Back to school January 2022 image

 by Oliver Rossetti
, posted On 28 Dec '21
 Outreach Manager at the University of Leicester

Working with universities during the new normal – tips for organising online and physical university events

Restrictions have eased and with less uncertainty, we can all begin to think about how to organise events to support the achievement of the Gatsby Benchmarks and ignite that lightbulb moment. Planning an impactful event can seem daunting but you’re certainly not alone and as higher education institutions, we are here to advise.

Do you want an online or a physical university event?

This question was originally largely based on whether you have the space for social distancing; however, now with universities awash with digital resources and platforms to support information, advice and guidance sessions and also largely available to travel... you now have options!

I suggest you weigh up the benefits of face-to- face delivery, could that talk simply be shown on a live screen and resources sent beforehand to have the same desired impact? Could pupils be off timetable for a virtual work experience day, meeting universities and employers alike? Particularly with older year groups, young people know which format they prefer so why not empower your pupils and see which format they would find most beneficial?

Online webinar image

Choosing digital...which online platform should you use for your university event?

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that there is an abundance of online platforms to choose from such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Adobe Connect, which all promote a different level of interactivity. Providers will likely have access to some of these platforms so you don’t necessarily have to use your budget.

If you have concerns about safeguarding, restrictions can normally be applied such as a password or enabling the teacher themselves to admit students from a register. Don’t be afraid of requesting the university to lock down settings in order to meet your safeguarding policy and risk assessment.

Physical considerations

If face-to-face delivery is appropriate then I suggest for the short-medium term, ensure you send PPE guidance to all visitors beforehand and have hand sanitiser upon entry. As visitors, we want to arrive prepared and be good examples for your pupils.

An appropriate distance between the speaker and students within a classroom should be maintained, so that everyone feels comfortable and safe as life within schools starts to return to normal.

Organised chaos is better than no organisation

Universities receive a number of requests so do research into the date and check whether it conflicts with local or national career exhibitions. You could also consider linking up with another school within your Academy Trust or a local school to help encourage a larger variety of providers to attend. Alternatively, you could schedule your event a day either side to allow providers to book accommodation and attend both local events.

What information will universities need?

The more details, the better! I suggest including the following details in your first email and then your confirmation email two weeks before the event:
• Date, times and location
• Expected size of audience*
• Car parking information
• Schedule of the day
• Refreshment information
• Anything that may impact the day - such as construction work
• The main organiser’s contact details
• If possible, information about the key learning outcomes of any workshop sessions.

* We appreciate audience size can fluctuate so an approximate number is fine, it helps universities bring the correct quantity of literature.

Maximise speaker efficiency

Avoid booking multiple institutions to deliver the same talk to a handful of students. Universities have finite resources and particularly this year will be trying to cover as many events as possible to support gaps in knowledge.

Refreshments - to be or not to be, that is the question?

This will always be budget-dependant! As a general rule, tea/coffee/water goes a long way, particularly for those colleagues who may have left at sunrise, travelling from afar. Food is always welcomed, but you don’t have to provide this. Simply let those attending know in advance if they need to bring their own food – nobody likes a room full of hungry stomachs!

A passionate event will make a world of difference!

Be creative and don’t be afraid of asking for feedback from both your pupils and universities.

I hope you find these 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 as we all get back to a sense of normality.



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