Hybrid vs online vs live careers events

Aug 5, 2021 | Attraction & marketing

Don’t rush back to campus, says Billy Sexton from AllAboutGroup.

The agility of the student employer market in pivoting to virtual delivery of the attraction and recruitment process in 2020 was, quite frankly, nothing short of remarkable; particularly the delivery of assessment centres and internships throughout spring and summer.

Early in the pandemic, it became clear that other stages of the recruitment process would have to make the switch to virtual delivery too – namely careers events and student recruitment fairs. AllAboutGroup has organised over 400 online virtual events since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, including the UK’s largest Virtual Law Fair.

Following an intense season of delivering virtual events and dealing with the new challenges that came with them, student employers could be forgiven for wishing for the ‘good old days’ of the traversing the career fair circuit with travel suitcase, hotel key card and train tickets to boot.

However, by adapting to the challenges of the pandemic, student recruitment fairs and events appear to have changed permanently. Student employers are currently making decisions on their event activity for the 2021/22 academic year, but they should not be in a hurry to dash back to campus.


Virtual events – data driven, increased reach, eco-friendly

Virtual events carry a huge number of benefits, the first being data driven reporting on the students an employer interacts with.

Employers can find out how many female candidates interacted with their stand content or discover the proportion of final years that sought out information compared with first and second years. There’s very few scenario’s where employers would reject attending an event that can provide them with this level of data and insight.

Additionally, there can be more reach and meaningful conversations at a virtual event with candidates.

Natalie White, Early Careers Manager at Irwin Mitchell, who attended the Virtual Law Fair and utilised AllAboutLaw’s Digital Campus, said, “The introduction of virtual insight sessions has had a positive impact on our campaign and we have received lots of positive feedback from the business on the number of students we have been able to reach.”

Thirdly, the pandemic illuminated the larger issues facing the planet. The Sustainable Recruitment Alliance encourages student employers to “Continue the momentum of Covid-19 by exploring online event platforms.”

On the issue of branded goods, the founder of the Sustainable Recruitment Alliance, Laura Yeates, says “Our consumption in the name of attraction is inexcusable and it needs to change now.” With 57% of 18-24 year olds more concerned about the impact of climate change on humanity than coronavirus, student employers need to build sustainability into their mission and methods – including event attendance.


Live events – unlikely to happen, but some advantages

In any sector or situation, a virtual event struggles to fully replicate the rapport that can be struck up in a face-to-face meeting or encounter – there’s no such thing as a poor internet connection at a live event.

Despite the easing of restrictions, universities across the UK are planning on hosting their careers fairs virtually (at the time of writing). Universities such as Lancaster and King’s College London already have a number of virtual events planned. Additionally, in the school leaver and apprenticeship space, What Career? Live is taking place virtually in November 2021 and in June 2022.

If they even take place, live careers fairs present a unique and paradoxical opportunity in 2021.

There’s a lot of value in conveying an employer brand and opportunity at a fair with fewer employers attending than usual. As more employers flock to virtual fairs, or internal organisation policies restrict campus visits, those who are able to attend live events may benefit from increased exposure. However, expect guidelines to protect the health of all attendees (such as social distancing measures and capacity limits) to be in place.

Recruitment fairs aside, it’s likely that live events may take the form of individual employer talks or campus presentations in 2021-22 to minimise contact between representatives from different employers.


Hybrid events – reach the widest pool of candidates

Social distancing and capacity limits on live events present a unique opportunity to hybrid events.

These work by either a stream of an exhibition stand being broadcast, or with a separate virtual exhibition hall manned by different members of staff. The latter “seems to be more popular at the moment” according to The University of Law Student Recruitment Team.

Hybrid events offer the opportunity of meeting with a high number of students. “The benefits of being able to meet with and support students in whichever way they are most comfortable doing far outweigh [any logistical challenges].”

Additionally, The University of Law Student Recruitment Team explain that attending hybrid events provides student employers and education providers with “a fantastic opportunity to reach a wider number of students who wouldn’t have been able to attend our face-to-face events even in usual circumstances, including international students thinking about studying in the UK.”


Don’t rush back to campus

The pandemic has allowed every sector and industry to re-examine their methods. When it comes to student events and recruitment fairs, the same applies. Employers shouldn’t be in a rush back to campus to attend events, particularly when the virtual alternative produces better results and is more sustainable and inclusive.

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