University of Portsmouth
registrants across 16 events
sessions across 16 events
The University of Portsmouth is a university in the UK with more than 25,000 students offering a variety of degrees for both undergraduates and postgraduates.
The recruitment team has spent the last 10 years perfecting their in-person recruitment programming to appeal to incoming students across demographic lines. But when the pandemic hit, they were forced to shift not only their event modality, but also their mindset – with only two months to make the transition. "We had spent a decade building an in-person recruitment programme that we were really proud of,” recalls Kate Dunstone, Postgraduate and CPD Recruitment Manager.
After the pandemic arrived, “We were thrown into the deep end for how to deliver recruitment events virtually.” Sophie Dear, Head of Marketing and Campaigns, adds: “Our process started in April with the lockdown, but we had to deliver our first open day at the end of June. So we didn't have much time to research, procure, and deliver.” At the time, the number of providers were limited so the University of Portsmouth chose one that seemed to meet the majority of requirements. But as the year progressed and more of the team wanted to do virtual events, they realized the product was quite limited. “We needed a solution and contract that was flexible enough to accommodate a broader set of use cases,” recalls Dear.
Adopting the Cvent AttendeeHub
After going through another procurement process, this time with more rigorous requirements to accommodate expanding usage across departments, the team realized that Cvent’s Attendee Hub offered a flexible, customizable, secure, and professional solution – and unlike other platforms, could provide a customizable experience their audience could relate to.
By adopting the Attendee Hub, the University of Portsmouth took their recruitment events online with ease. And once they made the transition, they were surprised to discover that the Hub provided a flexible, user-centered experience that didn’t just replicate their current offerings, but also offered new opportunities for growth.
A Customizable Platform for a Diverse Student Body
Because they were moving both undergraduate and postgraduate recruitment events online, the University of Portsmouth needed a platform that was flexible and customizable, allowing the institution to appeal to three very different audiences: secondary education students, parents, and adult learners. “It was really challenging to find a solution that met the requirements of the whole department,” says Dear. “We needed IT security for students under 16... one-to- one appointments for post-graduates. And for our undergraduate events, it’s this whole exhibition with lots of booths... So there’s lots of different requirements there, and there were very few software providers in the virtual event space that were able to meet those requirements.”
Cvent’s Attendee Hub offered the security the university needed, without losing sight of user experience. With features like Language Management that allowed Portsmouth to customize verbiage in the Hub based on the student population and event, the platform easily accommodated the unique needs of the university’s multiple audiences. After their first virtual event, the success of the platform revealed the untapped potential of online programming – and transformed how the recruitment team thinks about what an event can, and should, be.
For the University of Portsmouth’s first virtual “open day” event for incoming students, 70% of registered students ended up attending. This was a huge success, especially considering that the industry benchmark is a 40% conversion rate.
Reaching New Audiences with Flexible Scheduling
Unlike in-person events, where travel expenses and work schedules can get in the way, the flexibility of the Attendee Hub allowed the University of Portsmouth team to reach more students than ever before. “By going virtual, we have the ability to reach more prospective students across time zones and more flexibility to offer more events during times that wouldn’t have been conducive for face-to-face,” Dunstone explains.
Offering flexible sessions also made it easier for busy parents to be a part of the recruitment experience – without sacrificing work hours. “We ran sessions for parents as well in the evening, and they were really well- attended because parents had access to the content after potentially being at work,” says Lesley Anne Neville, UK Student Recruitment Manager. “It enabled us to put together an event that targeted both students and parents.”
As for postgraduates, Dunstone reports that: “Our guests have shared that their virtual experience has exceeded their expectations, from the ability to connect via one-to-one appointments with course leaders to the ability to access the information after the event. This has been an absolute gold star for what we’re trying to do from an attendee experience perspective.” The Hub’s virtual features, like simplified one-to-one bookings, offer a more personalized experience than is possible at a face-to-face event.
Finally, the flexibility of Cvent’s online platform supports prospective students even after the event is over. Students have the ability to access information weeks later, with a library of online content they can reference if they have questions during this important decision-making process.
Moving to a Hybrid Future
After switching to Cvent’s Attendee Hub, the Portsmouth team realized that while there will always be a place for in-person programming, moving events online offers new opportunities for accessibility, personalization, and connection.
“The combination of online and in-person would be really, really powerful,” says Neville. When the university opens back up, Dear, Dunstone, and Neville have plans to transition to a hybrid format that leverages the best pieces of both worlds in-person and digital. Ideally, Dear says, “We would run a series of small student-led campus tours, so they have the chance to visit the campus... but the conversations and all the content with their tutors and other staff would happen virtually in the platform.” With the success of the Attendee Hub, the University of Portsmouth intends to keep virtual events as a key part of their portfolio for their future event programme.