Sponsoring a student group, co-op program, or career centre event is a fantastic opportunity to engage with up-and-coming professionals and enhance your company brand or employer profile with a key demographic. There are many types of events allowing for plenty of opportunities to select something relevant to your goals, organization, and budget. Here are some quick dos and don’ts for maximizing your sponsorship dollars when attending post-secondary events as part of your recruitment or marketing strategy:
Do the Basics: Dress appropriately for the occasion, bring business cards, arrive on time, and use your time at the event effectively. Prepare in advance to attend the event and ensure you have enough people to fill each spot.
Don’t force people to attend. If you cannot personally attend, ask co-workers who are skilled at representing your organization or have an interest in the cause/event. This opportunity to create goodwill and stand out as an employer of choice can quickly go to waste if the people representing your company at an event are less than enthused or uninformed.
Do know your “pitch”. Find out students’ majors, career aspirations or interests and draw parallels to information about your organization. If your focus is more based around promoting your company or product – be memorable! Bring creative materials or promotional products if applicable to your sponsorship level.
Don’t be memorable for the wrong reasons. Use appropriate discretion when it comes to beverages, cell phone usage, and dinner etiquette. Most students try to be as professional as possible and drinking too much or repeatedly visiting the bar during the formal part of an event is a sign that the event is not taken seriously. Similar to cell phone usage, students will take direction from the corporate representatives on what is appropriate, so demonstrate professionalism.
Do focus on meaningful interactions. Split up into groups of two or go solo and mingle with the students. In case this isn’t clear… Mingle = TALK TO THE STUDENTS! Some students could be attending their first professional event or they may subconsciously stand among friends and socialize. A large group of corporate representatives can be intimidating to break into so approaching students on an individual basis or in a small group conversation works best for quality networking.
Don’t monopolize the conversation. If you’re at a table or group conversation, remember to listen and try to engage all students even if they are not directly beside you. This will also be important if one student is carrying the entire conversation.
Do locate the event planner, student council or corporate relations contact and ask them about any particular students you should meet if you are in recruitment mode. You may even contact them in advance to ask them to provide you with introductions at the event.
Don’t lead students on. If your organization isn’t currently recruiting but you may be in the future, be honest! Let the students know what you typically look for in top candidates and when the most likely time frame for vacancies will be. This will also be helpful information for students so they can maximize their own experience at the event by seeking out employers that are actively hiring while still building their network by making a connection with you.
Each event is an opportunity to make a connection, develop a presence, or promote your organization. Whether you are striving to be a top employer or top product/service of choice, students at post-secondary institutions are an important demographic to engage with through strategic event sponsorship.
Looking to make a connection with student groups, co-op programs or student Career Centres in Winnipeg? Many student groups and event organizers start selling sponsorship over the summer months for the upcoming academic year so now is a great time to think about your sponsorship strategy. I am proud to have many connections in this area and will shamelessly promote them! Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be connected with top notch opportunities to meet students.
Jaysa Toet is a Partner with Acuity HR Solutions where she leads the Recruitment Division.