About this Guest Post
In this guest post guest post Shelley Wetzel, partner & director of the eduWeb Digital Summit describes the history of the eduWeb event which, this year, is celebrating its tenth anniversary – and has just been named as one of the Top 5 Higher Education Marketing Conferences to attend in the US.
Over the years I have observed from afar the eduWeb event and back on February 2009 asked “What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference?“. Earlier this year I revisited the question in a post which asked “What Can IWMW Learn From Higher Education Web Events in the US?“. I’m very pleased that Shelley agreed to my request to provide some further background information about the eduWeb conference.
In her guest post Shelley highlights some challenges which web managers in US higher educational institutions are facing and comments:
as someone from our Advisory Board just mentioned, if higher Ed (at least in the U.S.) doesn’t get their act together regarding digital within the next five years, they will not survive. To some extent, I agree with that; what is it like in the U.K.? Where are you progressing? Where are you not?
I’d be interested in comments from members of institutional Web teams based in the UK on Shelley’s perspectives.
eduWeb: American version of a Higher Education Marketing Conference
Back in late 1995, I was driving with a friend near my home in Rockville, Maryland (about 45 minutes north of Washington, D.C.) and he asked me if I had heard of Netscape. I had replied “no” and asked what it was; he went to tell me about this fascinating Internet browser that I just had to look at. That was the beginning of my Internet education and career.
As I was self-employed at the time, with my own marketing agency, designing and creating marketing collateral for various clients in the metropolitan Washington, DC area and a few overseas, I was intrigued by the Internet and decided to teach myself HTML code. I loved that the designing part of it was easier than print since I didn’t have to worry about bleeds, inks, press runs, etc, and this white screen was an open canvas that could display my imagination, per client’s requests. I then started designing and coding websites.
This led to a full-time job as the first Webmaster at Salisbury State University on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, about half hour from several beaches in the area. I thrived in the position for eight years, having moved from Webmaster to Director of Web Development and from reporting to the Dir. of PR (no marketing office at the institution) to the CIO. I was and still am a marketing person, but I also understood the technical side of this new platform, of which during those eight years and probably until about 2008, was all about your website. Social media was just starting with Twitter and I had already left my position in 2005 to start the eduWeb Conference.
While working at Salisbury University (name change around 2000), I saw and learned about “both sides of the fence” regarding an institution’s digital presence but also saw the power games going on that reduced, if not destroyed, the interest and engagement on and off campus to develop the institution’s brand through a whole new environment.
With that background, I saw a need to develop a conference and trade show for higher education that focused on marketing and technical for the administrative side of higher education. I researched and found a partner to join me in this effort and we launched the 1st eduWeb Conference in 2005 in downtown Baltimore. We grew each year until the recession hit, but still we have done well, changing program tracks to reflect the needs of higher education and their interests, bringing on guest track authors for the program, allowing them to create and market their content and recommend speakers. As the conference grew, so did my partner’s and I need to reflect higher education more as we both had worked in the field but we’re farther away from working in it on a day-by-day basis.
Adding a social media team, along with photographer and videographer, the on-site staff grew to 10 and our highest attendance year was 500! We were thrilled and knew we had to keep up with our competition to provide the best experience possible, beyond just the programming. Over the years, we have added pre- and post-conference workshops and last year, a new event, the Master Class. It’s an intense, one-day event, after the conference, on just one topic and with no more than 35 people, to keep it intimate and one-on-one between faculty and “students.”
Our 10 year Anniversary is this year and we’re celebrating in Chicago, at the same dates as your event (IWMW 2015), otherwise, I’d be coming over to visit you and Brian visiting us.
Even at 10 years old, the goal and philosophy are still the same: to bring marketing, communications, advancement, enrollment management/admissions, student affairs, alumni, and more to learn about their strategic digital needs and for anyone within the IT field of digital to do the same, BUT to learn from each other, network and take back to our campus an excitement and encouragement to work well with “both sides of the fence/department” for the best of the institution. That is your ultimate client – not your boss or the president. And even after 10 years, I still see the struggles of power, budget, enough employees and professional development within higher education to stall creativity and bring the best of digital to accomplish your goals and meet the needs of a external population that is almost all digital; as someone from our Advisory Board just mentioned, if higher Ed (at least in the U.S.) doesn’t get their act together regarding digital within the next five years, they will not survive. To some extent, I agree with that; what is it like in the U.K.? Where are you progressing? Where are you not?
At this stage, my partner and I also know that we have to keep moving forward and part of that is changing the business model a bit; it hasn’t been announced yet, but a goal is to move toward this new model within three years.
Just discovered that we have been named one of the Top 5 Higher Education Marketing Conferences to attend in the U.S.! Wonderful news and we’re proud of it.
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Biographical Details and Contact Information
Shelley Wetzel, M.B.A, is an entrepreneur, currently the Conference Director and Partner of the eduWeb Digital Summit, Principal at Second Story, LLC, a marketing and events firm, and an inventor, with a patent, launching a tablet and phablet accessory later in 2015.
Ms. Wetzel has been involved in higher education for close to 20 years, eight being Director of Web Development at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland and the last 10 years, managing the eduWeb Conference, now titled the eduWeb Digital Summit. And she has been an entrepreneur for more than half of her professional career, originally owning and managing a marketing agency in the Washington, DC area before starting her higher education career.