your date is in the diary first will help the institution best meet your request and allocate sufficient and appropriate resources.

What if my date changes or I need additional support on the day? Generally speaking, no problem at all! As HEIs, we are faced with the same last minute changes so if we can accommodate the change then we always will. In regards to additional support, although most HEIs attending your event will happily provide extra support, if it’s getting close to the date of the event then it’s more likely your main local feeder HEIs will be able to assist, for example, sending a current student to manage the HE stand whilst the HEI representative delivers that talk that you needed covering.

Top Tip #2: The more details, the better!

A common issue that HEIs experience is that the details about an event are vague and do not provide a realistic impression of the day, for example, expecting 500 students to attend your evening careers fair and then only 50 turn up. HEIs like to ensure they have enough literature and collateral to support your students and their parents/guardians and it can be tiring work carrying enough boxes of prospectuses, banners and freebies (to name a few items!). These details should be in your first email and then your confirmation email two weeks beforehand. I suggest you include the following:

  • Date, times and location
  • Expected size of audience (but we appreciate this can fluctuate)
  • Car parking information
  • Schedule of the day
  • Lunch/refreshment information
  • Anything that may impact the day? E.g. Construction work.
  • The main organiser’s contact details for the day

Top Tip #3: Organised chaos is better than no organisation

It is important to research into the date, HEIs attend a number of exhibitions, notably UCAS exhibitions within the months of February to July. Ensuring your event does not conflict with one of these could make the difference as to whether a small, local provider can support your event or not. Communicate with other local schools and colleges and if possible, share the event to encourage a larger variety of HEIs to attend since it’s a larger pool of students to support; or schedule your event the day before or after so that HEIs from afar can book accommodation and attend both events.

Create a programme of the day, for example, scheduling time slots for each year group attending the careers fair or if you’re holding a day of talks, ensuring adequate breaks are given for both speakers and students. It is important to ensure the length of the day does not exceed beyond what is necessary, for instance, a busy two hour HE fair can be more productive for all than stretching it out to a full day. The times of the day also have an impact on an HEI’s availability, costs and carbon footprint so do bear this in mind - a 10am start will typically have less impact on travel and reduce the need for some HEIs to fund overnight accommodation.

The layout of your event can also make a significant impact on the benefit of the event to both HEIs and students. We recommend where possible a conveyor belt style – think airport luggage carousels with stands around the outside facing in and a selection in the middle facing outwards. If this is not possible, as a minimum, ensure students are not walking behind stands where the HEI will be storing literature and valuables as well as ideally not needing to go in between lots of different rooms.

Image of students attending a higher education fair

Top Tip #4: Ensure speaker efficiency is maximised

If you’re planning on speakers coming in to deliver talks on topics such as UCAS personal statement writing and student finance (to name just a few topics on offer!) then ensure you don’t book multiple institutions to deliver the same talk to only a handful of students. HEIs have finite amount of resources and they try to cover as many events as possible across the country. If you are able to have a larger audience for the talk or can run it at different times of the day but for the same speaker then collectively as HEIs, we’d much prefer to be able to support multiple schools rather than just one in a single day.

Top Tip #5: Refreshments - to be or not to be, that is the question?

This will always be budget-dependant! As a general rule, water should be offered for any event – tap water in a jug is just as acceptable as bottled water. If you’re running an event for the whole day or significantly goes into the lunch period, food is always welcomed and very much appreciated, especially since some HEI representatives maybe going onto another event just after yours. However, you don’t have to supply food and if you prefer not to do so, then please let those attending know in advance if they need to bring their own lunch.

Final Top Tip: A passionate event will make a world of difference!

It goes without saying but the more effort and passion you, as the organiser, puts into the event, the more the students and your supporters will get out of it! HEI’s are part of large collaborative networks and sometimes can see each other more than their own families so if an event is good, other HEIs will hear about it. Similarly if an event is poorly managed or ‘mis-sold’ to encourage multiple HEIs to attend and then it’s found out it wasn’t the 1000 pupils promised then it can feel like attending another event would have been more beneficial and will be prioritised next year. Your passion will make the world of difference!

I hope you find these top tips useful and whether it will be your first or your hundredth event, I wish you the best of luck in organising a successful one!

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