Transform Your Grad Expo With An Online Alumni Engagement Platform
We have some great news from Jessica and her team as they increased the sign-up rate by 55% from last year. They helped 467 students sign-up on one single day at their Spring Grad Expo, 2018.
Grad Day or Grad Expo, as known at Nicholls State University, has evolved into this festive, one-stop-shop for everything the graduation candidates need to be prepared for their walk across the stage at commencement.
The event is held every semester and usually welcomes 300 to 400 graduating seniors. Their friends and family members join in too sometimes. These numbers usually represent roughly two-thirds of the graduating class for any given semester.
Nicholls grad candidates come to our red-and-gray draped and decorated campus ballroom, where they can purchase their caps, gowns and alumni gear. They even take their senior portrait for the yearbook, order their announcements and grad rings, and visit our graduate school faculty, Career Services staff, and Liberty Mutual insurance representative.
They are also given the opportunity to take selfies in front of our Colonel Pride backdrop with a snapshot frame and props, visit and take pics with our mascot, Colonel Tillou, and eat jambalaya and snacks provided by the Nicholls Alumni Federation.
Grad Expo at Nicholls has been revamped to be a great experience that both caters to a campus community need, graduation preparation, and provides a fun encounter, often for the first time, between our seniors and their alumni staff and Federation board members.
From an event planning and validation perspective, though, how do we justify continuing to host our biannual Grad Expo?
For as long as we have held a version of this Grad Expo event, we have either counted participants, or as we have been doing more recently, have had them fill out a form so that we would have an accurate participation count and collect their most current contact information to be used by the alumni office upon their graduation.
This semester we said “Goodbye” to paper forms and “Hello” to online registration with Almabase!
Last February, we were able to move our Alumni Federation website over to the interactive Almabase platform. Since then, the Office of Alumni Affairs has been working diligently to encourage our alumni to create their profiles on the new website, allowing them full access to Federation benefits. It even helps us keep better track of them.
When the Grad Expo discussion came up again as we started planning for the Fall 2017 event, we decided that an online registration option would be easier on everyone— students and staff. We also kept in mind that we are always looking for new ways to persuade our alumni to register on the website. That line of thinking finally led us to create their website profiles on the alumni site as their “signup” form for the Grad Expo.
Since Almabase provides us with the ability to mine our data so deeply, when the event ended, we were able to pull a list of everyone who registered as a student on the date of Grad Expo.
This online registration option gave us our headcount, gave our students basic access to the Federation website as an intro to the benefits of being a full member of the Federation, and made them active participants on the website. They could not just access the career boards now, but also actively network with alumni across different fields.
Best of all, Almabase would automatically change their status from 'student' to 'alumni' as soon as they graduate - 301 of our December 2017 grads would automatically become active alumni on the platform when they graduate!
That means that we will have more accurate contact info, career updates and location changes for them without having to first convince them to sign up. If we continue to use this approach at each Grad Expo, we will have roughly half of our alumni registered as active users on the platform by the time they graduate.
Another benefit to having them create their profiles on the alumni website at Grad Expo is being able to send them targeted group emails. The week after the Expo the Office of Alumni Affairs emailed our grad candidates who were in attendance through the platform.
We thanked them for coming to the event and signing up on the platform. We also took that opportunity to walk them through using the platform in more detail, from updating their profile to career board benefits and alumni news features. We will send this saved email group another email when they graduate, congratulating them and welcoming them to the Federation and the website as full alumni members.
We are still working towards streamlining the sign-in process, but we are confident that it will continue to provide the best approach to registering our graduating seniors for the Expo and getting them familiar with the alumni website before they actually graduate. It will also get them to start using the platform more actively.
With online and phone support from Almabase on the morning of the event, we were able to sign up 301 seniors with ten laptops over a period of five hours (the Expo is of one day from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm).
Next semester, we will have more laptops, more staff assisting with registration, and instructions on creating profiles printed on stand-up banners next to the laptops.
We are also working with Almabase on a way to denote, on these grads’ profiles, that their profiles were created at that Grad Expo event. In doing this, we hope to be able to make performance comparisons between multiple events.
Overall, using Almabase to register our potential grads was hugely successful for us, especially for a first try. We are excited to be able to continue streamlining that process to more efficiently get participants through the process and on their way to being active members of our online alumni community.
Finally, it is important to note that our creative partnership with Almabase, which continues to benefit Nicholls alumni and students, keeps getting better the longer we work with them!
Edit: This note from Jessica made our day here at Almabase. Thank you, Jessica, keep them coming!