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Are virtual fairs a key tool for a future beyond Covid-19?

The current global environment has presented a range of challenges for the world of international education, with many educators now looking for new approaches to connect with their next student generation. Virtual fairs are not a new tool, but they have certainly been thrust into the limelight over recent months.

Having grown up surrounded by technology, Gen Z students are more than comfortable searching for their future educational opportunities through a computer or tablet. Photo: unsplash

"Virtual events should become a vital pillar of any recruitment strategy in the future"

FPP EDU Media has been involved in student recruitment for over 20 years and driven by a desire to continually develop and innovate, moved into the world of virtual events in 2012. Since then, FPP has seen tremendous developments in the possibilities of virtual recruitment and introduced its own bespoke platform in 2017.

“Through virtual events, we are meeting the students of Generation Z in their environment”

Why go virtual?

Virtual fairs became part of many institutions’ recruitment strategy out of necessity. But could they be considered a key tool for a future beyond Covid-19?

Virtual fairs present not only a solution to a problem but an opportunity for growth. Although virtual events may not enable recruiters to meet students in person, live video calls offer a good substitute and the essence of a recruitment event remains the same.

With the possibility of recorded calls and conversation transcripts, recruiters will have a clear memory of each student, meaning they can follow up more effectively and in a more personalised way. The increased data available also means institutions can be more analytical of their strategy, the students they are meeting, and the results they are generating.

But more than this – virtual events broaden any institutions’ reach into markets in ways not even imaginable through in-person recruitment.

Through virtual fairs, exhibitors can reach students who are not solely from the major cities that in-person recruitment events might visit, but also those students (and the all-important parents) in far afield cities, towns and villages who rarely have the opportunity to meet international representatives.

Not only can you reach these students, but they can be reached at the same time through a single event, and for just a fraction of the cost – with no need to consider flights, accommodation, shipping or even visa fees, one virtual event can save an institution many thousands of dollars, in some cases 70% or more, leaving budget for additional events or to develop other recruitment channels.

With multiple representatives taking part from an institution, the number of meaningful conversations also increases: More conversations means more enrollments and a higher ROI.

“Virtual recruitment is also environmentally friendly with a vastly reduced carbon footprint”

This cost-saving benefit means that an institution can further their presence in one of their established markets, or begin exploring new opportunities which previously could not be considered with budget restrictions.

On top of being a budget-friendly option, virtual recruitment is also environmentally friendly with a vastly reduced carbon footprint when compared to traditional international recruitment methods.

Through virtual events, we are meeting the students of Generation Z in their environment. Having grown up surrounded by technology, these students are more than comfortable searching for their future educational opportunities through a computer or tablet.

Tips for choosing  a virtual event

As with in-person recruitment events, institutions should analyse their options carefully when considering a provider, and consider what makes a virtual event successful.

With the number of options for virtual events ever-increasing, it’s important that the right event is selected. Here there is a wide range of questions to ask, but some of the key points to look at include:

  • The organiser’s experience
  • Which system or platform is used
  • Replicates an in-person event?
  • How many representatives can take part?
  • How is the interaction with students? Only text? in group? Private? Audio/video?
  • Do we need to download any software or run multiple programs?
  • What information can we upload?
  • How is the event promoted to students and what is the profile of the student audience?
  • Is the platform multi-lingual?
  • What data is available after the event?

Whilst virtual events may be a new tool for many institutions, with a wide range of benefits provided they should become a vital pillar of any recruitment strategy in the future.

Key benefits of virtual recruitment

  • Budget-friendly with a much wider reach
  • More representatives mean more conversations
  • More data means more personalised follow-up and in-depth reporting
  • With recorded conversations, meetings can be referred to later
  • Increased parental involvement
  • Generation Z in their comfort zones
  • Safety: recruiters do not have to travel to areas that may pose a risk
  • Environmentally friendly: reduces carbon footprint and printing

Julio Ronchetti is the founder of FPP EDU Media. FPP started in a garage in 1997, and over the years became a significant player in the industry. It initially started as a tech company then integrated student recruitment events to its core: “FPP is not just one person but a group of amazing people that are proud of introducing different innovations throughout the years”. 

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