How Colleges Use Data to Engage with Local Businesses
Data Bubble has been helping colleges to promote themselves to their local business community for several years. In doing so, colleges place themselves in the forefront of the minds of local businesses.
This not only raises the college profile, but proves invaluable for students looking to gain work placements and apprenticeships.
Engage Through Business Events
Many colleges these days are organising business events to engage with local businesses and showcase the services they offer. An increasingly popular type of event is to organise and host a networking event at the college. This enables business owners to make new business contacts, as well as strengthen existing relationships with other local business owners. Furthermore, it allows college staff and students alike to talk face to face with local business owners. Such engagement creates and builds relationships between the college and its local business community, which benefits all in many ways.
Tips to Help Create a Networking Event
With this in mind, we at have put together 14 tips to help your college create a successful networking event:
- Know the Purpose of the event – Whilst it’s about the college promoting itself to local businesses, consider what the attendees will gain from the event. For example, is the event also to enable businesses to meet other businesses in the area? Perhaps it’s a “Meet the college buyers” event. Maybe it’s for business owners to get leads and referrals, whilst promoting the college in a more subtle way. Consider this so you can promote it in the most appropriate way and everyone gets what they want.
- Know the Style of the event – How many people do you want to attend the event? Who will be coming? Will it be an event that allows businesses to go around a circle, explaining what they do and what kind of new clients they are in the market for? Or do you want a large group with “freestyle” networking. Are you considering holding such events monthly, quarterly, or is it to be a one-off event? All of these types of networking events can be highly successful, but when you know the type of networking you want, it will help your planning.
- Set a date – If you’re planning a mid-sized to large event, give people the early “heads up” so they can save the date. Regardless the event size, give at least a fortnight’s notice, preferably a month or more. Make sure the date doesn’t clash with something else that might affect your attendance (i.e. a local event or the FA Cup Final etc.)
- Use the college facilities – Now that you’ve decided on the purpose and style of the event, the next step is to decide where to host it. Which room is most appropriate considering size, location to entrance, location to kitchen (if catering) etc.
- Spread the word – Announce the event using all methods known: College website; Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.); banners outside the college; advertisements in local newspapers. Run an email campaign to local business owners to promote the event. Send reminders through all channels, a week apart, so it stays fresh in their minds.
- Let the attendees know what to expect – Networking events differ tremendously in style, so let your attendees know the format beforehand. For example, some networking involves people talking about their business. In such circumstances, attendees need time to prepare, rather than feeling “dropped on” at the event. Pre-event information allows people to plan. Will they be expected to stand up and talk and if so, for how long? Should they bring flyers / brochures / roller banners? How many business cards will they need, etc.
- Plan the refreshments – People don’t expect a three-course meal at networking events, so don’t go overboard. They’re here to make new contacts and talk, so keep the refreshments light and easy to eat or drink. A finger buffet or biscuits with tea, coffee, orange juice etc. are ideal.
- Get your colleagues involved – Let others help to facilitate the event right from the get go. The sooner your colleagues begin to get involved, the sooner they will feel relaxed about the event. The key to networking is mingling and whilst some find it easy to mingle, others can feel nervous. Get your colleagues involved during the event and encourage them to introduce people they meet to other attendees. Remember, not only is it good for the attendee, but it’s good for the college too.
- Get the students involved – Again, the sooner they get involved in the planning, the sooner they’ll relax into the environment on the day. This will help during the event, since they will likely be meeting prospective employers. This is an ideal time for employers to see potential candidates for work placements or apprentice schemes. It will also give your students invaluable experience in talking within a business community, whilst simultaneously building confidence.
- Make a record of who attends – This is vital so that you know for any possible future events, who to promote them to. Ideally, use a booking-in site for people to pre-register. This doesn’t mean that they will definitely turn up, but does show who is interested. On the day, make a definitive note of who does attend.
- Promote your college and its services – Make sure you take full advantage of promoting the college, both through an introductory speech and during the event. Just because you’ve arranged the event, it doesn’t mean you should avoid promoting the college. This is your “time to shine”, so use it!
- Hand out something to take away – It’s important people have some kind of takeaway to remind them of the event and the value of your college. A brochure or promo item will act to keep you in mind beyond the event itself.
- Get Feedback – It’s a good idea to get some feedback from the attendees. Ask them what they liked a lot, what they liked less and how they found out about your event. By doing this, you can a) see which ways of spreading the word work best, b) judge if there’s an appetite for regular events and assuming there is c) ascertain whether or not anything needs tweaking with the format.
- Follow Up – Following up with the connections you made will further promote the college and build good relationships within the business community.
Colleges can benefit from this blog by promoting themselves within their local business community as being supportive and forward thinking. Colleges which regularly host such events find their profile raised and their local businesses more receptive to student placement requests.
Businesses can benefit from this blog by engaging with their local college. In doing so, they will learn more about the college’s courses, it’s students and how they as a business can benefit through work placements and apprenticeship schemes.
Marketing Agencies can benefit from this blog by attending local events that the colleges put on. This will not only connect you with other business people, but will raise your profile within the college and community.