Planning an event or experiental activation on a college campus? Follow these tips to get the most out of your effort.
Identify your target audience, and set KPIs.
Whether it's a high-energy event for prospective students, a networking opportunity for current students, or a celebration of achievements for alumni, the key to success is understanding your target audience and designing events with their journey in mind. Identifying your target audience allows you to define specific KPIs for each event, resulting in experiences that are tailored to each group's needs and wants.
Design events that cater to your target demographic.
Knowing the specific demographic helps you communicate effectively in your ideal attendees’ preferred language and engage them in a way that resonates. Alumni may prefer more traditional, nostalgia-driven experiences, whereas high school seniors may prefer interactive technology. Northeastern University's Punters Pub activation is one example of a successful alumni event that brought back a lot of nostalgia and generated massive social media buzz.
Engage students in event planning and promotion.
Make it a priority to engage students in the planning and promotion of events. Whether it's through student committees, social media takeovers, or feedback sessions, there are many ways to get students involved. Emerson College, for example, involves its students in planning and executing its annual EVVY awards ceremony. Through the participation of students, the award show is an extremely well-attended and successful event on campus.
Embrace diversity and promote inclusion in your events.
Organizing events that allow students from different backgrounds to connect with one another can create a vibrant, inclusive campus community. These events can be tailored to educate and spread acceptance, promoting understanding and respect among different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Northeastern University, for instance, is well-known for its annual Martin Luther King Day event on campus to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Collaborate with relevant brands.
Collaboration between universities and relevant brands to create fun campus events can be a mutually beneficial endeavor. Brands can provide distinctive experiences on campus without incurring additional costs for colleges, while capturing marketing opportunities. MIT, Harvard, Boston University, and Northeastern University partnered with Schmooze, a meme-based dating app. The company provided a variety of activations at campuses, such as meme games, food trucks, and mobile brand activations.
Authenticity is key.
Put some thought into how your college is unique and how you can highlight that in your event. By staying true to who you are as an institution, you attract new students with similar values and give your students meaningful and memorable experiences they will treasure long after they graduate.
Create photo opportunities that encourage user-generated content.
By having interactive activations or branded photo opportunities on campus, students can share their campus lives online with social media. This increased engagement can drive up student applications as well as alumni involvement. One fun example? A 3-D replica of the Brass Rat, featured on all alumni rings, was created at MIT as a photo opportunity for alumni reunion classes to interact with.
Work with an experiential agency that cares about KPIs.
VDA has a proven track record of successfully designing events for campuses and being a catalyst in growing brand awareness and elevating campus experiences.