There are a lot of moving parts to throwing a successful alumni event. You’ve got the location, venue, agenda, activities, and countless other logistics to worry about. No matter how well you plan the logistics, an event is only as good as the people in the room! It’s crucial to target your outreach so that you’re inviting the right people and using the event to build relationships with them. LinkedIn data can help.
Sometimes a simple database search will be enough to pull together an invite list and gather information on your attendees. However, to ensure you’re working with the most accurate data possible, your legacy database shouldn’t be the first and last source you rely on. With alumni moving and changing jobs all the time, it’s not uncommon for higher-ed databases to contain outdated information on where alumni are living and working.
Take John: He’s listed as an NYC resident in your database, but he actually moved to Los Angeles a few months ago—which means he probably hasn’t been hearing about events and opportunities for alumni in LA. That’s a lost opportunity to keep John engaged and involved.
To address this problem, many higher-ed professionals are starting to “think outside the database” by harnessing outside services like LinkedIn. As a valuable repository of self-reported professional and personal data on millions of people worldwide, LinkedIn should become an important tool in your event arsenal.
Here are a few ways to leverage LinkedIn insights for your next event:
Create a targeted invite list
Sending event invitations to a huge list of alumni works well for big events with wide appeal, but regional or industry-specific events will often require reaching out to a smaller segment of constituents. Before you send out those invitations, you’ll want to strategically segment your alumni base by identifiers like city, job, and class year. Luckily, with LinkedIn Advanced Search, you can easily slice and dice your alumni base to create a targeted invite list for these types of events.
Let’s say you’re planning a networking event for Boston alumni who work in law. In Advanced Search, use Industry filters such as “Law Practice” and “Legal Services,” enter the location (“Greater Boston Area”), and then enter your school name. (Pro tip: Remember to check off the boxes for “1st,” “2nd,” and “3rd + Everyone Else” Connections to yield the most results!)
Once you have the results, you can use them to verify information in your database, update out of date information, and uncover alumni who aren’t in your system but will be great to invite.
Identify potential speakers, panelists, and volunteers
Because LinkedIn allows users to update employment details like job title and company, you’ll want to utilize the platform to identify accomplished alumni for both speaking and volunteering opportunities at your events.
For instance, if you’re organizing a career panel and need to identify alumni speakers, you can use some combination of the Job Title, Company, Industry, and Education filters with LinkedIn’s Advanced Search. (If you have a LinkedIn Premium account, you can even filter by Seniority Level.) In seconds, you’ll have a list of qualified candidates to research further and potentially get in touch with—some of whom might not have shown up in a typical database search.
Build relationships with event attendees
If you’re one of the hosts or a donor-facing gift officer, LinkedIn should be your best friend as you prepare for the big day. Insights from the platform can provide valuable context on attendees. Knowing about the latest information in alumni’s lives—from a job promotion to a big move—can help you instigate more meaningful and personal conversations.
If you’re expecting a VIP, or anyone else you want to connect with, spend some time reviewing their LinkedIn profiles to brush up on what’s new. Did they recently win an award? Publish a paper? A simple “congratulations” will make them feel valued and welcomed, strengthening their affinity for your institution and making it more likely that they’ll keep attending events in the future.
A little bit of research can go a long way in cultivating long-lasting relationships with constituents. By incorporating LinkedIn into your event efforts, you’ll be setting your organization up for a high-value event that not only delights your alumni community, but also directly supports your team’s long-term alumni engagement and fundraising goals.