It's been a while since I've had the chance to showcase my old presentation skills which is a shame as this is something which I really enjoy.  My eagerness to do this was further pricked by attending a conference on Wednesday with the team. This was the Squiz Connect 2014 Europe User Summit at the excellent Barbican Centre in London.

The Barbican conservatory (the second
biggest in London) with koi carp!
Four of us headed down at the crack of dawn (I had to get up 30mins earlier than usual!) for a full day of Powerpoint, case studies and networking. Despite a slightly rushed journey there (we found out that the last thing commuters want to hear in rush hour is "I don't know how you do this everyday!") we arrived in time to take our seats for the keynote speeches. These were my favourite part of the day and showcased a really strategic slant on how single customer experience is now the latest buzz phrase. There were some good sector specific examples which I hope to recycle myself for our next University Staff Conference in the new year!

Another enjoyable part of the day (apart from the excellent lunch) were some of the case studies, especially one from a competitor university on their new site build. I also got chatting to some role equivalents at other HE institutions who I'd previously only conversed with via email.

After a full day of Powerpoint I must say I was a little weary at the end. Some presenters managed to keep our energy levels up but overall I think a few more interactive presentations/workshops would have livened it up. Maybe the issue was that I was guilty of wanting to take the mic myself...?!

Time to go back on the 'inside!'
It's a good job then that sitting in my inbox was an invite to speak again for Inside Government (with whom Sarah and I had previously presented on postgraduate recruitment). After initially not wanting to recycle the same presentation in front of the same people I was reassured I could alter the focus and that the audience would be much bigger. Double bonus! I've already started preparing my 20min talk on 'Digital Transformation to Enhance Postgraduate Recruitment' on 13th November.

Back in the office we've just marked the end of a series of staff holidays so what better way to celebrate than going out at lunchtime to sample the new Pizza Express autumn menu?! This completed two day stint of over indulgent lunch breaks but doesn't mean it's too early to start planning our big Christmas banquet - venues are currently being discussed!

A screenshot from the trial version of our
new Luton campus library. Coming soon!
As far as our task lists are concerned I don't think we've ever been busier (with the exception of the first week of Clearing). We're currently building seven new website sections ready for UAT, have been promoting our many open days and have five separate campaigns on the go (all with different online activity and landing pages) . My week has had to be scheduled to the nano-second and as we're also launching a new facilities microsite with webcam and video content. Alongside this we're having a long overdue re-design of our email templates to make them responsive and are in the final stages of consultation with external stakeholders.

Lastly, to show that we get involved in any external mention of the University, we volunteered to live tweet and produce a report on the final Freshers show to be filmed at Bedfordshire. This was a follow up to the successful series which was shown last year and the online sentiment and volume of traffic was again excellent. It was a risk commissioning this but it's definitely raised our profile and has caused some of the stars to be proper celebrities around campus!
Recently I've been looking again at why I take the effort to write this blog every other week. Originally I started it to share the work of the team to an internal audience at the University (and to get some much needed exposure and buy-in). However, over time it's grown a bit as I've been fortunate enough to gain quite a large external following (and did I mention a blog award?!) This has encouraged me to start to write a bit more personally in my posts and also to cover some wider industry themes.

The purpose of a blog
The blogs which I read are generally those which give some great industry tips and voice quite strong opinions. Therefore I've thought that instead of me using this as a forum of self promotion and reporting our work I should use some of the great blog title generators out there to do the same. But then I keep coming back to one key issue - if I'm not enjoying writing it then why should I bother?

The same is true at work. Generally I love what I do and constantly being able to learn and experiment is a real gift (digital marketing is GREAT for this). Sure, I have bad days and get frustrated with internal politics - but isn't that true with almost any job? When you stop enjoying what you do for a living then it's definitely time to look elsewhere and I haven't reached this stage yet.

This enjoyment of what I do has also leaked out into some personal projects which I've undertaken lately. A few years ago my Wife and I published a children's history book (she wrote it and I illustrated, designed and self published it). I then taught myself Wordpress in order to design and build a website for it. This was tremendously satisfying and we totally underestimated the amount of work it would be. It's done moderately well and last week saw a big surge in sales thanks to some impartial online reviews.

The Breathe Garden Design website.
Fully responsive thanks to some of the
great features available in Wordpress

I then designed and built my bother-in-law's company website (also in Wordpress) which allowed me to experiment with responsive design templates and a filterable gallery. That reminds me - I really must sort out their email client! In the past week I've also been helping a friend in the village promote and launch his new photography business website. The list goes on...

I'm really grateful to the University for giving me the chances they have but also think that in order to be at the forefront I also need to put in these (extra-curricular) hours to stay ahead and not be limited by the same way of doing things.

Clearing! January starts! Winter! Three
campaigns all in the same place...
At work, these last few weeks have seen me take part in Prospectus/Campaign pitches (an activity almost as important as staff recruitment where I've been flying the flag for a digital first focus) and I've been undertaking some serious number crunching to analyse the effectiveness of our old campaigns. I've also been wrestling with how to present three consecutive campaigns on our homepage alongside some serious planning to develop our website course pages with Sharepoint integration.

Time will tell which direction this blog takes in future but whatever it is it will be in a format which I enjoy writing! I guess one of the best ways is to look at which posts have performed best and take my focus from that. After all, working in Digital Marketing you can't talk often enough about the importance of 'evidence based decisions' (maybe that should be the title of my next book...?!)
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