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.