Visitor Centers

Uncomplicated Visitor Announcements: Butcher Paper

 Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Can we pause to appreciate this Snickerdoodle, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, and vanilla ice cream sandwich? Drool.

Like we always say: Everyone's favorite word is their own name. It's one of the reasons we love seeing visitors welcomed by name the day of their visit in your welcome center.

Campus visit folks welcome visitors by name in a variety of ways: monitors with a digital slideshow, dry erase boards, chalkboards, printed posters... you name it, we've seen it (and love them all equally).

But on a recent trip to The Cookie Monstah in Danvers, Massachusetts, we stumbled upon this great butcher paper installation used to display daily specials. Huh. What a great idea. It's easy to install, easy to maintain, is a fun/creative way to display names, can be used for other announcements, and more.

Butcher paper. Give it a try.

 Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

Even more in love with the branded painters tape securing the bottom to the wall.

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Why do displays for your Welcome Centers have to be overly designed, stuffy, and outdated the moment you print them?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

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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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? 

Sidewalks: Not Just for Walking

Let's face it: our faces point down when walking these days. Mostly because we're all walking with a supercomputer in our hands. 

So why do we keep putting up expensive wayfinding on signage? Many businesses and colleges are moving to sidewalk graphics and paint to make announcements and get visitors where they need to be. 

Can you start using your sidewalks more?

Lobby Conversation Starters

Ever sat in the lobby of a doctor's office? Us too. It's quiet, uncomfortable, and the only noise you typically hear is the shuffling of magazines and papers.

Breaking this quiet is tough. Music, good furniture, ambassadors and staff floating in the lobby, and good hospitality can all help. But getting families to converse with each other/breaking the ice is the toughest part.

Recently, we were at a restaurant where conversation starters were stamped right into the table. They were provocative, funny, and definitely broke the ice.

What can you do to help start conversations between families?

 Yes, I'll have a side of feelings with my burger. 

Yes, I'll have a side of feelings with my burger. 

The Power of Shared Experiences

We recently shared an article through our monthly Render Raves about the power of belonging and how consumers are looking for brands which align with their values.

A much larger conversation we're starting to have is - what does this shift in consumerism mean for higher education?

On a tactical level, what does this mean for the daily campus visit? How can you share and showcase your institutional values and invite your prospective families to share in those?

Last year, Jeff Kallay and I visited the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center in Seattle, WA. There is a really great display showcasing the Foundation's values and chosen social issues to support. After experiencing the center, the final piece is to acknowledge what you learned and are inspired to do for our global community. It's easy, fast, and allows you to see all the stories and pledges from people who shared your values.

How are you showcasing institutional values and capitalizing on the power of the shared experience?

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 Also, is this not the coolest use of sun/shadow? 

Also, is this not the coolest use of sun/shadow? 

The Great Debate: Technology

Technology, technology, technology. Just because we can doesn't always mean we should. We field a lot of questions about installing technology into Welcome/Visitor Centers - the content that should be on them, the right size, etc.

In our experience, technology can be cool in a Welcome Center space if it's done well. Touchscreens are all the rage, but they are expensive to install and update. We also find families don't want their choices on a touchscreen revealed to a crowded lobby area.

So, consider kicking it old school if you're looking for a way to engage families. Recently on a trip to my hometown, Dallas, TX, my family visited the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. We saw a special exhibit with unique collections of items - collections of Pez dispensers, Stars Wars memorabilia, historic Texas currency, and more. The display to the right included sticky notes and pencils and invited guests to write down what they collect.

What did my 12-year-old say was one of his favorite things in the museum? Reading the sticky notes that other visitors had left on the board.

To the right: So easy and fun even Gigi (my mom) and 5-year-old nephews wanted to share what they collect.

Technology can be flashy, but that doesn't make it memorable. Keep it simple (for you and your guests)!

TL;DR - High touch doesn't have to be high tech.

 Yes, his hair is blue/green. It was a summer phase. 

Yes, his hair is blue/green. It was a summer phase. 

Take Me To Your...Restroom

"Where is the restroom?" It's often the very first question from visitors when they arrive to your office. So many of us are in spaces with inadequare restrooms/stalls for the number of visitors we're seeing.

Should you be guiding visitors to restrooms even before they arrive to your space? Are there buildings with much better facilites on the walk from a parking garage/lot to your office?

Consider this sidewalk sticker found in Greenville, SC. Can you use this same concept to help guide visitors to restrooms close by?

Celebrating 10 Years of Campus Visit Consulting

This time 10 years ago, campus visit consulting began with our first client, Rider University (NJ). We've learned quite a bit along the way and have witnessed many successes with our hundreds of clients. Reflecting on those 10 years, here are 10 quick observations on how the campus visit industry has improved and changed in a decade:

1. The campus visit is now a priority
More savvy presidents, VP’s of enrollment/marketing, and Deans/Directors of Admission are investing in their campus visits with both budgets and people.
2. Campuses look better
Providing placed-based education means the place needs to look better. Investing in the aesthetic is the more the norm.
3. Better bathrooms
“Where are the restrooms?” is the most frequently asked question by visiting families—and now leadership knows it and is investing in making bathrooms better for guests.
4. Welcoming spaces/places
From application processing offices in basements to admissions offices that feel like a county government office, more and more schools have renovated or built facilities that are welcoming, hospitable, and comfortable for guests.
5. Full-time focus
"Director of Campus Visits” (or the like) is becoming more the norm: Professional, focused, non-traveling, non-recruiting positions that make the visit their only priority.
6. Millennial staffers "get it"
Raised on experiences, in the experience economy, and part of better campus visits themselves, millennial admissions staffers get the power and importance of the campus visit.
7. Stories, not scripts
When empowered and trained, student guides ambassadors embrace storytelling and families connect and learn more.
8. Our nomanclature is frequently spoken
We always hear our clients, fans, and others use our terms like, “Wall Estate,” “Brands are Mirrors,” “It’s all about the Experience,” and “Sense of the Butt!”
9. CIVSA has grown in size and scope
Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association has set conference attendance records and their 3rd annual SDI Student Development Institute had nearly 300 tour guides and ambassadors from across the country attending.
10. Increasing number of companies dedicated to the campus visit
From virtual tours, to apps, visit-scheduling software, and competing campus visit consulting enterprises; a campus visit industry is emerging. Everyone wins because families are having better experiences when they visit and enrollment leaders are being more strategic in the crafting of their campus visits.

There’s still much to improve, but we thought it right to pause, ponder, and celebrate how far the campus visit has come. It’s been an honor to be a thought and best practice leader. This video is a quick "THANK YOU!" to the many people who helped us get here and continue to believe in the power of the campus visit.