Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Open Day survival guide for exhibitors

As we leap out of the depths of winter and awaken to the sights, sounds and down pours of rain it is summer time, which means only one thing, not the end of the football season but an Open Day at the University.  In the marketing team, it takes months of planning, plenty of broken pencils and hundreds of cup teas made while pouring over the details of the day.  We want to provide an experience such that it leaves the prospective student keen to apply to us in September next year.

What is an Open Day?

Open Days are pre-application events and will often be a prospect’s first visit to the University.  It’s their chance to take a closer look at the campus, its facilities, the courses, the city and, most importantly, meet the people who make the University of Chester what it is… you.  If you are representing the University at an Open Day, remember that first impressions do go a long way and students are likely to be well prepared on what to look out for.  And it’s not just the student that needs to be impressed, there will also be mum, dad and sometimes even grandma and granddad!  More than ever, prospective students and their parents will be looking at what they will be investing in and how it will benefit them.

The Open Day Fair

So why exhibit I hear you ask, especially when they could just as easily go to an academic session and get all the information they need there?  Well, not only will the Open Day Fair give prospects the opportunity to have all their questions answered on a one-to-one basis, but it will enable them to gain a more universal experience of what it would be like to study subject X or subject Y, especially if they are planning on a combined route. Unlike the days of old, when we used to have a massive influx of visitors in the morning, we expect the Open Day Fair to be steady throughout the day.

(Above: This is a good example of how to exhibit at the Open Day)

It’s all in the preparation

Before the event, check you have enough promotional materials (i.e. leaflets or factsheets) and, come the morning of the event, give yourself enough time to set up.  Anything can happen on the day and, with the experiences that I have had, arriving early should give you a chance to get everything ready on schedule even if there are some hiccups along the way.

Tip of the Day

A good tip for exhibiting is to have your table pushed to the side of the exhibiting area, as shown in the picture below.  This takes away any form of a barrier created otherwise by having the table in front of you and enables you to invite visitors into your exhibition space.  Having attended various events previously as both an exhibitor and a visitor, being able to speak to a person at a stand is far more valuable than having a nice table display in front of you.  All in all, engaging with a potential student and their family in a face-to-face situation should enable a more personable experience of the University and, ultimately, this could be a potential factor of whether they like Chester or not.

(Above: Lee and Robbie from Admissions using the shell scheme effectively at the last Open Day)
Health and Safety

Health and Safety is another important consideration for the day.  It’s about making sure everyone at the event goes home safely and has enjoyed the day. When exhibiting, you must check your exhibiting space for any potential hazards, ensuring there are no overhanging cables or trip hazards and that exhibition stands are secure.  Once people start arriving, you could be speaking to lots of visitors consecutively, so make sure you have a bottle of water or a drink on hand.  It is important that you keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Final Few Tips

Here’s a quick list of helpful, hints and tips on how to get the best out of the Open Day.


  • Be friendly and approachable
  • Provide accurate information about combinations and entry requirements and, if you’re not sure, don’t hesitate to re-direct the query to the admissions desk 
  • Use your latest promotional materials
  • Provide the departmental contact number for further enquiries
  • Be aware of health and safety issues around your stand/area
  • Give yourself enough time to set up and be ready for the event
  • Keep yourself hydrated with water as there will be a lot of talking done on the day
  • Ensure all areas of course provision are covered at your stand for both undergraduate and postgraduate delivery
  • Follow up on enquiries following the event – MRA can provide further details on prospects who registered on the day


  • Do not leave the stand unattended
  • Make sure any cables or objects are tucked away in a safe place so visitors don’t slip, trip or fall
  • Check your area for any other potential hazards that could injure you, your colleagues  or a visitor

Hopefully this will help you on the big day itself; any questions about exhibiting please do contact us.

Good luck and hope to see you on the day itself.

Until next time


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