How to organise a Freshers' Event

How to organise a Freshers' Event

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Manchester Freshers' Event

Read on to discover how to organise a successful Freshers' Event. Many contributions on this page have been shared by attendees and experienced organisers.

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Guidelines for Freshers' Events

Please familiarise yourself with the guidelines on venue, dress code, serving and drinking alcohol and charging attendees. Only events that observe the guidelines can be registered and supported by the Collegiate University.

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Consider co-hosting

Why not team up with another individual or group to co-host the event? Potential co-hosts could be another Alumni Group, a Cambridge student society, or (UK only) the College Schools Liaison Officer (also known as Area Link) for your Group's area.

Co-hosting offers several advantages, including:

  • Shared resources
  • Increased event publicity
  • Offering a more diverse perspective of Cambridge to those attending
  • Building useful collaborations

You are welcome to contact the appropriate team to discuss co-hosting.

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Joint Cambridge and Oxford events

Organisers of joint Cambridge and Oxford Groups will need to register your event with both Cambridge and Oxford alumni teams and follow each team's respective timelines and processes in relation to your event. Please contact the appropriate team at Cambridge and/or Oxford with any questions.

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Recruit volunteers to help (such as current students)

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 recruiting such volunteers to help out at the event.

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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 over 200 attendees and the average being 14. It might be helpful to check the student numbers for your Group's area, for an approximate potential attendance level for your event.

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Find a suitable date

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 also 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, or contact offer holders based in Scotland or their schools/colleges, during the period Monday 29 July to Tuesday 6 August inclusive

  • UK Groups (including those based in Scotland) are not permitted to hold Freshers’ Events, or contact offer holders or their schools/colleges, during the period Friday 9 August to Thursday 15 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 if the student turnout is smaller than expected? Combining events should also reduce your event administration.

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Choose a suitable venue

Please observe the guidelines on venue, 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 area, rather than spreading over several rooms. Check there will be enough room for 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. Some excellent 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, ideally, within a 10 minute 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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Please observe the guidelines on serving and drinking alcohol and charging attendees for refreshments. 

Attendees will appreciate a few free drinks and some nibbles (such as crisps) or light bites (such as sandwiches, cakes, canapés or tapas). They will not expect or require lavish catering. You can choose a venue that provides food and drink or supply your own.

If you intend to provide your own catering, it is worth checking dietary requirements with attendees at the time of booking and labelling 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.

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Funding the event

Please observe the 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 or ticket fee, or for refreshments, therefore you are encouraged to waive all costs for attendees. This can be achieved by:

  • Holding the event in a free venue
  • Using any profits generated from other alumni events to fund refreshments
  • Submitting an application to the Alumni Groups Award Scheme (terms and conditions apply)
  • Seeking sponsorship
  • Splitting costs among members
  • Keeping the event simple and low-key

Please contact the appropriate team for advice on funding your event. 

Taking payments from attendees

If you decide to charge attendees, such as an entrance fee or for refreshments (although please avoid doing so if possible), there are several options 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 the event registration form. We will send these details, along with an instruction to make payment, to attendees at the time of booking. Organisers who are not using our online booking system, but wish to use bank transfer, will need to provide attendees with the Group's bank account details at the time of booking
  • PayPal: organisers using Development and Alumni Relations’ online booking system will be asked to provide the email address linked to the Group's PayPal account on the event registration form. We will send the address, along with an instruction to make payment, to attendees at the time of booking. Organisers who are not using our online booking system, but wish to use PayPal, will need to provide attendees with the Group's PayPal account details at the time of booking

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Easy and flexible booking

Booking deadlines
If you would like attendees to book in advance, please bear in mind that many students prefer to make last-minute bookings, or turn up at events without pre-booking - even when asked to do so. It is also likely that some attendees will cancel at short notice, or simply not turn up. We appreciate this presents numerous challenges for event organisers and 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
  • Anticipate last-minute cancellations and no-shows

Options for managing attendee bookings
If booking is requred, attendees will expect to do so online (as opposed to by post or telephone) and the process should be quick and straightforward. There are several options available:

  • Using Development and Alumni Relations’ online booking system (available to Groups that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU))
  • Using an event management platform, such as Eventbrite (charges might apply)
  • Asking students to email the event organiser
  • Asking students to complete the Group’s online booking form (you will need to create this)

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Option to bring a guest

Some incoming students will want, or even need, to come to the event with a parent, guardian or friend, 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 volunteer at the door to welcome attendees, get them a drink and introduce them to someone to talk to?

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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 can move from group to group offering information and advice
  • Organising a speed networking session during the event
  • Asking 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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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, so attendees know what to expect; feel free to use our template itinerary for this purpose.

18.00    Registration and drinks
18.30    Welcome from the organiser
18.35    Presentation: what to expect in your first week
18.40    Question and answer session
19.00    Break off into Colleges
19.15    Break off into Departments/Faculties
19.30    Mingling
20.00    End

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Prepare a welcome speech

It is recommended that you prepare a short (three to five minutes) welcome speech and give it once the majority of attendees have arrived - which is likely to be about 30 minutes into the event. Speeches and presentations should be kept brief, to allow attendees plenty of time to chat to one another. Some suggested points to include are listed below:

  • Introduce yourself and any volunteers and guests and speakers
  • Congratulate attendees on their places at Cambridge (and Oxford, if a joint event)
  • 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 it will be hosting for new students in Michaelmas Term

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Provide 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:

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Order branded event supplies

Alumni Groups that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can order University of Cambridge branded supplies, known as a 'Party in a box', free of charge, to decorate the table/area/room and 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 name stickers and badges

We recommend providing attendees with name stickers or badges 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 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.

Alumni Groups that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) can order stickers and badges from the Alumni Engagement team.

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Prepare event templates

You are encouraged to use the following event templates, which can be downloaded from our resources page and printed.

  • Attendee registration form
  • Data protection statement
  • Photography notice
  • Signage
  • Event itinerary
  • Orientation leaflet
  • Checklist for organisers

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Set up a registration table

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

  • Event template: attendee registration form, data protection statement, event itinerary and orientation leaflet (see above)
  • Name stickers or badges 
  • Pens
  • Any handouts you would like to provide, such as orientation leaflets

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    Offer free giveaways

    Some Groups give free giveaways to attendees, such as a sample, voucher, or edible item. 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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    Visiting AAB and NVWG members

    Members of the Alumni Advisory Board (AAB) and Networks and Volunteers Working Group (NVWG) attend Freshers' Events in order to show their appreciation to Group representatives and gain insights into Group activities that help inform their guidance to the Alumni Engagement team. You will be contacted by the Alumni Engagement team should a member wish to attend your event and we will be grateful for your willingness to accommodate the request.

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