As International Student Recruitment Officers, every year we receive hundreds of invitations to study abroad or education exhibitions via email or even post. Attending all exhibitions is not possible, so how do we ensure we make the best decisions when adding these events to our yearly marketing schedule?
Exhibitions = Time + Money
Exhibitions take up a lot of valuable time. Mostly in one city an expo lasts for 2 days. National ones can last up to 10 days. A 10 day expo may cost you anywhere between 5-10 thousand dollars to attend.You don’t want to attend an expo and be disappointed. You definitely don’t want go back to the office and write in your report that it was a disappointing expo. You want your money’s worth and above all, you want results.
Is the Exhibition the Right One for You?
Be careful with exhibitions labeled as education exhibitions. You may find that education exhibitions are more dominated with innovative tech companies focusing on education, or private high schools trying to attract prospective student parents’ attention. These type of expos do not attract the type of student profile you want. Although there may be other universities present, I would not recommend these types of fairs as it is highly likely that you will not find the intensity of attendance that you would expect elsewhere at a study abroad fair. So make sure that you clearly understand what type of expo it is that you are attending.
Be Realistic about your Attendance
If your university does not attract Europeans or Asians, then there is really no point in attending study abroad expos in these countries unless you have a clear cut strategy of how you will have a strong presence in the target market. For example, an education fair in Malaysia might sound like a good idea, but as a university in Cyprus, I have to ask myself why should I go if respected international campuses are offering Malaysians the chance to study in their home countries at much more affordable costs with no travel expenses? What type of competitive edge can I have over these universities in that country? If I haven’t done any type of PR in this market before, how will I compete with other rival universities that have?
If you seriously wish to break into these type of new markets, then you have to work on building your brand awareness in that country, and without this being accomplished first, my opinion is that you will be flushing your money and valuable time down the toilet.
The first step when getting an invitation for a study abroad expo is to ask for statistics. How many people attended previous expos? What was the student profile like? Are there any schools that have confirmed attendance beforehand? What are the dates? Is the expo organized at a good time? Will students be able to attend? are just some of the crucial questions that must be answered before you decide to attend an expo. However, it doesn’t stop there. Ask which universities have attended before. Contact them and ask for feedback. You may have someone you know working for a university that has attended before.
Timing of the Exhibition
The timing of an exhibition is also one of the major factors that should influence your decision of attendance. Do not bother going to an expo if you know that their mock or final exams time is very near. Exhibitors know that generally the best time to organize an expo is end of January till early April. That is why many exhibitions are cramped up between these months. However, others try to fit in an expo at another time away from the busy season, hoping that more universities will take part while at the same time praying that prospective students will have the interest and find the time to attend. In my personal experience, I have found that these type of exhibitions do not attract the same number of students as it would usually do in the right period. Make sure that the expo you will be attending is at a time where students will actually be free to attend.
Quality > Quantity
Another important thing to have in mind is the attendee profile. Many study abroad expos give statistics of their yearly attendance. Analyze these statistics well. For example, an expo may declare that 5000 people attended the previous year, but how many of these attendees were actually final year students looking for a university? How many attendees were below the age of 16? How many people were parents? How many attendees were just wanderers? If an exhibition can brake these statistics down for you, then that exhibition should have a place on your list, above its competitors in that market. In short, don’t be fooled by the quantity of people that attended the expo, try to find out it’s level of quality.
Finally, while attending study abroad exhibitions around the world may sound like a whole lot of fun for many people, in reality it is actually a very tiring challenge with a lot of responsibilities and pressure on our shoulders to deliver results. Therefore, in order to make sure that our efforts pay off, taking the above guidelines into consideration will put us onto the right track for success.