For the past two years, VisionPoint Marketing has been attending, exhibiting and speaking at higher ed conferences around the country. As the project manager for our internal marketing efforts, it’s my job to ensure that VisionPoint is well represented at each conference and that everything runs smoothly. For months I’ve been planning and arranging all of these efforts for other VisionPointers. Last week, I finally got to see the results of all this planning first hand.

At 5:00 a.m. (yes, we left that early) on Sunday, Diane and I hit the road for Orlando for the CASE III Annual Conference. Since this was my first time attending a conference, I really had no idea what to expect. After four days of driving, exhibiting, networking, listening and enjoying the Florida sun, I learned a few lessons about higher education and the conference experience.

1. Starbucks is not open at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday. Diane was forced to spend the first few hours of the drive working diligently and without coffee.

2. Higher education professionals are passionate about what they do and why they do it. Every person I met at this conference was eager to learn how they could improve their institution. Attendees were enthusiastic with a unique sense of pride for their school.

3. Building consensus across various stakeholders is a challenge at every institution. Regardless of size, location, offerings, or reputation, getting groups of people with different perspectives to agree can be difficult. This is something that we encounter quite often in our work with branding, messaging and website design. We’ve found that focusing on organizational goals and developing a clear strategy to achieve those goals is an effective way to get everyone on the same page.

4.  Don’t forget your sunglasses! At about noon on Sunday (when the sun came out and woke me up from my nap in the car)€“ I realized that I neglected to bring sunglasses. Fortunately, I was able to endure the rest of the sunny road trip and managed to survive the sun-soaked lunches by the pool.

5. Communicating a consistent message is challenging for many institutions. With a variety of content creators and subject matter experts contributing content, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is communicating in the same way. A university style guide is a great way to alleviate this problem.

6. Website governance is essential, but often overlooked. I had the pleasure of sitting in on Diane’s presentation with Laurie Clowers from Wake Tech Community College entitled "€œGovernance: How the 5 R’s Protect you from Frankenstein-ing Your Website." Based on feedback following the presentation, this is a frequent challenge for many website owners. Developing a governance plan that is tailored to your intuition is the first step. Enforcing that plan and following through is the only way to ensure that your website consistently provides valuable content to users and represents your institution in a positive way.

7. Pack snacks. As all of my fellow VisionPointers know, I like to snack. Back-to-back track sessions, while also managing an exhibit booth, can be exhausting. Granola bars and fresh fruit are great options to stash in your bag.

Overall, I had a blast and I’m looking forward to my next conference. Lucky for me, I won’t have to wait long. Tony, Zac and I will be traveling to St. Pete Beach, Fla. next week for the AACSB B-School Communications and Development Symposium. We will be presenting with Alissa Arford from the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business and exhibiting between sessions. I’m excited for my next trip and this time I will be sure to pack my sunglasses!