Lessons from Fast Company Innovation Festival

Render's Brittney Joyce recently attended Fast Company's annual Innovation Festival in New York City and spent a week trotting around the city to learn from some of the world's greatest brands.

Read on to learn what she learned from #FCFestival that you can apply to your campus visit!

It's all about me.

Ever wondered what your consumer behavior would look like if translated into a map? A stop at Pinterest's NYC headquarters showed us how choices for our boards, pins, and searches all connect toward predicting future behavior on their site and app. Searching for how to build your own backyard deck? Don’t be surprised if you see suggested posts in a few months about summer barbecues and patio furniture. Nursery decoration on your mind? You’ll be seeing some suggestions for Vegas vacations in about a year.

It’s a move toward a deeper dive on consumers rather than simply aligning them under one brand message or marketing campaign. It’s less about processing the masses, and more a move toward intentional targeting.

Creepy, I know. But here’s the point.

We’re all guilty of allowing prospective students to walk in the door, sending them on tour with a random tour guide, and hoping they get something out of it. Shouldn’t you know your visitors better to more accurately prepare for them? Can you take 10 minutes of every day as a staff to prepare for the next day’s visitors, learn a little bit about them, and intentionally match them with a tour guide with complementary interests?

Side note: Isn't this wall the coolest? It has physical "pins" you can take with you highlighting fun, interesting places in NYC.

There’s an app for that, right?

We are constantly being asked if a mobile application for prospective students is worth the investment. I spent some time with some prominent members of the Homeland Generation (also called Generation Z) at the Lower Eastside Girls Club in partnership with School of Doodle. When an attendee asked a panelist why she’s so addicted to her phone, she replied “Well, it’s the only thing in this world that I can control completely.”

Whoa. Mind. Blown.

She went on to describe that kind of control: Her phone only has apps she wants, organized in the way she wants. She can control who she follows on social media, what she sees, what she doesn’t. When we asked if brands should still be building apps, she shrugged. But she did say:

“You can build it. But it’s up to me if I want it. Don’t force me to take up room on my phone for something I may use up once or never. That feels like an invasion of privacy.”

Double mind blown.

TL;DR: You can build them, but don’t have grand expectations that they’ll use it unless it’s an active daily part of your visit, and you, your students, and campus community are using it too.

Anheuser Busch logos greet visitors outside.

Anheuser Busch logos greet visitors outside.

The new aspiration is wellness.

If you think back 10 years ago, aspiration meant luxury items. A Louis Vuitton handbag, a sports car, a big screen tv. Today’s consumers are now obsessed with equating aspiration and wellness. A $300 juicer. A complete collection of Lululemon's latest line. SoulCycle classes. It’s our way of showing off wealth but showcased into how we’re taking better care of ourselves. It’s why we heard Michelob Ultra is the fastest growing brand at Anheuser Busch, and one of America's oldest beer brands is focusing on... you guessed it, wellness.

Are you pondering if this is happening on college campuses and impact's recruitment and retention of students? A recent piece by the Wall Street Journal suggests we're all in the midst of this renaissance.

Interested in learning more about Fast Company Innovation Festival? Watch our Facebook Live recap from 2016 and holla at us on social media.

Maximizing Wall Estate

We all have blank walls on college campuses. You walk by them and daydream of the possibilities - large graphics, storytelling, outcomes of your current students.

Our Principal, Trent Gilbert, long ago coined the term "Wall Estate." Your Wall Estate is the lot of those blank walls just begging for something, anything to help tell your institutional story.

Our client, Hofstra University, is seizing the opportunity to make the most of their Wall Estate! Since our visit earlier in 2017 (Hofstra makes moves fast!), they've implemented a campus-wide branding campaign to add more color, spirit and storytelling to bridges, stairwells, buildings and, most importantly, their Welcome Center.

Way to go, Hofstra! We're so PROUD of your hard work!

Photo credit: Andrew Cohen (Associate Director for Campus Visit, Office of Admission, Hofstra University)

The Hills are Alive... with Tour Guide Recruitment

The start of the academic year ushers in a new freshmen class, the kick off of travel season, and for many of you, your tour guide recruitment and selection process.

We've always preached - it's not what you do or say, but how you make people feel. We love this video shared with us by Tracey O'Kelley with the Clemson University Visitors Center. One of their tour guides, Peyton, shot, edited and produced this short video to help with tour guide selection (way to go, Peyton). It gives us all the feels.

Do you have a unique way you're reaching out to campus to recruit and select tour guides? Share your flyers, videos and strategies on Facebook with us. Happy recruiting!

It's Friday Night & The Recruiting's Right!

Downtown Iowa City, IA is a pretty happening place. Located right next to campus at the University of Iowa, it's a classic Big 10 university town and a quintessential part of the student experience. Like most families touring campuses, they've jampacked a campus visit itinerary that doesn't allow time for a burger or pizza slice at a local student favorite. We challenged the admission team at Iowa to embrace downtown more intentionally and show its connection to the daily life of an Iowa student.

As a result, Iowa Friday Night Live was born!

Starting at 4:30 pm, this visit includes an information session and tour of campus but ends with a tour of downtown, visits to selected restaurants, and an invitation to attend Iowa City's Friday Night Concert Series.

Starting off with only three offerings, each Friday Night Live event hit capacity and was a success! From the mouths of prospective students, here are some of the rave reviews from attendees:

Look at those personalized VIP badges! Swoon!

Look at those personalized VIP badges! Swoon!

“I think it was important to not only see campus on the tour but also the surrounding community. I can definitely picture myself there now.”

“We loved going to multiple establishments in downtown Iowa City. The owners were courteous, treated us to samples of their food and showed a great interest in our coming to the University. The University and city show a great partnership and offer strong support for students.”

“I liked that I got to see a different, but still very important, side of a university. For a lot of people, the social aspect is vital when considering a college and it was nice to experience that a little bit.”

"We have visited the campus before, but did not take the time to delve into the offerings of the downtown area. And the food offerings were exceptional. Awesome addition!”

“The Friday Night Live tour was amazing. It really showed everything Iowa City has to offer and how accessible it is to campus. We absolutely adored Iowa City! That is a huge selling point for the school.”

“The food tour was really awesome and fun! We have been on several tours now and this one was by far our favorite!”

“We really enjoyed the evening option with added nightlife of downtown. New twist on the college visit!”

Food, hospitality, how the local area embraces the college community, and social life - all important aspects to prospective families showcased here!

Big shout-out and kudos to Kirk Kluver (Director of Admission) and Allanda Hageman (Senior Events and Program Coordinator) at the University of Iowa for taking the risk on this event and sharing their success with our team!

Want to know how they did it? Reach out to their team or let us connect you.

PS. And now we're dying for an Iowa City must-have, Molly's Cupcakes! YUM.

"Hi, My Name Is..."

We've said it before: tour guides are the most important people in this process. They have a lot of responsbility in guiding our guests, answering their questions, and being genuine, authentic representatives of their schools.

We love this video from our client, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, because it shows a well-trained ambassador doing one thing really, really well - flipping the question of "Why did I choose UAB?" to "What keeps me coming back to UAB?"

Keep telling stories, Jared! Special shoutout to Tyler Peterson, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Assistance at UAB, for sharing with us.

Got a cool photo, video or story of good things happening on your campus? Let us brag on you by sending it our way!

Great campus visits (& muffins?) live on Drury Lane

We're always looking for an opportunity to brag about our clients, and today's turn in the spotlight goes to Drury University (Springfield, MO).

Kevin Kropf, Executive Vice President of Enrollment Management at Drury University, has been a long-time client and early adopter of the strategic enrollment strategy of staging authentic and engaging campus visit experiences. In this article for Drury Magazine (a publication for Drury alumni), Kevin details the improvements and outcomes to their campus visit since he joined the leadership team in August 2017.

TL;DR: Be like Kevin. And Drury. They're both pretty great.

3 on Thursday: Wrapping up CIVSA!

We learned. We hugged. We cheesesteaked!

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Philadelphia last week, and we're still reeling from 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.

Whether you were there or missed out, we're ready to break down our three big takeaways from the conference for you.

  • Campus Visit Growth. There has been tremendous growth and momentum to the campus visit industry. CIVSA has grown to over 1000 members and had approximately 600 campus visit professionals in attendance at the annual conference this year. The campus visit has steadily been gaining the recognition it deserves and is now seen as one of (if not THE) the most importance pieces of the recruitment and enrollment of best-fit students. What does this mean for the industry? More and more of our clients are hiring dedicated campus visit professionals. No application reading, no traveling. Just all campus visit, all the time.
  • Prior-Prior = Chaos-Chaos The introduction of Prior-Prior financial aid packaging is hitting the campus visit hard. We're seeing an increase of students visiting 4 - 5 times, especially if they committed back in the fall. By the spring, they're already looking for orientation-esuqe programs. What does this mean for you? You may need to think about adding early orientation programs, moving up your accepted student programming earlier in the year and/or adding a spring program for students that deposited in the fall.
  • Ambassador Struggles are Real. Conversations, how to handle difficult parent questions, what to wear, how to behave... you name it, they're struggling. If you're still training your tour guides now like you did 5 years ago, it's time to change. Think beyond customer service training. Improv training, networking hours, and even demonstrations on how to shake someone's hand properly may go a long way with this generation.

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. Pardon our french, but our colleagues are kind of badasses in the campus visit world. Congratulations to our colleagues from several client campuses who were honored as recipients of CIVSA annual awards at the Roaring '20s closing dinner (hence the outfits)!

Olivia McGuckin, Randolph-Macon College, Inaugural Individual Achievement Award  

Olivia McGuckin, Randolph-Macon College, Inaugural Individual Achievement Award  

Wes Sullivan, California Lutheran University,       Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Service Award

Wes Sullivan, California Lutheran University,       Nick Kovalakides Outstanding Service Award

Terri Franks, University of Georgia Footprint Award

Terri Franks, University of Georgia
Footprint Award

Philadelphia Shoop, Flagler College,          Footprint Award

Philadelphia Shoop, Flagler College,          Footprint Award

Transforming Big Hills

The dreaded uphill walk on tour. Yeesh. Your tour guides joke about it being our cardio for the day, but after the third or fourth hill, we're pretty much over it.

Check out how The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC transformed an uphill walk into something easier, safer and more enjoyable for guests. Small, incremental steps take a little leg work (pun intended) out of battling against the uphill walk.

Worth passing along to your facilities management folks for consideration? We think so. Our legs will thank you.

And here's Brittney. Turning another family outing into a blog post for Render. 

And here's Brittney. Turning another family outing into a blog post for Render. 

Silence isn't always awkward

Ever have that professor in college that lectured you for 50 intense minutes? Us too. It's exhausting, right? Campus tours can feel the same way. Some guides can spend a full tour talking at families, hardly pausing to breathe (in their defense, they're often trained to share way too much information in a short amount of time).

As part of our Steps to Being Memorable tour guide/ambassador workshop, we talk about the power of silence. There's so much families are taking in for the first time. They need time to process it all, absorb the newness of campus, listen to the sounds and chatter around them and just soak it in.

Today, Adweek featured a commercial from Norway that tells the story of how powerful quiet can be.

Pause from your busy day, watch and enjoy the quiet. And train your tour guides to do the same.

Self-Guided "Real Estate" Tour?

Summer is officially underway, and campus visit guests are flooding your campus! This is the time when you have very few current students on campus, but families still expect a robust campus visit (at all hours of the day). What happens when families swing by without setting an appointment and no one is available to show them around?

HELLO self-guided tour! Here's the rub though - is your self-guided tour basically a campus map with buidings numbered and short descriptions of what's in those buildings? Yep, that's what we call "The Real Estate Tour" of your campus. You're telling families "These are our buildings. There's stuff inside them. Apply to our school!" Not very helpful and doesn't reveal all the great things happening on your campus.

What if, instead, you created self-guided experiences? Consider the example below from Eataly in Boston, MA. (Yes, you know the Render team is obsessed with carbs which is why we love Eataly so much.)

Eataly locations are often packed, and there's little room to have a greeter at the door to walk you through the experience. So, they print these self-guided experiences and give you specific, engaging experiences that you shouldn't miss. We love that they title it "Things to DO", not just "Things to SEE."

Could some of your self-guided experiences include that special dessert guests should have at your dining hall? A great spot to stand for the perfect selfie? A favorite study carrel tucked away in the back of your library? Get creative and have some more fun with your self-guided "tour!"