1. Revisit your key messages. What are you saying about your school to make it different from others? Can you clearly articulate why someone should send their children to your school?
2. Think how the Open Event will communicate these messages. Will there be a chance to meet your happy current students, teachers and parents? Will visitors see the great music, drama or sporting ability in the school or hear from former students who have gone to great universities? Will they get a chance to talk about the pastoral care and SEN support on offer? Will they be able to ask the Headteacher about what they will be doing to ensure the school remains unique? If you can't follow up your key messages at the event, you need to make some changes to what is on offer.
3. Make the Open Event itself attractive in your communications. Far too many schools create exciting Open Events and then spend a lot of money on advertisements that just say when and where the event is taking place. Explain how prospective students will experience real lessons, include case studies of students who will be at the event or use pictures of the orchestra that will be playing there. It's also important at this stage to remember that you're targeting parents, not writing reports for OFSTED or the ISI - try to explain how you will help their children, not how you will implement the latest educational initiatives.
4. Communicate your messages clearly, widely and innovatively. Reflect on who you want to target and how this has changed over time. Think about innovative ways of passing on messages such as asking parents or former students to display posters in their places of work or faith communities. Explore social media and make sure your website and direct mail clearly outline the same messages as your advertising. Above all, don't just run the same adverts in the same publications as last year without evaluating their performance and asking for better placement or extras such as online advertising. And please keep it short - I saw a recent 4 page A3 Open Day advert from an Academy that used 8 point text for one page - an editor was sorely needed.
5. Give prospective parents the chance to find out more before the event. Create a dedicated section on your website that outlines what will be happening on the day and who will be available to talk to. If people write or call asking for more information, ask them to join your mailing list - and send them updated information as the day draws closer. And please don't hide your prospectuses - send them out quickly when asked and make them easy to download from your website.
6. Provide alternatives. Parents are busy people and many will not be able to make a specific evening or Saturday, especially as many schools are running events at the same times. Many schools will run Open Events at different times and these should all be highlighted in all adverts but the easiest alternative (and one that is probably better at converting interest in new parents anyway) is to offer personal tours at a time of their convenience.
7. Provide reminders. It's easy for parents to promise to attend but then miss the actual event. An email or telephone call from a senior member of staff a few days before the event is an excellent way of preventing this - and if something has come up they can be given an individual tour or moved to the next event - or invited to upcoming sporting, drama or music events.
And if you want help with the Open Day itself why not read 'How to Make an Open Day to Remember'