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Driving Value From Your Higher Ed Summit Experience

By February 25, 2016

Or, how to sell Higher Ed Summit to your boss if you aren’t already coming.

By: James E. Gilbert, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs, George Mason University School of Business

Hopefully by now you’ve registered for and will be attending the 4th Annual Higher Ed Summit in New Orleans, March 30-April 1. If you’re still looking for reasons to go, or wondering what’s in it for you, check out the registration info on For $150 (for those affiliated with higher ed) it is a tremendous value with the potential for great return on investment.
But I’m not writing to you today to convince you about why you should go (and you should go). Since I assume that you’ll be joining us, I want to make sure that you get the most out of the experience while you’re there. So, here are five things to keep in mind while you’re in New Orleans:

1. Remember That We Get You.

This is a conference that is all about higher education, considered across a variety of roles and perspectives. Representatives from all aspects of higher education will be there looking to share ideas, ask questions, and learn best practices. These are folks who understand the idiosyncrasies and complexities inherent in educational institutions. And the Salesforce higher ed community is incredibly collaborative and supportive, with thousands of members all ready and willing to help! Remember that many of us are facing similar challenges; when we work together, we all benefit.

2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.

Salesforce has an extremely easy-to-use interface (with Lightning, make that interfaces), but it is also an incredibly complex, highly-configurable, and powerful tool (and that’s before you even go to the AppExchange or start adding their various clouds). Every Salesforce event I attend leaves me in awe of the tremendous potential and capabilities of the system.

And if you’re grappling with a particular issue at your institution (and who isn’t?), there’s a good chance that some other school has developed a solution (or at least a strategy). And chances are, they’ve done something you either never considered or had written off as something that couldn’t be done with available technology. In two and a half days, you’ll learn and see amazing examples of ways to leverage Salesforce and save time, money, printing, and other costs while improving user satisfaction and increasing efficiencies across the board.

Take the time to ask questions, take notes, and get ideas (and business cards). You’ll find that in most cases that schools are happy to tell you (or show you) what’s under the hood, and could save your school thousands of dollars in consulting or development work.

3. Network.

You hear this about every conference. I get it. Networking may not be your thing, but you’re unlikely to find a safer, easier professional environment to connect with others. And if it helps, don’t think of it as networking. Just sharing your name and your institution and asking how the other school is using Salesforce is a great way to make connections-while we may be looking to meet different challenges or apply different use cases, we’re all using the same system and making it do amazing things. I’ve been to a number of conferences-academic, IT, professional, and rarely have I encountered as positive and welcoming an environment-generated not only by the organizers (who do a great job) but by fellow attendees.

The Higher Ed Summit is by far one of the easiest conferences to introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, and make meaningful connections, even if you’re more of an introvert. Make sure that you check out the Birds of a Feather tables at lunch on Days 1 and 2-you’ll find others eager hear your story and to share theirs as well. And get to your Breakout Sessions early, as that is a great place to meet others who are often working out solutions to similar challenges.

And drop your Account Executive a line and let him/her know that you’ll be attending. Your AE may be able to facilitate some introductions for you with other institutions in your area.

4. Don’t Try and See Everything.

While the Summit may not have the scale of Dreamforce, there is still a lot of information out there. Highlight your can’t miss sessions and go to those. Remember that the Breakouts are being recorded-if there was something you couldn’t make, schedule time when you can watch it online later (and having those links is a great way to share important info with colleagues, supervisors, and others who didn’t attend).

5. Volunteer.

Service is at the heart of our mission as educational institutions and a core value at Salesforce. Taking some time out to give back really helps tie the whole experience together, so be sure to join the volunteer activity at Roots of Music on Day 2!

Looking forward to seeing you at the Higher Ed Summit!

Can’t get enough about higher ed and Salesforce, follow me on Twitter at @jedhunter1 and check out the Power of Us Hub.

Register for the Higher Ed Summit