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IH conference focuses on relationships

International House study abroad schools and partner agents gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the first IH Study Abroad Conference – on the 65th birthday of the organisation.

Tim Eckenfels (left) and Claudio Cesarano (right) presenting at the conference. Photo: The PIE News

The industry needs to stop seeing schools and agents as separate entities

Held for the first time in 2018, the event started on the last day of the annual Directors Conference. Between presentations, traditional Bulgarian dinners and a treasure hunt, it gave schools and partner agents a chance to meet and strengthen their relationships.

“We deliberately kept it small and completely inclusive so that instead of meetings we could have input sessions and discussions. The conference sessions were for everyone to meet and talk, nothing was ‘just for schools’ or ‘just for agents’,” IH World COO Lucy Horsefield told The PIE.

“This industry is all about relationships”

Among the speakers, Patrik Pavlacic of StudentMarketing presented on ELT industry trends and Jacqueline Kassteen of Jackfruit Marketing introduced delegates to the brave new world of social media ‘influencers’.

A panel discussion between an agent, Claudio Cesarano of Media Touristik AG, and a language school director, Tim Eckenfels of IH Sydney, exemplified the theme of the two-day conference.

Talking about the joys and the difficulties of working together, the discussion highlighted the need to develop a transparent and cooperative relationship between schools and agents.

This is especially important when dealing with student complaints, but not only – one of the points raised was that agents sometimes don’t receive enough information to successfully sell a school’s destination.

“This industry is all about relationships,” said Eckenfels.

IH World brand engagement and marketing manager Laura Jenkins explained that the industry needs to overcome its tendency to consider schools and agents as two separate entities.

“Quite often in the study abroad industry we refer to schools and agents almost as if they were two different things,” she told The PIE.

“But really, they are vital to each other and there is so much that we can learn from each other… our goal is the same.”

Feedback has been positive so far.

Managing director of Rome-based education agency Language & Training Workshop, Alessia Palmisano, told The PIE she especially appreciated the possibility of getting to know schools and other agents personally. This, IH Malta-Gonzo CEO Ray Spiteri agreed, is “the basis of a good business relationship.”

Director of language school Sprachschule zum Ehrstein/IH Freiburg Jutta Volderauer found Kassteen’s session on social media influencers particularly useful.

“Social media… is fairly new for everyone. Most of us are being confronted with this new marketing tool,” she told The PIE.

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