This blog comes to you fresh from Concourse B at Chicago’s Midway airport after having spent the last three days at the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference

It was a great conference, and if you didn’t get to attend, I can recommend it as one of the best for enrollment planning. However, I suspect many enrollment professionals are leaving a bit confused.

Some experts reported a rise in email use among students, whereas others pointed to surveys that see email use on the decline. Statistics were shared that the number of students with YouTube accounts is decreasing while other studies showed that students prefer watching videos. (A quick aside…we’ve learned that students do like watching videos, but only if they or their friends are in it!)

One presentation made the claim that 34% of students prefer a school’s first contact to be a telephone call to the home.  This struck me as way off the mark…my family (which includes two kids in the college-consideration bracket) cut off our landline two years ago. We’d grown tired of the robo-calls from our local school district. Something tells me that the 34% statistic was garnered through a phone survey.

That’s not to say data, statistics, and research aren’t important. They are critical. We use them to guide our creative and strategic decisions everyday. But to transform research from info bits into big ideas, what we often need is inspiration. That’s what we aimed to provide at this year’s conference.

Karyn Adams, our Connector-of-Dots, Josh Merchant, Vice President for Advancement and recent Interim Vice President for Enrollment for Albion College, and I together presented a session titled, “The Best Enrollment Marketing and Communication Ideas of 2012.” We didn’t try to massage numbers one way or the other or stew down surveys to find a salient statistic. We delivered real world stories and ideas…great things that our clients (including Albion College) and other schools are doing that made us take notice. There are a lot of great ideas out there, and our session was designed to share as many of those ideas as possible.

Others agreed. Our session proved to be incredibly popular with all seats taken, folks sitting on the floor, and even flooding out into the hallway…the doors couldn’t be closed! The best part? The cooperative spirit. It’s a sincere joy to share great ideas and witness higher education leaders sharing best practices and new ways of thinking.

Big Ideas from Albion College, Maryville College, Duke University, Guilford College, College of Charleston, Presbyterian College, Queens University of Charlotte, Susquehanna University, and our own company were part of the presentation. And in return we got more great ideas from Butler University, Southwestern University, Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City, Merrimack College, University of St. Thomas Houston, Alma College, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Calumet College of St. Joseph.

So what’s the big idea? As promised in a campaign earlier this spring and as part of the fulfillment of the ACT presentation, we’re crafting a publication that will capture all of these great ideas and more, titled, “The 31 Best Enrollment Marketing and Communications Ideas for 2012.” All attendees to the session will receive a copy, as will those who pre-ordered their own edition during the spring. If you’d like to be included, you can still get on the distribution list by letting us know. We hope to have the piece completed in late summer, and we plan on making it an annual publication.

So thanks to those who attended, who shared ideas during the session, who stopped us in the lobby and hallway to discuss ideas, and who have requested their own copy of the publication. Here’s to inspiration and big ideas!

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