Get ready for amazing virtual campus experiences

12 August 2021

106 Communications is a marketing agency that helps ambitious brands transform engagement.  Our clients range from NGDP – the Local Government Association graduate scheme – to the NHS, Laing O’Rourke and Enterprise Rent A Car.

Right now, we are planning an autumn season that is set to be a hybrid of employer events; blending in-person with virtual. According to LinkedIn, 81% of talent leaders say virtual recruiting will continue post-COVID and certainly the attendees at this year’s ISE conference were all on board with the virtual “milk cart”.

Jayne, our resident Early Careers Consultant, has pulled together a range of views on how to get the balance right with your events this coming season, with a last-minute sense check before go-live.

#1 – Why? What is your event strategy? Have you got one and is it linked back to your key challenges?

Here are a few examples of why some of our clients are running virtual events this season:

  • To support underrepresented talent with their career planning
  • To build a talent pipeline of first and second years for future hiring
  • To reach Universities with a higher representation of diverse talent
  • To promote schemes that are hard to fill
  • To engage with talent at different stages of their career decision journey

Being clear on this strategy will help you anchor your events and provide a reference point for all key decisions related to the event.

#2 – The power of your people. Have you shared this strategy and the context with your internal stakeholders and more importantly with your reps who are going to be presenting?

It’s sometimes overlooked, and your organisational representatives often assume that the sole purpose is about “selling the job or the business” or getting “bums on seats”.

How well briefed are they around your core objectives for the specific event that they are involved in?  Are they going to be positive advocates for you and your brand???

To make your virtual events stand out, there’s nothing more powerful than leveraging your existing talent to tell the story of your brand.106 Comms supported the NHS with hosting a live event hosted by real employees from their ERG groups and

hosted by current trainees who had joined the graduate programme the previous year. Making your brand stand out in a noisy market is achievable through bringing your employees personal stories to life.

Think about the host and remember it’s not too late to think outside of the box here. For example, if you are running an LGBTQ+ specific event, it’s probably a good idea to have someone representative of that audience to run the discussion to ensure authentic questions are being asked and to draw from their personal experiences.

 #3 – Are your events aligned to the audiences that you are trying to reach?   

It’s tempting to translate what you have always done face to face into a virtual event and to run the same old stand-up Employer Presentation that is all about what a great place Company X is to work for.

Supporting our clients with their virtual event strategies has meant that we have had to take a much more in-depth view about the distinct audiences that we want to attend. Only by better understanding our target audiences and their wants, needs and motivations can we design event content that will engage and inspire.

In our world of employer branding, we would never dream of launching a new brand without market testing first – yet we more than often run virtual events without sense checking that the content will resonate? Have you tested your events on your internal audiences (and better still external too) to get their feedback before going to market? If not, it’s not too late.

Another point regarding audiences is about where might our audience be in their own personal candidate journey? Some won’t have even begun yet and are more likely to be from under-represented groups. Others will be much further down the track and be looking for key differentiators around your brand, culture, and programme.

We encourage clients to have a clearly mapped journey of their virtual events, taking audiences from getting to know more about themselves, to meeting their people, and finally how to get in and on to ensure that certain audiences aren’t being turned off.

 #4 – Exploring topics that are sensitive, and that your audience cares about… 

It is well documented that the cohort of graduates coming through in the next few years care more about issues such as climate change, organisational values and ‘hyper diversity’ than previous generations. Presenting your organisation’s point of view on these issues and why it aligns with your purpose is vital when it comes to your events.

However, there is an opportunity to be creative here. Instead of a presentation with a glossy video of your amazing policies on sustainability or the fantastic community work that you do, think more creatively about how to present this content. Running a simple debate around sensitive topics that really count with this audience will show how open your brand is and that graduates really have a voice.

An example of where this was done well was with Frontline who ran a series of “fireside chats” with men to understand how the topic of masculinity influences their career choices – with the aim of debunking and debating the myths of what people consider as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ jobs in our communities.

Find out more here

#5 – Communication and the 30-30-40 rule 

When it comes to events, we believe that 30% of your effort should be in pre-event promotion, 30% on the event itself and 40% on post-event communication and engagement.

Pre event – In planning your virtual events for this autumn, have you spent enough time in gathering feedback from last year’s events? What were the typical FAQs? How was your audience made up? For example, what percentage of your audience were Career Innocents (those without a clue of what to do post-graduation) versus Active Agents (those who are dead set on a specific sector and role)?

Armed with this information you can be sure that you have designed your 2021 events with your audience in mind.

Over the past 18 months there has only been one certainty in our market and that is uncertainty. Having interviewed hundreds of students, we have found that their experience of brands during Covid who have over-communicated with them has been way more positive. They want employers to be honest, even if they don’t have all the answers at times. So, before we hit the start button on our events this season, are we sure that audiences understand what to expect from our events? And is our communication a true reflection of what their experience will be? The more transparent we can be about the event the more likely students will be to engage and show up.

Post event – How are you communicating with your audiences after your events? Do you have a specific plan aimed at different audiences, who are at different stages of their decision journey? Allowing students, for example, who are early in their journeys to engage more directly with the brand will pay dividends. For example, offering tailored content or follow-up events around early stages of the application process is useful.

Feedback on your events – As we have just said, this is critical to ensure a successful long-term event strategy.  However, by asking for feedback from candidates, you set an expectation that they will be given feedback themselves from the process; so take care in asking for this if you don’t have the processes in place to provide this.

And finally, remember to have fun. The start of a new life post-graduation is a daunting prospect for many, especially coupled with the impact on mental health due to the pandemic. The pressure during the job-hunting process can be intense. Of course, there is a serious side to all of this; but if we as recruiters can make our events seem more human, honest and have some fun along the way all the better!

If you have any thoughts or additions to this article or would simply like to find out more about 106 Communications and our work, then do get in touch. Email

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