Tips for a successful event

Tips for a successful event

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Manchester Freshers' Event

What does the ideal Freshers' Event look like?

By following the tips below - many of which have been shared by attendees and experienced organisers - your event stands a good chance of being a success for everyone involved. Events vary, but the best ones, from the perspective of the majority of incoming students, have all the following aspects in common:

Organisers can further enhance their events, such as by: 

All organisers are asked to prepare certain event templates, including an attendee registration form, data protection statement and photography notice.

A note on attendee numbers

Please be assured that there is no ideal number of attendees to aim for and you should not feel disheartened if only a few students turn up. Last year’s attendance levels varied considerably across events, with numbers ranging from one to 227 attendees and the majority being eight or less. It might be helpful to check the student numbers for your area, for an approximate potential attendance level for your event.

Mandatory guidelines

Please bear in mind that only events that are observant of the mandatory guidelines on venue, dress code, alcohol and charging can be registered as a Freshers' Event and supported by Collegiate Cambridge. Therefore, please familiarise yourself with the guidelines and contact the appropriate team with any questions.

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Find a suitable date

International events are best scheduled between late August to mid-September, because many international students arrive in Cambridge two or three weeks before the start of term.

UK events are best scheduled between mid to late September and before the start of term. Certain dates in July and August must be avoided, as stipulated by UCAS:

  • UK Groups are not permitted to hold Freshers’ Events, or contact offer holders, or their schools/colleges, during the period Friday 10 August until Thursday 16 August inclusive
  • Groups based in Scotland are also not permitted to hold Freshers’ Events, or contact offer holders, or their schools/colleges, based in Scotland, during the period Monday 30 July until Tuesday 7 August inclusive

Why not combine your Freshers' Event with the Group’s monthly social, annual or new alumni event, so that students can meet lots of members and your efforts will feel worthwhile, event if the student turnout is small? Combining events should also reduce your event administration.

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Choose a suitable venue

Please be assured that students will be content with a low-key, friendly and informal gathering in a central location with good transport links. It works well to have sole use of a space and to keep within the confines of one area, rather than spreading over several rooms. Do check there will be enough room for mingling and that attendees will be able to hear one another.  

Please read the mandatory guidelines for guidance on venue, which includes examples of suitable and unsuitable venues.

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Make the event accessible

Your goal, no doubt, is to assist all attendees, including those with disabilities, to feel welcome and able to fully participate in the event. When planning your event, it is important to consider what barriers to participation might be in place and to address these, where possible.

Please read the mandatory guidelines for guidance on making the event accessible to all students. Some excellent guidance on event accessibility and disability etiquette can be found on these sites:

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Good transport links

Students are likely to travel to your event using public transport, so please select a venue that is, ideally, within 10 minutes walking distance of bus and train links. For those travelling by car, seek out a venue with, preferably, free parking on site or nearby. Having the contact details of a trusted local taxi firm is also worthwhile. Please include this information on your event registration form

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Easy and flexibile booking

Students often book late or turn up without booking, even if asked to do so, which can present challenges for event organisers. They expect booking to be straightforward and available online. With this in mind, our recommendations are:

  • avoid having a booking deadline
  • accommodate students turning up at the door, without pre-booking
  • avoid venues requiring numbers in advance
  • avoid pre-ordering catering, so you are not left out of pocket

If you would like attendees to book in advance, there are several options to consider for managing bookings, including:

  • using an event management platform, such as Development and Alumni Relations’ online booking system (available to recognised Groups only) or Eventbrite
  • asking students to email the event organiser
  • asking students to complete the Group’s online booking form
  • asking students to use an online scheduling app, such as Doodle

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Option to bring a guest

Some incoming students will want, or even need, to come with a parent, guardian or friend in order, for example, to provide practical assistance and emotional support. This can be particularly relevant to students with disabilities. Please be flexible and endeavour to accommodate such requests.

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Friendly welcome on arrival

Students are likely to feel nervous about attending the event, not least because meeting new people can be scary, but a warm and friendly welcome on arrival will be very helpful in easing any nerves. Why not station a Group member or current student volunteer at the door to welcome attendees, get them a drink and introduce them to someone to talk to?

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Attendees will appreciate a few free drinks and some light bites or nibbles. They will not expect or require lavish catering. It is worth checking dietary requirements at the time of booking and, where possible and relevant, label food so that attendees know what is, for example, vegetarian, vegan or gluten free.

Please read the mandatory guidelines for guidance on serving and drinking alcohol and on charging for refreshments.

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Up-to-date orientation information

Incoming students will appreciate receiving lots of relevant and up-to-date information about Cambridge, including how to prepare and what to expect on arrival. It is therefore suggested that you:

  • familiarise yourself with University orientation information, which is published, for example, on the new students and international students web pages
  • invite volunteers to your event to mingle with attendees and provide a short presentation on different aspects of student life
  • have a question and answer session
  • hand out information, such as our orientation leaflet (orgranisers of recognised Groups can order hard copies from the Alumni Engagement team)

Why not screen a short University orientation video, such as one of these below?:

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Name stickers and badges

We recommend providing everyone with a name sticker or badge to wear at the event, with their name, College and course clearly displayed. These provide attendees with an easy way to identify others from their College and course and act as a useful ice-breaker. You can instruct attendees to write their own sticker on arrival, or provide them pre-typed.

We suggest providing volunteers with name badges or stickers, ideally in a different colour or style to those for attendees, so they stand out. You could write, for example, ‘CURRENT STUDENT’ or ‘RECENT GRADUATE’ at the top of the sticker to make the wearer’s role clear. Group members in attendance (including you) should also wear stickers or badges to clearly identify yourselves as alumni.

Stickers and name badges can be ordered from the Alumni Engagement team.

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Help attendees to mingle

Mingling with strangers can be very daunting and attendees will appreciate your help to make it easier, such as by:

  • organising ice breaker games
  • grouping students together, firstly by College for a period of time and then by course/faculty/school. Volunteers and Group members can move from group to group, offering information and advice
  • organising a speed networking session during the event
  • asking Group members and volunteers to keep an eye out for anyone standing on their own to go and talk to

There are lots more ideas for helping people to mingle online.

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Current students to speak to

A particular highlight for attendees is speaking to current students and recent graduates for up-to-date and relatable information and advice about Cambridge. Please read the volunteer recruitment page for guidance on recruting such volunteers to help out at the event.

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Structure the event

A tip from previous attendees is to give your Freshers’ Event a structured format. You could, for example, include some brief presentations, hold a question and answer session and facilitate a mingling session. A suggested itinerary for a two-hour event is presented below and can be amended to suit your event. It is recommended that you print and display the itinerary at the event; feel free to use our template event itinerary for this purpose.

18.00    Registration
18.30    Welcome from the organiser
18.35    Presentation by a volunteer: what to expect in your first week
18.40    Presentation by a volunteer: support available at Cambridge
18.45    Presentation by a volunteer: support available from the alumni
18.50    Question and answer session
19.05    Break off into Colleges
19.20    Break off into courses/faculties/schools
19.35    Drinks
20.00    End

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Branded event supplies

Recognised Alumni Groups can order University of Cambridge branded supplies, known as a 'Party in a box', free of charge, to help create a stronger sense of Cambridge at the event. Simply complete an order form and email it to the Alumni Engagement team.

'Party in a box' menu:

  • 'Alumni volunteer' and 'Student volunteer' badges
  • sheets of blank stickers (for name stickers)
  • napkins and paper cups
  • banners and bunting
  • table flags and paper flags
  • pens
  • orientation leaflets

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Prepare a welcome speech

It is recommended that you prepare a short welcome speech to give once the majority of attendees have arrived, which is likely to be about 30 minutes into the event. Some suggested points to include are listed below:

  • introduce Group members and volunteers
  • state the purpose of the event and run through the itinerary
  • promote the Alumni Groups network as a resource for students
  • highlight the Group’s student engagement activities
  • promote the Group’s equivalent student society in Cambridge, if there is one, and any orientation events they will be hosting for new students in Michaelmas Term
  • introduce any other speakers

Speeches and presentations should be kept brief, to give attendees plenty of time to chat to one another.

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Prepare event templates

Please prepare the following documents for the event:

  • attendee registration form (visit the attendee data page for details)
  • data protection statement: it is advisable to display the Group's data protection statement, preferably next to the attendee registration form, to inform attendees how the information collected on the form will be used. The statement should be available from the Group’s primary contact person and further information is published at the bottom of the Run a Group page
  • photography notice: if you are intending to take photographs at the event, please display a photograhy notice, to make attendees aware of this and give them the opportunity to inform you if they would like to be excluded from photography
  • signage: help attendees find their way to your event by displaying lots of signage, with clear directions, in and around the venue
  • event itinerary: we recommend displaying an event itinerary, so attendees know what to expect

A range of event event templates are available for your use.

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Set up a registration table

It is recommended that you set up a designated table or area, ideally by the entrance, for registering attendees, which includes the following items:

  • event templates (attendee registration form, data protection statement, photography notice and event itinerary)
  • name stickers and badges 
  • pens
  • orientation leaflets and any other handouts you would like to provide

A range of event event templates are available for your use.

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    Free giveaways

    Some Groups hand out free giveaways to attendees, such as a sample, a voucher, something edible or something fun. Why not ask Group members for ideas? It might be possible to seek sponsorship for your event, which could result in the sponsor providing free branded giveaways for attendees. Please note that you are not expected to organise free gifts.

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    Find a nearby venue for socialising after the event

    A suggestion from previous attendees is to provide details of a nearby venue that attendees wishing to carry on socialising after the event can go to, assuming you will need to vacate your space.

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