Using Twitter to Enhance Orientation and FYE Programs

August 25, 2012
Twitter is a perfect and inexpensive way to connect with new students and their parents. For those of you who may not be completely adept at using Twitter, you can reference Twitter 101 for Student Affairs Professionals to learn more about the power of using Twitter in Student Affairs.  
If you don’t already have one, create and advertise the orientation Twitter handle / name to parents and students and tell them that they can use this to ask any questions they have during the process. (Note: You MUST have someone monitoring this from your office constantly to give a quick response.) Armed with an orientation and / or FYE Twitter account, the sky is the limit for making new relationships with your students.
Here are some tactics that you can use to enhance your orientation and FYE programs at your own college or university:
  • Ask students to tweet what they are learning and experiencing during orientation or FYE-related activities.
  • Give them a hashtag to include in their tweets (e.g., #FYE2012; #NewUStudent12). Create a contest and prize for the most tweets over the orientation period (or varying categories: most creative, best advice, most retweeted, most mentioned)
  • Create Twitter scavenger hunts. As students go from area to area, they can send tweets based on a sheet you give them related to information they should be learning.
  • Ask parents to Tweet their best college advice; you would have to create a hashtag for this purpose so you can track them. Otherwise they need to mention your twitter name in the tweet. A “quality” prize (e.g., hoodie, dinner with VP or president, etc.) could be raffled at the end of the orientation period.

Here are examples of specific tweets that you can send: 

  • Show this Tweet at the bookstore during orientation to get 10% off.
  • What do you want to accomplish and how can we help you?
  • Show this tweet at check-in and get a free university lanyard.
  • Who is a new friend you can recommend to follow?
  • What has been your favorite part of orientation so far?

Take some time to search for other colleges and universities’ orientation and FYE departments from across the country and look at their tweets to see what they are doing. You can also simply tweet this question with the #studentaffairs, #orientation, #FYE, and #sachat hashtags and you’ll get responses from many individuals.

What are some other Twitter tactics that you have used to enhance your orientation and FYE programs? Please share your comments below.


What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)

August 24, 2012

Recently, my team set out to tailor a marketing piece to a primary audience (donors), while still engaging other facets of our school’s constituents. To do this, we told a story that touches them all.

Great things are happening where I work, at Calvin College. It’s a 4,000-student, Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And whether or not you have heard of it, students here are being prepared to serve around the corner and across the globe. Our grads are humble, not timid. They’re principled, not closed-minded. They’re deep thinkers, not surface skimmers.

That’s why our donors give. So, in order to tell them the story of Calvin’s 2011–12 academic and fiscal year, we needed to tell the story of our students. But while our recently-released year-in-review video is first and foremost a gift of gratitude to our supporters, it reaches beyond its primary audience.

After watching the video, students feel privileged to be here. Prospective students want to check this place out. Emeriti, faculty and staff are reminded of their impact. Parents are reminded of the school’s value. The public takes notice. And it’s all because we told a story.

Now, not all storytelling is a home run. This video was effectively distributed to donors via a thank-you email and mail piece that directed them to view the video online. It also gave a voice to many areas of the college, which fostered institutional buy-in.

Let’s not forget that this video is also successful because of its format. It combines engaging text and well done typography with fun, high-quality animation, which makes it watchable and shareable (and re-watchable and re-shareable!) While text-based videos do not offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings. Text-based videos bring a visual variety in a marketing field filled with videos of talking heads and those that rely too heavily on voice-overs.

The freelancer we worked with used Adobe After Effects to animate our script. If you are considering using a text-based video, I recommend writing your script in-house and relying on the animator for graphics and music. By writing the script in-house, we saved valuable resources. In terms of writing style, the script is short and to the point, which is key for this type of video.

For these reasons, members of the Calvin community are sharing this video via social media, and thereby spreading the word about the ways Calvin is inspiring students to live fully and faithfully.

Is it time for your school to do some storytelling? Know your story, know your audiences, and tell your narrative well.

How are you sharing your institution’s story and encouraging your students to contribute? Please share your comments below. All who comment will be entered into a raffle to win a Calvin College t-shirt and a copy of the book Okay for Now by Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt.

Amanda Greenhoe serves as Coordinator for Development Communications and Marketing at Calvin College and as a freelance copywriter. She worked for a magazine, a newspaper, and a publishing house before finding her home in higher ed. She loves talking all things marketing and communications. Contact her via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or her blog, Reach and Rally.

What Makes Great Leaders Great (book review)

August 12, 2012

Every once in awhile a leadership book is published that is easily read and pertains to both management executives and student leaders alike. What Makes Great Leaders Great: Management Lessons from Icons Who Changed the World by Frank Arnold profiles important leadership lessons from 56 iconic individuals, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Benjamin Franklin.

The book is divided into three sections, including Managing Organizations, Managing Innovation, and Managing People. Each two to four page chapter is dedicated to a different individual and provides a short biography of that person. The leadership lesson is presented along with a final bulleted Action Points and Food for Thought that is intended to provoke discussion related to your own organization. Some of the lessons include: Demand Effective Management (Warren Buffet), Innovate Systematically (Thomas Edison), Embody Integrity (General George Marshall), and Create Trust (Levi Strauss).

What Makes Great Leaders Great is an excellent resource that can be easily incorporated into student leader training or as a text in a leadership development class. The book is versatile in that various chapters can be assigned and discussed without having to read the entire book. Lessons from chapters can be easily incorporated into meeting discussions and for staff development activities.

This book can be purchased via in hardcopy or Kindle versions and makes a perfect gift for a leadership-minded colleague or student mentee.

8 Keys to Developing Great Training Presentations

August 5, 2012

It’s that time of year in which most of us student affairs staffers are presenting training for our student employees. Training should be a fun and insightful process for everyone involved. However, there are various tactics that should be used when putting together a training program so that it can be as impactful as possible. While you do not need a degree in educational psychology to be effective, you do need to put some time and thought into your training presentations.

Here are some keys for developing great training presentations:

1. Appeal to Both Doers and Thinkers – Make sure that you are balancing your presentations with both lectures and hands-on activities. A training schedule flooded with only PowerPoint presentations will lose the attention of many. Likewise, too many hands-on only activities will quickly prove tiring for those who learn primarily through lecture. For an hour long session, I recommend 20 minutes of lecture / skills teaching, 20 minutes of an activity, and 20 minutes for discussion and questions. This recipe generally appeals to everyone’s learning style and attention.

2. Share Video Clips to Illustrate Ideas – Find video clips online that are pertinent to the topic you are presenting, and show them to your audience. Many video illustrations will remain in the minds of your students long after training is over. For example, I show a scene from the movie “The Skulls,” in which there is a collegiate rowing race. One of the rowers’ oars breaks thereby making him dead weight. He’s compelled to toss his oar and jump from the boat in order to help the team. This clip demonstrates teamwork and self-sacrifice for the team. I’ll show this clip and discuss how this applies to our own team. Search YouTube for videos related to topics you may be teaching and share them during your presentations.

3. Preview, Teach, Review – Educationally it is a best practice to preview, teach, and review or evaluate. This approach will also help you to structure your presentation and pre-plan your thoughts up front. The first 3-5 minutes of the presentation should be dedicated to sharing the lesson goals, assessing what the audience knows through quick questioning, and either asking the audience what they want to learn or simply telling them what you want them to learn in the next hour. After you have delivered your instruction and facilitated the learning activity and discussion, it is important that the last 3-5 minutes is is dedicated to revisiting the lesson. Review the lesson goals and question the audience so they can share what they have learned, what the practical applications of the learning are, and how they plan to use the content to improve their job performance. As the presenter, you want to be certain that the session met the learning needs and the trainees walk away with a good grasp of the subject matter.

A trusted resource I recommend is McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. This was required reading for a “College Teaching” course I had during my doctoral work, and I have found it helpful when putting together my own training sessions.

4. Utilize Previous Feedback – Typically I will present on a particular topic a few times a year to different audiences. After each session, I hand out an index card and ask them to write the most important thing they learned and, on the other side, one remaining question that they have (this is called the “One Minute Paper.”) Armed with this information, I can see if they have learned what I intended them to learn plus I can tweek my presentation to add or delete content thereby making the presentation better. For example, I presented on using Twitter in student affairs. Afterward, I received a “One Minute Paper” / index card from an attendee that stated, “How do you sign up for a Twitter account?” At that point, I knew I needed to dial back my presentation to take into account those that wanted a very basic “step-by-step” explanation of how to use Twitter before getting into more advanced concepts.

5. Concentrate on the Content, Not the Technology – I often attend presentations in which a colleague gets hung up on attempting to incorporate too much technology into the presentation, which defeats the purpose of what they are trying to teach. It then becomes more of “look-at-this-shiny-object” rather than presenting the actual content intended. Additionally, participants then start to ask questions related to Google+, Twitter, Mindmeister, WordPress, or whatever rather than on the topic at hand. If you want to focus on a particular technology-related platform, do that as a separate session rather than mixing learning objectives for your audience.

6. Use Stats Sparingly – Statistics can help set the context for the topic you are presenting, but do not overdo it. One or two slides (if using PowerPoint) can be appropriate, but any more than that and you will lose the attention of your audience. Also, keep the stats appropriate for your audience. While this should be a no-brainer, including complicated statistical concepts like multivariate analysis will certainly kill your presentation. Save that for presenting research papers at conferences, not for your student staff.

7. Take It Easy on the Literature / Research – Students simply are not interested in hearing a dissertation defense (nor are most people) so spare them loads of research citations when attempting to teach your content. Granted, conceptual frameworks and citations have been burned into our brains from our graduate work, but keep your presentation practical and applicable for your audience.

8. Have a Backup Plan – This is targeted more toward those who are presenting nationally, but it also applies to those of you who are simply presenting on your own campus. Internet connections fail, projectors refuse to turn on, and the IT support guy may be elsewhere on campus. So have a backup to combat those types of issues. I always carry my own laptop with the presentation saved in case a laptop is not already hooked up for me. I also keep the presentation saved on a USB thumb drive and uploaded online as an extra precaution. Lastly, as a worst case scenario, I’ll carry copies of the presentation with me to hand out and one or two dry erase markers to present on a board in case there is a total tech failure or the school fails to provide what was requested.

Good luck with your training schedule, and remember that we are always here to give advice and help you with resources that you may need. So feel free to drop us a line or Tweet me at @studentlifeguru.

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