How to host a virtual open house for your school

Of the many institutions drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, schools perhaps had to reorganize themselves the most. Shifting from in-person attendance to Zoom classes and back again has flipped education on its head — and it may take quite a while to return to normal. 

Despite this disruption, however, student enrollment is growing. Researchers at EducationData.org noted that, based on projections from past decades, enrollment at public schools will increase to 52 million by 2027. So how do you balance this growth with health and safety concerns? 

If you’re a school administrator, it’s a good idea to look into ways to provide a sense of normalcy. One great option is to reinvigorate your open house events and tours. 

These school staples give students and parents an expansive look into the inner workings of your school. Because many are hesitant to join group events or be in crowded spaces with younger, unvaccinated children, the best solution is to host a virtual open house.

People are getting used to seeing virtual event invitations in their inboxes. These experiences don’t have to be markedly different from their in-person counterparts. 

You should still keep to the same thematic points of the in-person format, including introducing your school, giving a taste of the academic experience, and showing off your facilities. And now, you can also take advantage of virtual features to make the event something all its own.

Breaking down an open house

Just because a virtual open house doesn’t have quite the same flair of an in-person presentation doesn’t mean students and parents aren’t expecting a robust experience. Follow these tips to make sure you meet their expectations.

Decide on a format

While designing your open house program, you need to decide on a few key elements to help set the stage. Will it all be live, or will it contain prerecorded portions? What kinds of activities or showcases will you include?

To answer the first question — prerecorded or live — it helps to have a little bit of both. The bulk of your efforts should certainly concentrate on the live presentation of your school and the theme of the night, especially as it pertains to the interactive pieces. 

But considering the likely hectic lifestyles of many of your prospective parents, prerecorded elements can be a huge boon to your virtual open house because your audience can watch these sections whenever their schedules allow. Whether it’s posting a filmed school tour or even the entire event on social media, prerecorded elements are longer-lasting and make your open house more accessible.

It’s also helpful to include a variety of events, so that there’s something for everyone. These events can range from slide presentations with photos of the school and the virtual tour to speeches from some of your faculty and even testimonials from satisfied parents or alumni. 

A mix of offerings holds your viewers’ attention while showing off the appeal and ingenuity of your school, giving attendees the chance to dive deeper into what they can expect from the upcoming school year.

Highlight your best features

As with any job interview or first date, a virtual open house is all about putting your best foot forward. This is a unique chance to pitch yourself to new students and parents, so pull out the stops to show off what makes your school great and unique.

If you’re a specialty or trade school, think of the highlights you want to hit. Give an in-depth tour of your woodworking room or schedule extra time for your theater department at a fine arts school. Find opportunities to add pomp to your open house that entices prospective students.

Beyond that, think about your employees. Do you have some exceptional faculty you want to feature? Maybe someone who won a teacher of the year award or similar achievement? Though you’ll likely have one master of ceremonies to lead this experience, giving guest spots to others allows the audience to get a taste of what they would experience at your school.

Make it interactive

You and your staff will talk for much of your virtual open house, but that doesn’t mean it should be a completely one-sided experience. As you plan the event, think of ways to incorporate interactivity in your program.

Interactivity can take a number of forms. Q&As are an excellent way to give participants deeper insight into the goings-on of your school and instill a sense of trust in your faculty. 

You can also try activities that take advantage of the virtual platform itself. For example, on Zoom, you can carve out time for breakout rooms and one-on-one sessions with teachers, administrators, or other staff members to shake up the typical open house experience. 

In these individual sessions, you can match participants’ questions and concerns to the session leader’s expertise. For instance, parents who want to know more about the track team can talk directly to the coaches or athletic director. A student interested in doing an independent study can get an idea of their options by talking with a department head or the dean of students.

Using Jotform for your open house

Managing a virtual open house can get complicated. It’s good for your staff to have some helpful tools, like Jotform, to execute the event. 

Jotform’s customizable online forms cover a lot of ground in coordinating virtual events — from registering attendees to collecting donations from enthusiastic parents or alumni. Jotform Tables stores this information in one place, and Jotform can even integrate with Zoom to schedule meetings and register participants. 

In these uncertain times, parents and students are looking for guidance as well as new ways to interact with teachers. Hosting a virtual open house grabs attention and imparts a sense of confidence that will make students excited about getting back to school.

AUTHOR
Teacher, sister, mother and ass-kicker. Experienced teacher with a digital twist. Outside the classroom? She lives on the dojo. You can reach Kimberley through her contact form.

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