Visitor Logistics

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.

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?

Confirmations with Pizzazz, Please!

Recently, a friend of Render's had an unexpected surprise hit her inbox after a little online shopping.

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How festive is this confirmation email?And once Celesta's package shipped... 

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If Native can make buying and shipping deodorant this fun, how can you rewrite your campus visit confirmation emails to be more inviting and celebratory? Your visitors are taking the time to invest and visualize themselves as part of your community. Let's have some fun with our emails in an authentic, genuine way that reflects how grateful we are to see them on campus. 

A Response to Colorado State Incident & Best Practices

We always tell our clients: you can only control what you can control. You can't control the weather, the argument families had in the car on the way to campus, the inappropriate shoes they chose for a walking tour (heels, what?), or, unfortunately, your guests' attitudes.

Recently, at Colorado State University, a woman called Campus Police to investigate two prospective students after they arrived late to the in-progress campus tour. The woman believed the teens were acting suspiciously. Turns out, the two young men are naturally introverted and quiet (shocker). Unfortunately, they both are young men of color. After a confrontation with campus safety officers and the two students missing the tour, national attention focused on the campus visit experience and safety of prospective students on tour. Colorado State reinforced its commitment to inclusivity and diversity in an institutional response.

Let's pause for a sigh.

We've been telling our clients for a couple of years that families are obsessed with safety. The most frequently asked question we hear on tour (no matter where we are) is "How safe is campus?" In a world where Americans have been aptly trained on "See Something, Say Something," we've given a lot of leeway for how we each define safety to be projected on any situation.

There are much larger issues wrapped up in this incident that we must solve (much larger than the scope of Render's expertise). But, much like our clients, what we can control is helping you better prepare. Below are best practices from our clients in identifying visitors on tour and handling late arrivals.

 George Washington University uses different colored stickers (dependent on where they are at in the admission process) to identify visitors while on tour.

George Washington University uses different colored stickers (dependent on where they are at in the admission process) to identify visitors while on tour.

Buttons, stickers, lanyards, namebadges.

Often, identifying visitors is as easy as giving them something to wear. It helps your tour guide identify who is supposed to be on tour, invites your campus community to say hello to visitors and allow them to tour spaces not shown on the tour, and serves as memorabilia for guests.

 The University of Iowa provides every prospective student with a VIP badge to wear during tour. The back has a list of local restaurants in Iowa City.

The University of Iowa provides every prospective student with a VIP badge to wear during tour. The back has a list of local restaurants in Iowa City.

Having student volunteers serve as "walkers."

Several of our clients have their tour guides or another student volunteer serve as greeters or "walkers." In the instance of a guest arriving late to the tour, a greeter or walker brings that guest to the tour group. Your walker can introduce the guests to the group. Don't simply show your late arrivals the tour route on a campus map and expect them to find the group on its own.

Build in a quick information session.

Perhaps you're not a fan of information sessions, but they do serve a couple of great purposes in the visit: they often provide visitors the basic facts they need to experience campus, but they also give you a buffer for late arrivals. Information sessions don't have to be an hour long. Even 5 - 10 minutes can be enough to give families a cushion. It's much easier to fill in what a family missed during an information session than what they missed on a tour.

 Syracuse University provides stickers of Otto the Orange to all visitors on tour.

Syracuse University provides stickers of Otto the Orange to all visitors on tour.

Invest in walkie-talkies.

Or any kind of device that allows tour guides to receive updates while out on tour. In the instance of a family arriving late, your front desk can let you know a family is headed out to the guide (delivered by a walker, of course). This leaves the guessing out of where your guide might be on the tour route, allows them to pause, and greet the late arrival. Bonus: your guide can radio back to home base when a stat question arises, and be kept alert in case of emergencies.

These are just a few. We could go into a long rant about inviting campus safety officers to tour guide training to educate both parties on how to handle emergency situations, setting expectations with families about the values of your community... there's lots to unpack here.

 Northeastern University offers a swanky ID badge and lanyard which reads "Admissions Visitor."

Northeastern University offers a swanky ID badge and lanyard which reads "Admissions Visitor."

Questions? Concerns? Quandries? We're here to discuss.

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.

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. 

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!"

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?

The Perks of Starbucks Reserve

If you've spent any time with our team, you know some of us are Starbucks loyalists. On a recent trip to see a client in Seattle, we had the opportunity to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room (also known as "Brittney's Favorite Place Ever").

Starbucks Reserve is rare coffees, roasted and brewed in small batches (ie: no PSLs here). There is an ever-changing menu filled with new, exciting flavors designed for coffee connoisseurs. And each coffee comes with a story about the farmer, region and varietal flavor profile behind it. Pretty awesome.

While they don't offer tours, they do offer a robust self-guided tour map, and they've done one thing well: they throw people at their guests. You're greeted right inside the door by a barista that walks you through the location and map. You're told to explore on your own but ask any and all questions to the closest barista near you. The baristas at the counter want you to sit, stay and have conversations - over an amazing cup of coffee. Did we also mention you get to pick your brewing method?

Technology is great, but it isn't always the answer. How can you use your existing people to help welcome guests, set expectations and blend a self-guided exploration of your campus with authentic conversations along the way? Now, that would be a {latte} fun.

 PS: You know how Render loves a good bathroom. This one has a view of the Roasting Room while you wash your hands! 

PS: You know how Render loves a good bathroom. This one has a view of the Roasting Room while you wash your hands! 

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.