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by Nico Prins | April 23, 2020

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The recruiting season for fresh graduates in many industries is just around the corner. But with most people inside their homes due to the COVID-19 crisis, universities have begun canceling or postponing traditional on-campus recruitment fairs and networking events.

Thankfully though, all is not lost. According to PCMA Education Foundation, 67% of respondents to a recent survey expect to leverage technology to participate remotely in events in the next three years. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated this shift.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use technology to host digital events. But first, here’s why you should switch to organizing digital events in the first place, let’s get our definitions in order.

How to Plan a Virtual Event

Virtual events can range from small question-and-answer sessions to large conferences and product presentations. In recruitment, there are three main types of virtual events:

  • Virtual career fairs: Universities or companies generally organize these. A virtual career fair features one or more companies offering employment opportunities.
  • Virtual info sessions: Through a virtual info session, you can host discussions, Q&A sessions with employees across different departments, and more.
  • Webinars: These typically feature company speakers making a presentation about a specific position in the company or a recruitment program.

The format of your virtual event will depend on your goals. For example, if you’re the university administration running a career fair, you’d want a platform that allows attendees to submit resumes. You’d also want a feature that enables employers’ to conduct on-the-spot presentations and allow for multiple “booths”.

If that sounds too advanced for your purposes, you might try something simpler. A virtual info session or webinar lets you host a presentation and then end by splitting the attendees across break out rooms. I’ve run these types of workshops as a SaaS consultant for clients. The format would be similar for a virtual info session.

For instance, you can have one breakout room for your company’s sales department, another for the marketing department, another for the creative department, and so on. You’ll probably be familiar with break out rooms if you’ve spent any time on Zoom recently.

Once you’ve decided on the format, consider your topic. This should be straightforward. If it’s not, ask yourself: “what do I want the audience to take away from this event?”

1. Choose the appropriate time.

For hosting an event, you’ll have to find a time that works for your audience. If, for instance, you’re looking to hire people living in the U.S., consider the time zone. If it’s 1 p.m. in New York, it’s 10 a.m. in Anchorage. You need to find a time that would fit people in both locations. You also need to think about what day you'll hold the event; just because most of us are currently at home doesn't mean that weekends aren't still reserved for personal or family time. The middle of the week, on the other hand, is popular, as you can see from this graphic originally shared on Medium.

2. Create an opt-in page and email sequence.

To promote your event, you need to prepare two things: the opt-in page where you advertise your virtual event and the email sequence you will send people who sign up for the event.

Most webinar platforms have a page builder with templates for registration pages. If you want to make something fancier, you can use a landing page builder to design your page.

You also need an email sequence for people who have registered. I recommend using the following sequence:

  1. Welcome email
  2. Reminder one week before the event
  3. Second reminder the day before the event
  4. Final email an hour before the event

You need to send registrants a reminder. There is a correlation between the number of emails you send and attendance rates. Check out the results of a study conducted by Wild Apricot to see what I mean.

3. Promote your event.

Once you have your materials in place, you can start promoting your event. Make sure you have your target audience defined at this stage. For instance, if you’re a university seeking to organize a job fair, then you’d obviously have to target both the companies participating in the job fair and students.

Next, you want to define the promotion channels.

A combination of social media and cold email outreach normally does the trick. I’d use email outreach for finding suitable speakers. If you don’t have a person's details, an email verification tool will come in useful. You can ask your speakers to promote the event on their social media pages too.

Following Up After the Event

It’s important to follow up with attendees after the event. Firstly, you should ask for general feedback. This is your chance to hear what attendees think of the event. You can use feedback to make adjustments and improvements.

Secondly, you might have a specific action you want attendees to complete. For example, you might want them to join your email marketing list. Whatever your desired outcome, the bottom line is, you can use your virtual events to nurture relationships that can help you in the future too.

The COVID-19 crisis has definitely had an impact on companies that rely on events to recruit the best and the brightest, or promote their brand. This crisis provides an opportunity to experiment with new communication channels to engage with your audience.

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