If you’re a Star Wars fan, you recognize this scene.
It’s the end of the first ever in the series back when it premiered in 1977. It’s at the end of the movie, after the good guys destroy the death star, and they’re awarded by Princess Leia in a grand ceremony that is designed to give the audience a rush of excitement and celebration.
And, we remember it that way because not only do we see the grand visuals of the whole event (remember, this is before CGI…they had to actually build the set and cast all the extras) but also because of legendary composer John Williams’ triumphant orchestral musical ballad playing under it. If you take away the music, it’s weird. It’s out of sync. And, it’s not an effective way to end the movie.
Don’t believe me? Click here and turn up your volume. It’s the scene as it played out live as they were filming it. No music, just ambient sound from the set. And some awful Chewbacca yells. And at one point, a guy coughing.
It’s not impressive.
What you come away with, as a movie fan, is how important sound effects and the accompanying music is to the complete experience the filmmaker is trying to achieve. Marketing guru Seth Godin gives us another example:
Laser guns don’t make noise. At least in real life. In the movies, they always do. Phasers and ray guns and light sabers all manage to make distinctive sounds.
And we don’t mind. In fact, we expect them to.
The foley artist works overtime to create sounds that amplify our experience and fill in the gaps – because the experience is the point.
Does your <campus visit> have a foley artist? Because it certainly has gaps.
I added the ‘campus visit’ language to his quote, but it can really apply to anything: Your resume, the text message you just sent a recruit, the story your facility tells. And, especially the campus visit you host for your prospects. With that John Williams-esque additions to the presentation, it falls flat, even with stunning visuals seen by your prospect.
So, what are the most common missing elements that coaches and admissions departments leave out that could be negatively affecting the experience?
A lack of context as to why the prospect matters to you. They want to go to a college and play their sport. And, most want a chance for a good start in life once they’re done with school. But why should all that happen at your school?
I’ve taken a lot of undercover campus visits on the athletics and admissions side of things, and one thing that always surprises me is that lack of curiosity on the part of the tour guide. I rarely get asked, “Where’s your son or daughter? What are they interested in when it comes to an education? Why did you decide to visit our campus, specifically? What do you want to make sure and find out from me on this visit?”
If you as a coach, or your institution, doesn’t set the foundation for why I should be there and why you see it as a possible good fit, we’re starting off the ‘movie’ that is your tour without knowing why we should care about watching it. Some of you can get away with that given the size and scope of your brand nationally; the vast majority of colleges can’t.
Not explaining why your prospect should want this. “We just completed the renovations to our historic on-campus theatre”. So what? I’m not a music major. “The baseball stadium just added 500 seats in left field that only cost $1 for our students.” So what? I run track during their spring season and won’t be able to go to see them play. “We have a 20:1 teacher to student ratio!” So what? Is that good? The same as everyone else?
Your job as a recruiter – whether you are in athletics or admissions – is to make the case to me. As a student, as an athlete, or as a parent, I need to know why you’re worth the money, and maybe also why you’re better than my other options contacting me.
Stats and facts and data are fine, but only if you give it context – that John Williams orchestra in the background – that gives me a complete feel and understanding of why your story should matter more than the other stories I’m being told.
No foundational story before your prospect gets to campus. The reason consistent, engaging messaging makes the campus visit more fruitful for a coach staff is because I’ve had the chance to hear your story, assign value to it, understand how it might positively impact me, read and re-read information, and compare it to what I’m hearing or not hearing from other college programs. Without that consistent messaging, I’m hearing or seeing it all for the first time when I’m there on my visit face to face with you. Which, honestly, is why prospects don’t say much a lot of the time when they’re on a visit. Our research tells us that when they have 80% of the story of you and your program told to them before their visit, the visit becomes an exciting confirmation of what you’ve described in your messaging beforehand. Without it, I’m just taking in information as I walk around your campus the same way I’ve walked around other campuses on other tours that sound the same as your’s is sounding.
Is that what you’re aiming for, Coach? No.
Not allowing your prospect to spend time with your freshmen. One of the things that provides the best background to any visit is your prospect being able to spend time with your youngest athletes while they’re on campus. Youngest beats most experienced every time because the prospects are more concerned about connecting and liking their future teammates, not knowing how much they know about the school. Connection is their top priority.
And allowing that to happen casually, over a significant amount of time on their visit, always yields the greatest results. In our book, Freaking Awesome Campus Visits, research we did with prospects revealed that if it were up to them, they would want to spend over 60% of the time of their visit just getting the chance to hang out with your freshmen. The vast majority will gladly give up meetings, sitting across the desk from a financial aid advisor, seeing the remodeled theatre even though I’ll probably never step inside, and other itinerary items that have somehow become staples of every visit on every campus around the country.
Give up some control to your youngest student-athletes, and see what happens. They’ll potentially miss meeting the dean of a department or seeing the third floor of the library, but just trust me when I say the time they’ll spend with your student-athletes will yield far greater results.
The background music matters, Coach. Don’t “recruit without Williams”, and definitely don’t ignore these four key aspects to building out a great campus visit experience – it’ll help you start setting yourself apart from other campuses who will roll out the same, tired, ineffective campus visits to their prospects again this year.
Want even more training and research when it comes to recruiting more top level athletes, and effectively presenting your program on campus visits? Bring Dan Tudor and his staff to campus to conduct one of our legendary On-Campus Recruiting Workshops. Spend parts of one, two or three days with experts who will research your specific campus using focus group information we’ll collect from your athletes, and then crafting a playbook for you to follow throughout the upcoming year. It’s worked for hundreds of athletic departments over the past two decades, and it can work for you as well. We have all new information and research, so schedule time with us – even if we’ve been to campus before, you’ll find new data and strategies to use in your effort to build a more successful program. Click here for the details!