The Metropolia Masters’ Alumni Event was held in October at Leppävaara campus as part of a project ”Increasing the R&D impact of Master’s education”, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Metropolia UAS is involved in the Diversity Management work package. It was the first event aimed at all of our Master level graduates -whom we have educated for a decade already in four different fields of study. Here are my notes on the production of this event.
The Program was made of live music, a Poster exhibition, some coffee & cake, a Rector’s Speech, Awarding the Best Master’s Theses, a Panel Discussion, an Alumni Quiz Show, a Toast to Masters’ Education, finally the Salad Buffet Dinner, some wine & time for networking.
The Evening was planned in collaboration of a Project Manager, a Project Coordinator, a Communications Officer, an Alumni Relations Coordinator and several Lectors. The Evening was conducted in collaboration of those mentioned, added with a Hosting Lector, The Houseband, Secretaries and other on-site helping hands, as well as a media student shooting the entire event to a video.
The Alumni of the past Decade were all invited both by personal invitation by snailmail as well as by Alumni Newsletter and Social Media releases. The aim was to gain 200 alumni participants but eventually only 80 were buying the ticket (it was a moderate price). There were around 70 participants on-site, including members of Staff .
Those who came, seemed happy with the Event. They gave a lot of verbal feedback during the evening, all positive. A week after the event they also received a feedback questionnaire. Only few participants had the time to answer. However, these answers are showing in a detailed manner, how we should improve our Events for the Alumni of Metropolia Masters’ in the future.
We are about to have the last bit of the outcomes of the Evening to be published at the end of this week – while waiting for the compilation, here are my conclusions: what you need to succeed in producing an Alumni Event for Metropolia Masters.
- Funding. As it’s highly unlikely we draw the participants if the ticket price is too high, there must be a solid budget coming from ”somewhere”, may it be a Project like in this case, or a Sponsoring organization.
- Time. Planning needs to be started early enough. What is enough, it’s totally up to the event, audience, funding and production team. The venue and the speakers are most critical to book early on. Excellent Time Management is essential factor during the entire production process. You can’t manage time itself, though, it runs as always.
- People. Gather a Production Team. No one survives alone. A team might be just two people – a professional event manager and a curator of the programme. It’s important to have the content-creators settling the framework for the Event at the early stage of the planning. Also it’s important to deal the tasks to individuals, have meetings and make sure a production plan is followed. There might be several different cycles in the production. If you have resourceful people, they might compensate the lack of money, but you just can’t make the time freeze.
- Content. Make sure the event is relevant to the participants. It should provide new knowledge to the professionals, be fresh and up-to-date. In our case, the core audience was ”all our Masters Alumni” and funding was based on a project so the topic of the Event was quite simple to pick. In the future, the topics should be somewhat relatable to ”all the fields of study” we are inviting the Alumni from.
- Communications. Plan well and execute professionally: Core Audience, Key Phrases aimed at them, Visual Design, understanding the Communications will cost something. Also, sending Save-The-Date notes and Invitations early enough and planning how-to use Social Media channels for marketing of the Event. And never forget the importance of the internal communication between the Production Team members.
- Execution. Plan well and be prepared for surprises. Make sure everyone on Production Team is on the map. Especially on the day of the Event, tasks should be divided quite accurately. Always remember, the Audience does not know for sure, what you were supposed to do on a particular slot of the Event. Sometimes improvizing is a must. Try to create a pleasant athmosphere. It helps a lot if some technical error occurs.
- Feedback. Let the audience give feedback. Listen closely. Ask for feedback. Read the feedback. Have a feedback meeting with the team. Take notes and dare to talk about hick-ups that happened on the way. Here are the conclusions from the feedback we gained from our Event:
- Having a panel discussion with the alumni and the lectors was the most preferred part of the official programme.
- Some of the alumni would like to meet only people from their own field. Others want to integrate and network in a cross-faculty manner.
- It’s nice to have Masters’ Theses Awards but it could be more informal.
- As a bilingual (FIN/ENG) institute of higher education we also run into this critique: is it really necessary to use English language in all parts of the programme if the audience in majority knows Finnish, too? This question remaines unsolved.