Here in Admissions at the Fuqua School of Business, we are part of an elite group of seven schools, known as “The S7”. This group also includes Berkeley Haas, Cornell Johnson, Michigan Ross, NYU Stern, UVA Darden, and Yale School of Management. We collaborate to do around 40 events together each year, in order to draw in more prospective students collectively than we could on our own. In true Team Fuqua spirit, we work together to talk through ideas, trade industry information, and host events together. During a normal recruitment season, we would send our admission officers to MBA fairs around the world, as well as host some signature events of our own. This year, however, found us thinking outside of the box to quickly pull together a way where we could reach our intended audiences, while also not being lost in the noise of the rapidly evolving virtual event field.
Back in April, my supervisor, Kathryn Davies, discovered the perfect platform, Vfairs. They are well equipped to run fairs of any kind: job fairs, alumni networking fairs, housing fairs, etc. We designed our virtual fair to replicate the face-to-face event. Each of the S7 schools have their own booth, customized with images of the school, information packets on various business programs and class stats, as well as links to our social media sites and student blogs. Additionally, we created an auditorium page that prospective students could visit at any time during the fair hours to watch a pre-recorded application tips panel, hosted by a member of each school. The last component of our fair was the chat feature. This allowed prospective students to go to the school’s chat room of their choice to ask general questions in the main chat area, or to schedule a ten-minute one-on-one video or voice call with an admissions representative. Check out our S7 event page here.
What were the event goals? How did going virtual impact these goals?
Our goals putting on recruitment fairs of any kind are always to attract new applicants who might not have considered us to apply to Fuqua, and to encourage those who think they would be a good fit to submit their applications sooner in the cycle rather than later (there are four rounds of admission each school year). In this new virtual world, our main goal remains to engage with as many new prospective students as possible in a way that fosters pleasant and informative interactions between students and Admissions.
As many event planners are learning, going virtual has actually allowed us to reach a larger audience as compared to face-to-face events since it is so easy for attendees to participate. So far, we have done three events on Vfairs with nine more left on our contract. At the same time, the number of attendees has dropped over time due to virtual fair fatigue, so we are now thinking more creatively. By targeting specific regions or audiences, we hope to make each fair more specialized and therefore more appealing to applicants.
Why did you choose this format/model over others?
After looking at many other virtual platforms, we chose Vfairs because of its unique features and realistic simulation of a live in-person event. Because of quarantining, we all miss and crave social interactions, and it is so easy to feel impersonal in a virtual setting. The Vfairs platform allows the user to go to a different “room” for each activity they want to engage in, and it has fun touches like avatars milling about in the lobby and outdoor scenery from various cities as background images. As a reflection of Duke’s commitment to inclusivity, we worked with Vfairs to ensure that the avatars were representative of the students, staff, and faculty of Fuqua.
What advice do you have for colleagues planning a similar event?
Don’t be afraid to be silly and let your audience get to know you on a personal level. Whenever we need a fun icebreaker, we often try to incorporate our trademark “25 Random Things About Yourself” application essay prompt. Our Admissions Officers share something about themselves and then ask the prospective students to do the same. It allows for some fun stories, bonding, and smiles all around!
A huge shout-out to my supervisor, Kathryn Davies (Associate Director, Fuqua Admissions), who found the Vfairs platform and became S7’s fearless leader this year, plunging head-first into the virtual fair world with gusto and aplomb!
Off Campus Events Coordinator
Admissions, Fuqua School of Business
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