Highlights from #NAFSA14 Annual Conference – Part 1

Raghuram Sukumar Edu News 1 Comment

“Two Thumbs Way Over My Head”.

That’s how I would describe my NAFSA 2014 Annual Conference in San Diego experience in short.  I just got back from NAFSA Annual Conference in San Diego. I can sum-up the whole experience using the following words

  • Enriching
  • Eye-Opening
  • Informative
  • Breathtaking
  • Entertaining

At end of week-long conference, I was sleep deprived and functioned mostly on pure adrenaline,  lots of caffeine and finger food.

NAFSA14 convention center

Here’s the links to blog posts for Live Blogging.

  1. #NAFSA14 – Day 1 – Sunday
  2. #NAFSA14 – Day 2 – Monday
  3. #NAFSA14 – Day 3 – Tuesday
  4. #NAFSA14 – Day 4 – Wednesday
  5. #NAFSA14 – Day 5 and 6 – Thursday, Friday

I made a lot of new friends, plus I believe that this experience will give Happy Schools Blog more authority and stand-out from other bloggers in this space.

I might be the only Higher Education Blogger who was attended the conference along with journalist and other media personalities covering the event.

Speaking of Media, I finally meet “The One and Only” Karen Fisher from Chronicle of Higher Education.  Plus Amy Baker, Sara, Jessica from The Pie News.

Lessons Learned from NAFSA

I met people who were following the blog, recognized me in the Expo Hall in NAFSA and took picture with me. I felt like a celebrity 🙂

Plus, I met people who never heard about my work to those who were are following the blog in Twitter.

I had really interesting conversations about :

  • Higher education and Study Abroad
  • Recruiting students
  • Impact of higher education in people’s lives
  • Problems and challenges faced by universities while recruiting students from India and other countries,
  • Their limitations in addressing those challenges
  • School’s recruiting process

I meet with educators from different background and handling various aspects of college admissions.

International Student services officers (DSO), Admission directors, Admission Counselors and representatives from companies like IELTS, ETS, College Week Live, Education New Zealand, iSEP, USC, UTA, UTT and several consultant from India.

I was able to identify some pain points of universities recruiting international students using social medial.

As a blogger, I’m looking for problems to solve for my readers and potential and current partners.

While I was walking in the conference hall,  I saw this person giving interviews to local TV news. Then I realized it was Meb Keflezighi. He won Boston Marathon in April, 2014.

meb keflezighi boston marathon

Thoughts on Expo Hall and Exhibitors

I’ve been here in the US for a while now, and if you walk into a restaurant or a shop, typically, you are welcomed.

People greet you and welcome you with good smile and eye contact. That was largely the case in Expo Hall, but there were few not-so-good experiences in few booth’s.

Companies spent lot of money to exhibit in the expo hall. NAFSA is an expensive conference. Costs include registration, travel, preparing marketing materials, shipping marketing materials, hotel stay, etc.

So when they’re spending so much money, they need to make sure that they are putting all their best efforts to build relationship and spread the word about their products and services or programs.

NAFSA San Diego Convention Center

I had experiences where people were just hanging out just for the sake of being there, couldn’t care to smile when you walk into their booth, wasn’t even interested in sharing why they are here.  I was thinking, “Why do you have to spend so much money, time, and effort coming to NAFSA when you seem to be least interested in visitors coming to your booth?”

But on the other hand, I saw companies like GoAbroad, Education New Zealand, IELTS, Insurance Firms, Shipping and Logistic, etc were so much enthusiastic about their company they are representing. Their booth was lively. They welcomed you with a sense of pride in the job that they do, and it reflected in when they spoke about their services. So that’s two different ends of the spectrum about customer service.

But overall, I would sum-up my experience as this

  • 98.5% – Positive Experience
  • 1.5% –  Negative Experience

I’m Not an Agent

For instance, I walked to a partnership fair. As soon as I walked in there, they kind of looked at, “Hey. He is from India and he should be a recruiting agent.”

And the first response was, “Oh. No, we don’t work with agents.”

I was like, “An Indian guy in NAFSA is not an agent. I’m a blogger. I do not promote agents”.

Folks reading this blog are well aware that I’m against using agents for recruiting for host of reasons.

Negative experience of 1.5% is due to the profiling of Indian to be an agent. I had to explain to them that, “No. I’m not an agent. I’m an author, entrepreneur and blogger.”


Student Recruiters are Not Business Majors

Another reason is that educators  involved in recruiting are not typically the people with business degree or the people who have sales and marketing experience.

They’re higher educators. They have background in higher education.

Recruiting students is basically sales and marketing. I have attended sales presentation from top-notch online marketers presentation and speech.

At end of the presentation, they will make you feel guilty of not buying their product. That comes from deep understanding of target audience.

Recruiters in the field of higher education can learn sales, marketing and little bit of social psychology skills.  That should be really helpful when recruiting students.

PS : This is Part 1 of Multi-Part NAFSA Experience.

Do you like to know anything specific about my trip?


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