campus tour guide

Client Brag: Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University is a branding machine, and we love it.

As part of campus wayfinding and aesthetics/esthetics, we often tell clients they must remind visitors what campus they are on and what building they are inside throughout the tour. On a recent visit to TTU, we saw (Render) textbook dust mats that check both those boxes. And one more - school colors!

Time to step up your dust mats!

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RIP, Touchscreens. We'll remember you.

It's surprising how much conversation we still hear on college campuses about touchscreen installations. It only takes looking around at hotels, restaurants, building lobbies, and other businesses that invested in touchscreen technology to see...well.. it's not being used.

We've blogged about the decline in touchscreen usage. Recently, we visited a hotel in New York City and noticed this piece of furniture placed under a touchscreen.

Was the furniture placement is mistake? "No, no one uses it anymore so it felt like a waste of space," one employee told us.

Take a tip from those outside higher education. It's time to move along from touchscreen monitors.

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Client Brag: Fort Lewis College

Adding graphics and enhacing the aesthetic doesn't have to be expensive. When you have an older building (especially with cinderblock walls), a little paint goes a long way in helping the space feel updated and relevant.

Take inspiration from our client Fort Lewis College (Durango, CO). A little paint + a mountainscape design = a fresher hallway.

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FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: Upright Citizens Brigade

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

A little humor can go a long way in diffusing a difficult situation. Improv is an untapped training tool to help tour guides learn to think fast on their feet and tackle inappropriate questions with a bit of lightheartedness.

When we saw that the Upright Citizens Brigade was hosting an improv class as part of FCNY18, we took a deep breath and signed up. Oof. This is very far outside of our comfort zone. Here’s what we did/learned:

  1. We did an improv exercise that started with “No, but…” in which your partner gives you a scenario (ours was we were hosting a Super Bowl party in which we debated on how to host the party and whether we should host it at all). This played out like:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “No because we could end up with 20 bags of chips and nothing else, but we could order pizza instead.”

    • “No because not everyone likes pizza, but we could order tacos…”

  2. The next level of this exercise was “Yes, but…” Same scenario:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “Yes, but we’d have to create and manage a sign-up list.”

    • “Yes, but we’d have to create categories for food and only put a few slots for each item.”

  3. Next level was “Yes, and…” Same scenario:

    • “We could have everyone bring their own dish like a potluck!”

    • “Yes, and we’ll create a sign-up list with slots for each dish or item!”

    • “Yes, and we’ll also order a pizza or other big dish just as a backup!”

See how things tend to flow much easier in the “Yes, and"…” scenario? When you use “but…,” it backs you and the other person into a defensive tons and stance. It invites someone to argue with you.

When parents ask a difficult question of a tour guide, we’d invite them to try “Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…” or “Yes, but…” For example, let’s take the most frequently asked question we hear:

“Is campus safe?”

“No, but…”: “Our campus is patrolled by three security forces: local police, blah blah, script, script…”

  • This is the “I don’t really know how to answer this question, BUT I do know stats and script! This response doesn’t connect nor does it answer the question. It invites argument which is why we usually hear this response followed with “Ok, but do YOU feel safe?”

“Yes, but…”: “Our campus is patrolled by three security forces blah blah blah, but I’ve never had to use any of those services..”

  • Again, translating this to: “I think campus is safe based on my experience, but I know my experience isn’t every student’s experience.”

“Yes, and…”: “I know that’s a big concern for parents these days. From my perspective, here’s what safety is like on campus, and I can introduce you to other guides so you can get different perspectives…”

  • Translation: “I know you’re concerned, I can only offer my point of view, and you’ll want to get multiple perspectives.”

TL;DR: Improv isn’t about teaching tour guides to be comedians; it can be a really useful tool in tackling difficult questions.

More from Fast Company & UCB: Leadership Lessons from Improv & Customer Service & Improv

More on “Yes, and…”: Second City’s Guide to Creativity and Collaboration

Client Brag: Flagler College & Rider University

When you're showing a real student room on tour, the hospitality of showroom hosts can make guests feel welcomed or like intruders. We can't tell you how many times a showroom host has been in their room and stared down a tour group... not cool and also a bit awkward.

Our clients Flagler College (FL) and Rider University (NJ) have showroom hosts that are embracing visitors. We encountered these two offerings of candy for tour guests. It was a small gesture with big impact.

Have you asked your showroom hosts if they need a little bit of $$ to do something fun like this for your guests?

Flagler College: Emily + Tory, you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for the candy.

Flagler College: Emily + Tory, you’re the real MVPs. Thanks for the candy.

Rider University: Room 106, You the bomb-dot-com.

Rider University: Room 106, You the bomb-dot-com.

90s Feelings & Campus Visit Ponderings: CIVSA 2019

Noteworthy: Doc Martens & pain medicine buffet

Noteworthy: Doc Martens & pain medicine buffet

If you lived through the 90s, you may be wondering where you can still get away with listening to Smashing Pumpkins while also rocking a No Fear tee shirt and Doc Martens?

Enter Portland.

CIVSA (the Collegiate Information and Visitor Services Association) held their annual conference in Portland, OR last week, 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.

Don’t you love this backdrop? So PNW!

Don’t you love this backdrop? So PNW!

During our sponsor presentation, we gave three rants/trends we’ve seen over the past year on the road.

Break the Ice. Generation X parents and Generation Z students have little desire to interact with anyone during the campus visit. You MUST break the ice to get people talking. During introductions, ask students to introduce who they’ve brought with them so parents feel included. Pack your lobby with staff and ambassadors ahead of the start of the visit to mingle. Don’t just ask families “Do you have any questions?” but really talk to them - what shows are they watching, are they sticking around to eat in the area, any vacations coming up? If you show some interest in them as people, it’ll help start the visit out on a sociable tone.

The Best Offense is Data. If you’re pondering cutting Saturday visits, go to your data. If you’re being asked to add 5 more open houses in the fall, does your data support that idea? Registration numbers may look good, but no-show rates, conversion, and yield can be your best offense when looking at how to best distribute your resources. Spending time and money on visits that aren’t positively impacting your goals is a waste (and burns your on-campus partners who often participate). Use. Your. Data.

Super Star Ambassadors Aren’t Always. We love having overly involved current students become ambassadors. The notion is they have tons of experiences to share with families because they’re doing so much on campus. But are they? Super involved students usually are 1. pressed for time (because they’re overly committed and just getting the tour done), 2. aren’t thoughtful about providing a meaningful, conversational tour (see #1), and 3. have in-depth experiences in their area of interests but not generally. If we had a nickel for every SGA President that doesn’t have time to go see an on-campus play or do an internship off-campus or attend a basketball game… The next time you’re in ambassador selection, consider the student who has more time to give you and campus and is really into meeting families.

We also took questions via text from the audience. Here are some of the questions and brief responses:

”What’s is the most common mistake you see ambassadors make?
Walking backwards and reciting a tour script word for word.

“What are guests least likely to forgive?”
Bad wayfinding on their arrival to campus, a lack of available parking, and the absence of “fun” (i.e. college is a fun experience, why shouldn’t the visit also be?)

“How do you get RSVPs to attend events? We have so many no-shows!”
Lots of communication ahead of time. We also never give guests an easy out like “Can’t attend this event? No worries. Let us help you reschedule by emailing this person.”

“How do you get ambassadors to remember this is a JOB (ours are paid)?”
By having clear expectations and accountability. Nothing gets the attention of paid ambassadors more than putting them on performance evaluation plan (if they’ve violated expectations) and/or firing someone.

“Have you ever worked with a Canadian university?”
We haven’t, but we have passports and love all things maple!

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Wrapping up, we invited our clients attending CIVSA to Wake Up with Render! We hosted three client breakfasts during CIVSA and loved the conversation we had at each surrounding the campus visit. We asked our clients to compare this past year of their life, their campus, their visit, or higher education in general to a 90s song. For your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled the songs into a Spotify playlist! Lots of feelings in this playlist.

Will we see you next year for CIVSA in Orlando, FL? Or at the CIVSA Student Development Institute in Albuquerque, NM?

Waking Up with Render! Not pictured: Nutella waffles that were consumed by the pound.

Waking Up with Render! Not pictured: Nutella waffles that were consumed by the pound.

A Festive Receipt: Personalization & Humor

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We've always said: A little humor can go a long way. If you've been following our blog, you know our Senior Consultant, Brittney Joyce, has a gamer son, Cameron. As Cameron prepared to attend PAX East 2019 in Boston this March, he purchased a hot game among the board game circuit: Exploding Kittens. Owned and created by the company that produces The Oatmeal comics, it's meant to be edgy and silly.

When the package arrived, it included a personalized receipt complete with cartoon which promoted another new game made by the company, You've Got Crabs.

If a company selling thousands of games can include one of these in each package, what can you be doing to ensure personalization (and a bit of humor) for your audience?

Yes, a little on the cheeky side, but it’s authentic to the company that produces this game. To a 14-year-old in middle school Health class, it was hysterical.

Yes, a little on the cheeky side, but it’s authentic to the company that produces this game. To a 14-year-old in middle school Health class, it was hysterical.

Authenticity & Airport Seating

Render's Jeff Kallay recently visited our client Monmouth College (IL). While flying out of the Quad Cities/Moline, IL airport, he noticed this new seating option.

John Deere is headquartered in Moline, and he loved how the airport embraced the authenticity of their area and celebrated Moline's largest employer.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

We love the #DeereSighting hashtag.

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In your visitor center, instead of the usual furniture, what if you brought in seating that emulated your sports arena, library, chapel, or other popular campus spots?

Client Brag: The University of Pennsylvania

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Our client, the University of Pennsylvania, has been hard at work the past few years making many changes to their campus visit experience.

We've long been champions of people (not programs) and stories (not stats). Proud that Penn is adopting the same philosophy!

Read the article from The Daily Pennsylvanian detailing all the changes their admissions offices and the Kite and Key Ambassadors have implemented!

Kudos, Penn!

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

Photo credit: Michael Warren, Daily Pennsylvanian

FCNY18 & The Campus Visit: DryBar

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Alli Webb and Brittney Joyce: FCNY16

Render followers know we're fans of the Fast Company Innovation Festival. This past October, Render's Brittney Joyce and Dani Napier spent a week in NYC traversing the city to pick up lessons from the world's most innovative brands.

We often use DryBar as an example of the evolution of The Experience Economy: getting people to pay for something they didn’t know they needed AND being able to charge a premium price for that product/service.

What has Co-Founder Alli Webb learned among the way? Here are a couple lessons we thought were useful for you & the campus visit:

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

Brittney Joyce: Mid-blowout with hair that was 90% dry shampoo.

  1. There are a lot of copycat studios that have cropped up over the years offering blowouts. Alli said she used to be obsessed about what those studios were doing and how much they emulated the experience staged at DryBar. After a while, she stopped caring. She realized that although they offer a similar service, they’ll never be able to fully understand the thought and intentionality within the DryBar experience (ie: how they hang mirrors on the walls directly behind chairs for a customer’s turnaround reveal).

  2. The people of DryBar are everything to their experience, and hiring the right person is critical. How does Alli ensure the people they hire are the right people? She does a “cultural interview” where managers just hang out with candidates for a while and talk. If the candidate seems friendly and cool, then they get to blowout someone’s hair.

What does this mean for the visit?

  1. Stop being obsessed with the school down the road or your major competitor. We often share best practices with our clients, but no one approach to the campus visit is right for all institutions. You have to be true to your culture and design a visit that authentically reveals your campus DNA.

  2. Usually campus visit coordinators or staff members hire students, and we often find that staff members hire students who share their own personality traits (aka, we hire people just like us). Involve as many people in the hiring process to ensure you’re getting the right person for the job, and think about ways to include more rounds in a selection process other than an interview.

TL;DR: Just be you and think psychographics (not demographics) when hiring or selecting tour guides.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.

DryBar Co-Founder Alli Webb dishing all things authenticity.