How to organise a Freshers' Event
- Decide whether to host an online or in-person event.
- Familiarise yourself with the mandatory guidelines for online and in-person events, key dates and resources for organisers.
- Recruit the help of one or two Group members - ideally recent graduates.
- Select a date, time and the event duration.
- Work out a structure for the event.
- Decide how to manage bookings.
- Submit an event registration form on/before Wednesday 14 July.
- Promote your event.
- Recruit some current student and recent graduate volunteers to attend your event
- Administer bookings and, if you are hosting an online event, provide attendees with the event log in details.
- Prepare a short welcome speech.
- Brief your volunteers.
- Prepare your attendee registration form and familiarise yourself with data protection guidelines.
- Host the event.
- Submit your attendee registration form within two weeks of the event (or within seven days to be entered into the prize draw).
- Share your feedback
- Stay in touch with attendees and volunteers.
Resources for organisers
Organisers are offered a number of resources to support you in the running of your Freshers' Events.
Why not team up with another Alumni Group in your region or country to co-host the event? Co-hosting offers several advantages, including:
- Shared resources
- Increased event publicity
- Offering a more diverse perspective of Cambridge to those attending
- Building useful collaborations
Joint Cambridge and Oxford events
If you are an organiser of a joint Cambridge and Oxford Group, you will need to register your event with the alumni teams at both Cambridge and Oxford Universities and follow their respective timelines and processes in relation to running your event. Please contact the alumni teams at Cambridge and/or Oxford with any questions.
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. Attendance at 2020's online-only events ranged from two to 24 attendees, with the average being nine. Attendance at 2019's in-person-only events ranged from 2 to 43 attendees, with the average being 15. You might find it helpful to check the incoming student numbers for your Group's area for an approximate potential attendance level for your event.
Who can attend your event?
Decide who the event is open to. For example
- Is it open to undergraduates, postgraduates, or both?
- Is it open to all new students, or only those from your Group's region, or country?
- Can attendees bring a guest? Some incoming students will want, or need, to come to the event with a parent, guardian, or friend who can provide practical assistance, or mental health support. This could be particularly relevant to students with disabilities, and/or those with mental health difficulties. Please be flexible and endeavour to accommodate such requests.
International events are best scheduled between late August and 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- and late-September and before the start of term. Organisers should note that certain dates in July and August must be avoided, as stipulated by UCAS, and as outlined below:
- Groups based in Scotland are not permitted to hold Freshers’ Events, nor contact offer holders based in Scotland (or their schools/colleges), during the period Monday 26 July to Tuesday 3 August inclusive
- UK Groups (including those based in Scotland) are not permitted to hold Freshers’ Events, nor contact offer holders (or their schools/colleges), during the period Friday 6 August to Thursday 12 August inclusive
Combining events for freshers and alumni
Why not combine your Freshers' Event with the Group’s monthly social, annual or new alumni event, so that students can meet members and your efforts will feel worthwhile if the student turnout is smaller than expected? Combining events is likely to reduce event administration and costs.
Event duration (online events only)
Please keep the duration of online events to a maximum of 1.5 hours. It is far more difficult to hold audience attention in a virtual event, compared to an in-person event, where attendees have other stimuli and the ability to experience presentations in a three-dimensional environment.
Venue (in-person events only)
Please observe the mandatory guidelines on venues, which include examples of suitable and unsuitable venues.
Low-key and informal
Please be assured that students will be content with a low-key, friendly and informal gathering in a central location. It works well to have sole use of a space and to keep within the confines of one room/area, rather than spreading over several rooms/areas. Check there will be enough room for socially- distanced mingling and that attendees will be able to hear one another easily.
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. Guidance on event accessibility and disability etiquette can be found on these sites:
Good transport links
Students are likely to travel to your event using public transport, so please select a venue that is within a short (5-10 minutes) walking distance of bus and train links. For those travelling by car, seek out a venue with , preferably, free parking either on site or nearby. Have the telephone number of a trusted local taxi firm to hand. Please include this information on your event registration form, so it can be added to your event web page.
Please observe the mandatory guidelines on serving and drinking alcohol and charging attendees for refreshments.
Attendees will appreciate a few free drinks and some nibbles, or light bites. They will not expect, or require lavish catering. You can choose a venue that provides food and drink, supply your own, or ask attendees to bring their own.
If you intend to provide catering, check dietary requirements with attendees at the time of booking and clearly label food so that attendees know what is, for example, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. We suggest that you avoid pre-ordering catering, if possible, so you are not left out of pocket if the turnout is smaller than expected.
COVID-19 safety measures
- Consider having a picnic and encouraging attendees to bring their own food and drinks
- If serving food and drinks, do not offer shared items, such as food platters, bowls of crisps or jugs of juice. Please instead provide food and drink items that are individually wrapped, such as single packets of sandwiches and cans of drink
Please give your Freshers’ Event a structured format. You could, for example, include some brief presentations, hold a question and answer session and help attendees to mingle.
Sample itinerary for online events
A suggested itinerary for a 1.5 hour online event is presented below and can be amended to suit your event. Online events should last no longer than 1.5 hours.
- (5 minutes) - Welcome from the organiser
- (15 minutes) - Brief introduction from each attendee (name, home town, College, course)
- (5 minutes) – Presentation by a current student or recent graduate: ‘5 things I love(d) about Cambridge’
- (5 minutes) – Presentation by a current student or recent graduate: '5 tips for preparing for university’
- (5 minutes) – Presentation by a current student or recent graduate: ‘5 things I wish I’d known when I started university’
- (20 minutes) – Question and answer session
- (30 minutes) – Breakout rooms for attendees to chat in small groups
- (5 minutes) – Event close by the Group President
Sample itinerary for in-person events
A suggested itinerary for a 2-hour in-person event is presented below and can be amended to suit your event.
- (30 minutes) - Registration and drinks
- (5 minutes) - Welcome from the organiser
- (5 minutes) – Presentation by a current student or recent graduate: ‘What to expect in your first week'
- (20 minutes) – Question and answer session
- (15 minutes) – Break off into Colleges
- (15 minutes) – Break off into Departments/Faculties
- (30 minutes) – Drinks and unstructured mingling
COVID-19 safety measure for in-person events
Pre-booking is mandatory for attendees of in-person events this year, to ensure that attendees can be contacted quickly by the organiser, should the event have to be cancelled in response to a change of government guidelines.
Options for taking bookings
Attendees will expect to book a place online (as opposed to by post, or telephone) via a quick and simple booking process. There are several options available; please indicate your preference on your event registration form:
- Using Development and Alumni Relations’ free online booking system (available only to eligible Groups)
- Using an event management platform, such as Eventbrite (charges might apply)
- Using the Group’s online booking form
- Asking students to email the event organiser
A note about deadlines, cancellations and no-shows
Please bear in mind that many students prefer to make last-minute bookings. It is also likely that there will be some short-notice cancellations and no-shows. We appreciate this presents numerous challenges for event organisers and our recommendations are:
- Avoid having a booking deadline
- Accommodate last-minute bookings
- Anticipate last-minute cancellations and no-shows
- Avoid venues requiring numbers in advance
- Avoid pre-ordering catering, so you are not left out of pocket
Taking payments from attendees
Please avoid asking for payments from attendees, if possible. If you do decide to charge attendees, such as an entrance fee, or for refreshments, there are several options available for taking payments:
- Cash on arrival: it is recommended that you have plenty of change available
- Bank transfer: organisers using Development and Alumni Relations’ online booking system will be asked to provide the Group's bank account details on your event registration form. We will send these details to attendees at the time of booking and instruct them to make payment. Organisers who are not using our online booking system, but wish attendees to pay by bank transfer, will need to provide attendees with the Group's bank account details at the time of booking
Please observe the mandatory guidelines on charging attendees, such as for entrance or ticket fees and refreshments.
Students on tight budgets could be deterred from attending your event if they are to be charged an entrance/ticket fee, or for refreshments. We therefore encourage you to waive all costs for attendees, which could be achieved by:
- Using any profits generated from other alumni events to fund refreshments
- Holding the event in a free venue
- Submitting an application to the Alumni Groups Grant Scheme (terms and conditions apply)
- Seeking sponsorship
- Splitting costs among members
- Keeping the event simple and low-key
Please contact the Alumni Engagement team for advice on funding your event.
Current student volunteers
A mandatory requirement for online Freshers' Events this year is the participation of at least one current student or recent graduate, but preferably more. We strongly encourage their involvement with in-person events too, but it is not mandatory. Please read the Volunteer recruitment page for guidance on recruiting volunteers for your event.
Event supplies (in-person events only)
You are encouraged to use the following event templates, which can be downloaded from the Resources page and printed.
- Attendee registration form
- Data protection statement
- Photography notice
- Event itinerary
Name stickers and badges
We recommend providing attendees with name stickers 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 can act as a useful ice-breaker. You can instruct attendees to write their own sticker on arrival, or provide them pre-typed.
We suggest also providing your volunteers with name stickers or badges, 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.
Registration table (in-person events only)
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, such as your attendee registration form and an event itinerary (available to download from the Resources page)
- Group's data protection statement
- Name stickers and pens
Please prepare a five-minute welcome speech to deliver at the start of the event. Some suggested points to include are listed below:
- Introduce yourself as well as any other speakers
- Congratulations and welcome. Start of an exciting journey
- Ordinarily would have met in person and told you what to expect this term. However, there is still value in having an online event
- State the purpose of the event (to meet other new starters) and run through the itinerary
- Housekeeping (e.g. instructions for technical problems, questions, mute/unmute, etc.)
- 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
- Ask attendees to introduce themselves briefly in turn, providing their name, home town, College and course
Friendly welcome and help to mingle (in-person events only)
New 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 volunteer at the door to welcome attendees, get them a drink and introduce them to someone to talk to?
Mingling with strangers can be very daunting and attendees will appreciate your help to make it easier, such as by:
- Asking volunteers to keep an eye out for anyone standing on their own to go and talk to
- Organising ice breaker games
- Grouping students together, firstly by College for a period of time and then by course/faculty/school. Volunteers can move from group to group offering information and advice
- Organising a 'speed networking' session during the event
There are lots more ideas for helping people to mingle online.
Some Groups like to offer free giveaways to attendees, such as vouchers, edible items, or merchandise. Why not ask Group members for ideas? It might be possible to seek sponsorship for your event, which could result in the sponsor providing the giveaways. Please note, however, that you are not expected to provide free gifts.