During the health crisis, college fairs have been forced to go 100% virtual. After returning to normality, the organizers have learned the lessons of this period. Update on the innovations of these vocations, which remain a great classic in terms of Abitur orientation.
For the L’Etudiant lounges, the Covid clamp created a real test by fire. This major player in the industry (with Studyrama) had to adapt to offer future students digital meetings, 100% online. Since the start of the 2021 school year, but especially this year – last January we were still on the principle of measuring devices… – the “face-to-face” fairs are back, a comeback that confirms their essential role in the post-baccalaureate . “We experienced a rush that surprised even us. We did not expect such a quick recovery”notes Sébastien Mercier, deputy director in charge of the development of L’Etudiant fairs (110 events per year in France, between 800,000 and 1 million visitors per year).
In its new edition, this classic remains true to a few principles. For example, free for everyone, “matter of honor” according to guide. The events are financed in particular by the co-organisers “political and institutional”. For example, the Montpellier University Fair (next meeting from 12 to 14 January 2023 in the Parc des Expos) mobilizes the rectorate, the universities and the region.
Sébastien Mercier also points this out: “Shows need to reinvent themselves, adapt in terms of content, but you have to keep in mind that expectations generally remain the same. We are aimed at young people who are thinking about their future and who have to make career decisions. And it’s still such a scary subject.” CQFD.
An extended calendar, e.g. B. the age of the target groups
However, these events had to adapt and it started with a year-advanced calendar. We are also in the middle of the season: from October to January, L’Etudiant offers its lounges “Generalists in deciphering higher education”. It is the turn of the dual and training fairs until March.
We must see here the effects of the famous parcoursup procedure that will be open from January to March. “Beforerecalls Sébastien Mercier, whoes Terminales took care of their orientation in January-February. Well, it’s not that it’s a bit late, but it’s better to anticipate as much as possible! “
The target groups are themselves advanced in age. “For ten years we have been open to students at Première because the National Ministry of Education has decided to raise awareness of orientation issues as early as possible. For three years now, with the reform of the grammar school, we have also had seconders who come because they have to decide on specializations and are looking for those that will open the most doors for them after they graduate from high school.
Even middle school students are invited to participate in dual and apprenticeship fairs… There is no age for self-expression.
100% online, an exercise with limits
The digital transformation of salons is also a necessity. When gatherings were picketed at Covid it was done in a forced march. The organizers had to create 100% online fairs to give young people the opportunity to get informed, attend conferences, exchange opinions…
The exercise imposed showed some limitations. “There were good and badobserves Sebastien Mercier. What’s really been missing from online trade shows is interaction. We had a majority of young people who came to learn about the virtual booths, but strangely didn’t interact with those who were on the other side of the screen, ready to answer their questions.”
Very good point: these virtual fairs have given access to information to young people or families far from the big university cities. “When it’s 1:30 am, 2 hours away, it’s complicated to walk back and forth to get to a salon during the day.”
Hybrid lounges, the chosen solution.
At L’Etudiant we learned the lessons. “After recovery, we found it good to combine the best of both worlds, physical and digital.” Result: The living rooms have become hybrid. They are held “physically” over two or three days. “But you also have your content that’s 100% online 15 days before the event and a few days after.”
Even if you want to come by in person, online registration on the platform is required. Having defined their profile, the enrolled young person can set up a personalized course. “Visitors can prepare for their visit, see the exhibitors they can meet, add conferences that might interest them to their itinerary… It’s a tool to prepare for the visit, but not only. You can also start interacting, asking exhibitors questions, making appointments online, listening to a conference from your sofa…”
The hybrid formula also allows access to specific content. “Obviously, when you host a luxury fair in Paris, you have more people online.”
New tools tested
Thus, the best new technologies can be used. Example: A young person attending a conference can ask questions via the journalist moderator directly on their smartphone. “We told ourselves that we were addressing an audience that sometimes finds it difficult to raise your hand and ask a question in front of 400 people.”
The shows also offer a dedicated app to download documents on site, receive notifications… In the project: integrate in the application a system that will allow you to be geolocated and find your way better in the aisles of the show via a beacon system to find your way around .
Online registration and personalized profiles also allow “Matches” : “Young people are offered exhibitors that meet their expectations. Appropriate content will be provided. That makes the process easier.” It is also useful … for those who dehydrate, “Those Who Don’t Know What To Do”. “That is every second visitor, so a very large part of our audience. Route suggestions can be made online – “I don’t know what to do,” they say. We can immediately identify the structures that can take you by the hand and help you: the psychologists of the National Education System, the CRIJ, the Onisep, the Regions…”
The managing director also relies on tried and true technology. “The fairs are all divided into thematic villages. When you have a semblance of affinity, the fact of the exchange, even if you don’t know what to do, always leaves something coming out of it: it appealed to me or not… It’s the multiplication of encounters that makes it possible, create an orientation project”.
Exhibitors who are innovative
In order to facilitate this exchange, the exhibitors usually also adapt. It starts with people. “A stand shouldn’t just be the school’s administrative staff. This certainly reassures parents who turn to them more. On the other hand, a young person will more easily approach students who are in class. Because two years ago they were in his place. Bindings are created immediately. Students are therefore accompanied by teachers and administrative staff on most of the stands. Not having one doesn’t make the exchange easier.”
Schools and universities are also using new technologies. If physical brochures are still being distributed, they coexist with dematerialized carriers. “A lot happens via QR code: you can often download this or that document directly. This also applies to open days organized by schools and universities. Instead of filling out a slip of paper by hand, the youngster only has to hand in his smartphone and he’s already on the guest list…”
It should be noted that open house days, JPO in technical jargon, also break down barriers. “It used to be about meeting the teachers and seeing the buildings being constructed… Now it’s really about creating content.”, welcomes Sébastien Mercier. Example that is increasingly being copied, by schools but also by universities: offering beginners an immersive experience… “We offer them the opportunity to fully immerse themselves for a day or half a day. When you find yourself in a legal amphitheater, what better way to project yourself!”
Advice on point
Conclusion by Sebastien Mercier: “The show is a presenter, a climax, almost inevitable. But that’s not the miracle recipe, we mustn’t stop there. Higher education, yes it’s the jungle. The system is complex. But we have many sources of information.”
To avoid getting lost, the deputy director of L’Etudiant recommends a few basic rules : “You have to start by getting to know yourself, knowing what your main interests are, what subjects you feel comfortable in. Having dissected all this, you need to meet, discuss, know the professions. There are many information sites”. A job that allows you to get the best results: life is ahead of you…