Three Cheers for Chalkboards

Why do displays for your Welcome Centers have to be overly designed, stuffy, and outdated the moment you print them?

Three cheers for our clients who've chosen to install chalkboards and use them in fun, purposeful ways in their daily campus visits! They're modern, timeless, and, again, FUN.

(Also included: a few of our most recent favorite chalkboards in our experience excursions!)

Setting Expectations: Sweet as Pie

The campus visit often serves many audiences, and you're constantly trying to please everyone. We'll be the first to tell you - you can't please everyone in one campus visit. The best you can hope to do is set good expectations on your website, in the registration process, in emails, and during the visit.

While at a diner in Vermont on a family roadtrip this summer, we saw each table had the pop-up below. It's long, but it sets some real expectations about what you can expect from the diner. When we sat down, our server encouraged us to read both sides while she got our drinks.

They put their values out on display and told customers their food may take longer than initially expected. We love how they explained the why and the process as well as their take on being a diner. Also, pie. The pie was indeed delicious (as promised).

How are you setting expectations for your guests?

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 Also, who doesn't love a diner table that comes with a copy of the Constitution?

Also, who doesn't love a diner table that comes with a copy of the Constitution?

Ambassador Conversation Training

We love our ambassadors, but let's admit it: sometimes they struggle making basic conversation with families. After "Where are you from?" and "What are you interested in studying?", they don't know what else to say.

At the annual conference for the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association this summer, our colleague Ashley McDermott (Louisiana State University) showed us "Chat Pack" which she uses when training ambassadors to be better conversationalists.

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In the spirit of ambassador conversation training, here are some additional games, cards, and resources other Render clients are using. (No sponsored content here; just happy to share.)

Table Topics

Big Talk

Rory's Story Cubes

Conversation Cubes

Do you have something that works well for you? Hit us up on social media or via email to share!

Lessons from Vacation: Washington D.C.

We've written in the past about how welcome centers are moving toward more static displays and the rise of sidewalk graphics for wayfinding/storytelling.

While visiting Washington, D.C. for a Spring Break trip, many examples were found of both. Check out the photos and captions below for inspiration toward a better visitor experience. 

 The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

The Newseum: floor decals at the East/West Berlin Wall exhibit. 

 The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

The Newseum: using static displays to engage visitors in conversation. 

 Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.

Ford's Theatre: static display engaging visitors in conversation.

3 Things for Your Back-to-School Checklist

It's that time of year when we say "It's that time of year!" A phrase typically accompanied with "Where did the summer go?!" and "August already?!" We know you're busy preparing for students to return to campus and making preparations for a new crop of visitors to hit your campus this fall. 

3 quick things you want to ensure are on your Campus Visit Back-to-School checklist: 

1. Open dates for the Fall 2018 semester and plans to open Spring 2019 dates soon. 
Many families are booking campus visits while their availability is being challenged by upcoming holidays, family obligations, sports/plays/student activities commitments, senior activities and dances, SAT/ACT dates, and more. Your calendar should be up and ready for them to see you this fall. 

2. A homepage that prominently features a link directly to the visit.
Please don't make us hunt for the campus visit and your registration (or navigate through pages of paragraphs trying to woo us to visit). Get visitors as quickly to a calendar and details as possible. Take a cue from our clients Lynn University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Seattle University.  

3. Solid Ambassador Training.
New ambassadors, veterans, students who don't remember anything after the long summer; you have them all back, and now what to do with them? Trainings, retreats and workshops will look different based on your resources and ambassador group, but if there is one thing that should be included, it's this - walk. the. route. together. What works at each stop, what doesn't, where do families get bored, what are the best stories to tell? Share with each other in real time. 

And if you're in or near Boston, Philadelphia, or New York, consider joining us for {More} Steps To Being Memorable. It's our signature ambassador workshop with a little extra somethin' somethin'. 

Not in those areas? Hit us up to learn about you can bring us to campus to be a part of your ambassador training. 

Happy August to all! 

Latest Attention Getters: Balloons?

While visiting Saint Joseph's University (PA), we were touring the dining hall when...bump...we hit a balloon. Tied to the end was the note below from one of their sororities advertising an upcoming philanthropy event.

Need to advertise when ambassador applications open? Or need volunteers for an upcoming open house?

Have you ever considered...balloons?

 Look at them all! How can college students avoid grabbing a balloon and looking at the note on the bottom? Brilliant!

Look at them all! How can college students avoid grabbing a balloon and looking at the note on the bottom? Brilliant!

 The note was attached to the bottom of the string.

The note was attached to the bottom of the string.

Client Brag: James Madison University

Boring elevators are so 1853. If you're in the midst of a remodel, renovation, or looking to tackle an easy aesthetic issue, take a cue from our client James Madison University.

Recently, they moved into a new space. They took advantage of blank space on elevator doors by wrapping them with campus landscapes to make it feel as though you were exiting into campus.

Bonus: They have both a summer and winter edition to help guests understand JMU experiences all the seasons.

How do you use your elevators to help showcase campus and tell stories? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog with #renderthevisit.

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Experience Economy: Yeti

You know the Render Experiences team is all about the experience. And The Experience Economy (our manifesto) tells us you can charge a premium price for a product or service as long as you're staging an experience.

During our recent travels, we were able to experience the new Yeti flagship store in Austin, TX, which is thriving due in large part to their incorporation of many tenets of The Experience Economy.

Three things you should know about this space:

  1. It is the only place (physical or online) in the country where you can customize your Yeti cooler and products with your choice of buckles and latches.

  2. They don't just want to sell you a cooler but also the lifestyle of owning one of their coolers (the bar, cornhole, boat, etc).

  3. In a world where technology is difficult to manage and maintain, they threw people at their customers. Lots of staff around to help chat with you about their products and help you customize your experience.

Biggest missed opportunity: They didn't set expectations about how to best experience the store or why we should explore all the experiential pieces.

Memory we'll have forever: We overheard them tell a customer from Illinois that if he were to customize his Yeti cooler, he'd only be 1 out of about 20 people in the entire state of Illinois to own a customized Yeti. Talk about captializing on the values of discovery and provenance!

Marketing While Caffeinating: Coffee Sleeves

Every Render team member agrees: Coffee is important. Crucial, in fact. We pay a lot of attention to our coffee, especially when it is served in a standout cup or environment. 

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More and more, we're seeing the introduction of custom coffee sleeves. It's a great way to get a message out to guests. Use an everyday item that will surely be seen by lots of folks. You want your morning caffeine? You'll need to take a glance at our message first. 

Two examples: 

First, our Associate Dani Napier spotted custom coffee sleeves at her local coffee shop. The sleeves were used to market the new exhibit at the nearby Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

Second, custom sleeves caught the eye of our Principal Jeff Kallay on a recent visit to the University of Richmond. These sleeves featured stories about current students. 

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Messages on wooden stir sticks? Fast facts about your institution on sugar packets? What everyday items are your guests using that can be used for more marketing and branding? 

Reflecting on CIVSA 2018!

Another year of learning and hugs... and this time we had cheese curds!

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Milwaukee earlier this month, and we're still processing all the good conversations, brilliant colleagues and fun times. A big shout out to CIVSA, the Executive Board, the Conference Committee and our colleagues - we've been honored to sponsor the CIVSA Annual Conference since 2008, and we thank them for their partnership and support.

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We asked our clients at our annual client shindig, Hooch and Hors d'oeuvers, about the biggest issues facing the campus visit today. Based on what we heard and discussions, here are our big three takeaways from CIVSA this year.

Visit programs are stretched thin. Middle and elementary school groups are eating up a lot of valuable energy and resources in visit programs. We understand that children who connect with a brand in their youth have a higher affinity for brand loyalty...but a one hour campus tour isn't going to develop that level of emotional engagement. It's time for other offices on campus to start hosting those groups to allow admissions to focus on who they need to recruit - high school and transfer students. Or ponder - is a tour really right for these groups? How about a student panel with guides for 30 minutes, lunch on campus, and a science demonstration? Get creative to free up for your visit program for your higher priority students.

More isn't better; better is better. We get it. Some VPs, Deans, and Directors think more people and more events equate to success. When in reality, the data often shows that huge open house events aren't converting students. At the other end of the spectrum, an event with 5 students and their guests can be a waste of resources, time, and energy. If you need to go back to the basics to reset your events, do it. One open house in the fall, one in the spring, and accepted student programming as needed.

Faculty, faculty, faculty. What do we do with them? What's the right level of engagement? How do we get them involved? That's a question for your faculty. Every campus is different. Sometimes, the classroom visit can be really successful (if executed as active engagement, rather than passive). At some campuses the dining hall is the central gathering place on campus, making it a perfect meeting spot for faculty and visitors to interact. General presentations at the conclusion of the tour can be given by faculty. 1:1 meetings with faculty for seniors, applicants, and admitted students only. There are limitless options. But you have to do what's authentic for you and your culture. Start by asking them.

 Hope to see you next year for H&H at CIVSA 2019 in Portland, Oregon! 

Hope to see you next year for H&H at CIVSA 2019 in Portland, Oregon! 

Want to chat with us more about these? Shoot us an email, find us on social media, or track us down at our next conference.

PS. Congratulations to our colleagues from several client campuses who were honored as recipients of CIVSA annual awards at the Greased Lighting closing dinner at Harley Davidson!

Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Member Award

Lindsey Darling, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Individual Acheivement Award

Barbara Loftus, Rutgers, The State College of New Jersey

Foot Award

Ashley McDermott, Louisiana State University