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Reflecting on a virtual NACCU Conference

Andrew Hudson   ||   Apr 23, 2021  ||   

The 2021 installment of the NACCU Annual Conference came and went this week, with campus card professionals from around the US and Canada converging on the virtual environment of Degy World. The team at NACCU faced a major undertaking moving its flagship event to an all virtual format, but the end product was a memorable and unique one for attendees.

Unprecedented times also brought new additions to the NACCU Conference, including an opening of registrations to more university personnel. This enabled campus card offices to bring additional stakeholders to the NACCU community to learn from the many educational sessions and network with fellow attendees.

The virtual Degy World included many of the recognizable hallmarks of a NACCU Conference: an interactive keynote presentation, educational sessions, roundtables, a full exhibit hall for vendors, and ample opportunities to catch up with fellow NACCU members and attendees. There were also a few features not included in past NACCU Conferences -- admittedly I did spend some time in the arcade and took a quick spin around the island in a speedboat.

Atrium joined in the fun, making sure to take full advantage of the dance emote at its presentation.

Identisys put out this video to help attendees navigate to their booth on the exhibit hall floor, showcasing a bit of the Degy World experience.

CR80News chatted with Emory University's Kim Pfeffer, virtually, between educational sessions to get a first-hand opinion of the unique format for the NACCU Annual Conference this year.

In addition to her role at Emory, Pfeffer also serves as Chair of the NACCU Professional Development Committee, is a member of the NPI Faculty, and is a key contributor to the NACCU Onboarding Guide.

Catching up in one of the many breakout rooms scattered throughout Degy World, Kim offered her thoughts on virtual presenting. Kim was one of the first round of presenters in the virtual conference, discussing service enhancement for her campus card office.

"It's interesting because we recorded our presentations in advance, so there was plenty of time to get things just right," says Pfeffer. "And on the day, all the prep work, tech, etc. was already done. So I think the virtual presenting was much more relaxing than in person."

Despite the user friendly Degy World platform, there's no true substitute for a live conference alongside fellow attendees. The human element still reigns supreme.

"When you're physically in a room with people you can tell by facial expressions or body language when someone is thinking about asking a question, and it's easier to get a conversation going," says Pfeffer.

Pfeffer's session was a good reflection of the larger attendance numbers at this year's virtual conference compared to years past. In her session alone, attendance was hovering between 55 and 65 people -- a much larger number than normal at a single education block.

Pfeffer's session highlighted quality of service in the card office, an important consideration for any university.

"A lot of my work at Emory has been focusing on the customer experience," says Pfeffer. "Just before I arrived at Emory, we had a higher up leader tell an entire auditorium of people that our services were worse than the DMV, so I was thrown into the fire to make things better."

Pfeffer attended the Disney Institute to uncover some strategies and principles to turn the customer service experience around.

"We deal with students, faculty, staff, visitors, parents, and these constituents all have high expectations of us now," says Pfeffer. "Customer experience is important everywhere not just in card services. It's dining services, the registrar, housing, anywhere you interface with your student customers."

"In many cases, that one experience that these people have with your card office may be the only experience they ever have with you," she adds. "So the impression you make in that instance will be a lasting one."

Reflecting on the virtual conference and presenting experience, Pfeffer's parting thoughts are encouraging.

"I think this conference has been really good," says Pfeffer. "There was a little learning curve at first, just getting the lay of the land, but that happens at every conference."

With any luck, next year's NACCU Annual Conference will once again be an in-person affair in St. Louis. But considering the many challenges posed to all over the past year, and delivering a conference complete with full educational calendar and exhibit hall -- all with a larger registration than ever before -- Degy World was an admirable host.

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