Campus event planning is never simple. From homecoming to admissions information sessions, universities have the potential to highlight campus life, provide lifelong engagement for alums, and more—if you get the planning process right. That means considering the entire campus event lifecycle.

Your event logistics begin long before the event day. Depending on the type of event, it can even begin months in advance. You need to get the entire workflow of every stage in the event lifecycle right to ensure a successful day that your event attendees will be sure to appreciate. And, of course, data will play a core role for event organizers to assess the process, improving your event planning process over time.

Building a successful event takes time and effort, but it’s far from impossible. Consider this your planning guide to consider every important step in the campus event lifecycle.

What Are the Key Stages in the Campus Event Lifecycle?

The campus event lifecycle is a comprehensive planning approach that allows you to consider each event as holistically as possible. No matter your campus event ideas or your target audience, you can use it to plan out all contingencies through a continuous improvement approach while ensuring that the day itself goes as smoothly and successfully as possible. We’ll break down the lifecycle into three core stages:

  1. Before the event: This includes scheduling, logistics, promotion, and registration.
  2. During the event: Focus on the execution of the day, attendee engagement, and contingency plans.
  3. After the event: This focuses on key data and takeaways to improve your upcoming events.

Each stage comes with its own unique planning considerations. Combine them all, and you end up with a comprehensive event planning checklist that you can apply for every happening on campus, from special events for fundraising all the way to showcases for your student organizations.

Stage 1: Before the Event

Regardless of your target audience, it all begins with a successful event setup. In fact, we could make the argument that no university event can be successful without spending significant time on this first step. Given the importance of in-person events for anything from recruitment to fundraising, this is your time to devote resources to scheduling, planning, logistics, promotions, and the registration process.

Scheduling and Planning

Experienced event planners know just how much effort goes into the planning process. Every event you plan needs a few central ingredients, but none of them matter if you don’t get the timing right. Make sure your event fits into your academic calendar along with other key campus activities while also working within the personal schedule of your campus community.

From there, it’s about planning the event itself. Build a tentative agenda of what you want to cover and which offices might need to be involved. It also helps to create a checklist of everything you want to get done before the big day.

Logistics and Preparation

Beyond the general plan, it’s time to get specific. Considering the logistics of your event means focusing on a few important components:

  • Outlining the resources you’ll need, from physical space and food to staff members who need to work during the day
  • Any event security concerns you might otherwise have. Do you know what to do if the fire alarm goes off? Also, are you prepared for a medical emergency in a large crowd?
  • Planning out the audience journey. Do you know where they’ll park? Will you have staffing to guide them to the event?

It makes sense to start communicating with any other offices you want to involve in the event. The more specific you can get early on, the better.

Marketing and Promotion

Create a central webpage for your event that outlines all the key details. Then, build a comprehensive marketing plan that includes multichannel outreach. Research suggests that today’s students look to digital channels for information about campus involvement. Use that fact to your advantage as you build your marketing campaign.

Building templates can also simplify this step, especially for recurring events. Pre-existing formats for emails, fliers, and more can help you quickly create a robust suite of marketing collateral that raises audience awareness and encourages attendance.

Registration and Ticketing

Even the best promotional plan matters little if you don’t get the event registration piece right. Create a request form where interested audience members can sign up, including pricing information and ticketing when the event calls for it. The simpler and more straightforward you can make this piece, the better.

Stage 2: During the Event

Even if all the planning has gone right, your event is not guaranteed to succeed. You need to get the big day right as well. That includes:

  • Executing the event
  • Encouraging attendee engagement
  • Ensuring you have contingency plans in place should something not go as planned

Event Execution

This is where all the logistics you’ve planned through should pay off. From check-in to the end of the event, create checkpoints to make sure the event goes as planned. Also, include other departments, like your facilities management office, in this process to make sure that you quickly know where something is going wrong and if you need to make adjustments.

Attendee Engagement

Naturally, a well-executed event also requires engagement from your community members. You don’t want a fundraising gala or admissions open house where you do all the talking. Students need to be engaged at events to reach your event goals.

Engagement can happen in a wide range of ways. Interactive sessions, networking opportunities, and simple face-time with the faculty or administrators your attendees want to talk with most are immensely effective. Depending on the type of event, digital modes of engagement, like a dedicated event hashtag, can also help ensure your audience is enjoying the event and contributing to its success.

Problem-Solving and Contingency Plans

Part of successful event planning has to include risk management. Something could go wrong at a moment’s notice, and you need to be prepared. Put a contingency plan in place that covers a few core variables:

  • What if an important speaker or host gets sick?
  • What’s the solution if your event attendance is lower than anticipated?
  • What if the safety of the attendees is threatened in any way?
  • What if the technology isn’t working?

Of course, even the best contingency plan can’t cover every possibility. Dedicate a small group of sponsoring department representatives to be the event problem-solvers during the event, empowering them to quickly come up with solutions should anything go wrong in the moment.

Stage 3: After the Event

When the attendees leave, your event clean-up efforts are just the beginning. The last stage of the campus event lifecycle includes a comprehensive assessment of how it went and where you can improve going forward.

Evaluation and Follow-Up

Start by following up with your employees. A simple survey of what they liked and didn’t like can do wonders. Don’t forget to ask your own staff members, as well. They tend to have some great insights about the event based on what they experienced and any conversations they had with attendees. Gather these qualitative insights for later analysis.

Measuring the Right Analytics

Next, it’s time to get quantitative. Analyze your surveys as well as the event itself based on a few core metrics:

  • How successful were your marketing efforts?
  • How many people registered?
  • What percentage of your registered audience actually attended?
  • How many audience members took the exact steps you needed them to take, like donating money or submitting their tuition deposit?

Getting these metrics right is key. You don’t just want to measure things. You want to ensure that the data you’re evaluating is directly connected to hitting your event goals and improving your efforts in the future.

Takeaways for Future Events

Finally, combine your analytics and evaluations to create tangible takeaways that you can use for future events. Document exactly what worked and what didn’t so that you and others planning future iterations of the same event can reference them. Ideally, this should come in the form of a bulleted list or checkpoints that are easy for everyone who might need to know these takeaways to work through.

How to Better Incorporate Data Throughout the Campus Event Lifecycle

Admissions team discussing how to improve the campus event lifecycle

Prioritizing your campus events will benefit your student retention alongside its many other benefits. But you can only realize those benefits if you can reliably incorporate data into the process. The more you know and the more you can measure, the better you can optimize your university event strategy for long-term success.

User Journey Mapping

Most comprehensively, you need to understand how your attendees move from learning about the event to registering for it and ultimately engaging with it. User journey mapping applies to every stage of the campus event lifecycle, helping you improve the entire process for every attendee.

For example, the Localist Events Attendee Funnel tool lets you map out the entire user experience from beginning to end. With that information in hand, you’ll be able to refine every touchpoint your attendees have with you, from the moment they learn about the event all the way through to the post-event survey.

Leverage Historical Data

Next, it’s time to take a closer look at the third stage of the campus event lifecycle. Evaluate your past events of the same type and for the same audience to understand, as quantitatively as possible, how you can improve in the future.

Analyze your past event attendance to learn where you might be able to get more attendees. Look at your attendee demographics to better build a marketing strategy for these segments. Finally, closely consider engagement metrics to see which pieces of the promotion and events were most successful. Through Concept3D’s event calendar data, you can identify popular event types and timings to improve your future planning.

Monitor Marketing Campaign Performance

Data should also play a central role as you look to promote your event in the first stage of the campus event lifecycle. For each promotion you run, use data analytics to track how they led to website visits, social media engagement, and more. Even metrics like email open rates can help you determine whether your promotional efforts are working and how you can refine your marketing strategy going forward.

Track Social Media Activity

In both the promotional phase and during the event itself, tracking your social media activity can also become a central effort in improving future events. Especially when using dedicated event hashtags, you can track sentiment and volume to understand how your events generate online conversations. But even mentions of your social media accounts and tags by your audience can provide insights into how your audience is receiving the event, informing potential future adjustments in the process.

Ensure Data-Driven Decisions Across the Campus Event Lifecycle With Concept3D

Managing your college events is a comprehensive process. You have to keep the entire campus event lifecycle in mind, starting with the first moment of planning and ending with a comprehensive evaluation to improve the next time you plan it.

The right data becomes a central component of that process. With Concept3D, you can build a more data-driven event management process that guides you through the entire lifecycle. Ready to learn more? Request a demo today.