The other day, I ran into a pal back from my college days. We reminisced about the good old days - favorite professors, dorm life adventures and more. This chance encounter prompted me to think about the parallel universes of college students (who live on campus) and professionals (who camp out in hotel "dorm" rooms) during their conference experience.
These two groups share quite a few common attributes:
- They're disconnected from their day-to-day world.
- They''re surrounded by lots of people they don't know.
- They're kindred spirits - not the only one's a little anxious about navigating this new terrain.
- They'd sure like to engage with others, but they're not sure how to get started.
- They're often sharing community resources with others (meals, breaks, shuttles back & forth, tables at education sessions, etc.).
A number of colleges and universities are leveraging "planned serendipity" to help usher more new relationships within their campus community. Students pursuing similar majors are often housed in the same dormitories, so they share the same walk to classes. Before long, they're striking up conversations with new people and feeling more connected to the community. Could you house like-minded attendees in the same hotel to spark similar exchanges?
Colleges are beefing up their role as trusted advisors. Not sure which class to take? Come meet with a counselor who can help you make your best choice. Imagine if we had counselors on-site who could help attendees make better session choices.
You'll notice more informal gathering spaces across today's campuses. Sofas, smaller pod seating clusters - often situated within close proximity of creature comforts (food & beverage, Wi-Fi hot spots, charging stations, etc.).
And mobile apps? Yep, colleges are tapping into these to create a more welcoming experience and foster bonds within their academic community.
What other tips can we borrow from campus life to help conference attendees get acclimated quickly, optimize their experience and forge long-lasting relationships with peers who can help them? How might you help alumni attendees reminisce about previous experiences and draw them back to your conference for a reunion?