Tag Archives: recruitment

ICEF Berlin 2016 – Review & 30 Day Post Evaluation

I had the pleasure of attending ICEF Berlin, which took place at the Intercontinental Hotel between the dates 30th October -1st November 2016.  For those that don’t know, ICEF stands for ‘International Consultants for Education and Fairs’, and they have been in the business of connecting educators with education consultants from around the globe under one roof since 1991. Today, they have grown significantly and gained immense respect from higher education institutions around the world for their involvement, contribution and dedication in encouraging international student recruitment. Their years of expertise has also led to them establishing a source of valuable information which all those interested or involved in education including myself love to follow; ICEF Monitor. The list of services provided by them goes on from agent training to course finding services for students and educator development, ICEF continues to grow and expand in the education field.

Working in the field of student recruitment myself, I had always heard quite a lot about ICEF as my colleagues and director had previously attended many times and we had indeed recruited some very good agents from the event. This year, I gained the chance to attend and see what ICEF was really about, while also on the hunt for some good agents that would help bolster my institution’s student numbers from new markets, primarily Africa. From what I have been told, despite having workshops in many countries around the world at different times, ICEF Berlin is the main event worth going to for agent recruitment. Perhaps the central geographical location of Germany is what attracts institutions and agents as well as others from four corners of the world to this event.

If you are especially:

  • New to the field of international student recruitment
  • Any type of institution involved in education
  • A newly established company focused on education consultation (Agent)
  • A  new company involved in education technology

then I believe that you will find this article useful. I wanted to give an honest review about my experience of the event to those that have never attended or are considering attending, so here is my review of ICEF Berlin 2016 and its 30 day post evaluation.

Correspondence with ICEF

Getting in contact with ICEF for participation is very straight forward. Email correspondence with the ICEF team was very smooth and prompt. Every question that I asked was answered in a very helpful manner. The level of professionalism was at the top level as expected. Additionally, when at the workshop, the representative I was always in contact with (Ms. Seher Neöz) was very kind enough to come meet me and my colleague and get our feedback about the event which was very pleasing.


Registration & Participation Fee

Registration was fairly simple. Every participant has a profile which they must fill. There are word limits to each paragraph when giving information about your institution; therefore, it is important to be efficient and give the vital information that will attract or convince your prospective meeting partner that you are a good contact to have a meeting with. For event participation, the price may sound steep at first. A total of 4,400 EUR for participation and an extra of 2,400 EUR for a second representative.  The fact is, if you do actually manage to get an agreement with at least one good agent out of a possible 30 meetings, then the cost of participating at this event can be covered by even 1-2 students that you recruit from them. As an institution or a company that will attend, it is important to make sure you send a representative that is social, willing to meet new people and is able to set up a good working relationship not only at the event, but after the event with constant follow up, too. Additionally, I would advise you to attend with 2 representatives as you will be getting double the number of meetings which will increase your chance of establishing some good partnerships for your institution. The fee also includes one full day of workshops which really does keep you up-to-date with the latest trends and perhaps may inspire you with new ideas for your future marketing strategies. Despite all this, the fee still can be a turn off especially for new start up agents or institutions on low budgets.


Arranging Meetings with Prospective Agents

ICEF have been very successful in integrating technology in their methods to help event attendees set up their meetings fast and efficiently. The software that was used (Marcom Onsite) was user friendly and ICEF provided a user manual for it. I must admit that I only had a quick glance through the manual and that was enough to arrange my meetings and select the workshops I wanted to attend. However, for older users this may not be the case. The font in the system is very small and it is easy to miss something. For example, I arranged my workshops that I would attend at the last minute, because I didn’t notice the button that leads you to select them. Perhaps some sort of reminder could be established in the system for the future. The earlier you register and begin requesting appointments the better it is to fill your schedule. My schedule was fully booked in about a month after registration (Early September). In total, I had arranged 30 meetings across 2 days. Each meeting lasts around 25 minutes, depending on the conversation. Overall, for a first timer, arranging meetings was very simple.


The Venue

The event was hosted by Intercontinental Hotel in Berlin. This 5 star venue really does give its guests 5 star hospitality. Nothing could be faulted in regards to service. The event organisers were also very clever to keep the guests apart to avoid crowding by having 3 different lunch, desert/fruit and tea stations situated around the event. The hotel itself is in a central area, so staying in another hotel nearby is no problem. As a first timer attending and visiting Berlin myself, I first considered staying at the host venue. However, the price of accommodation was just too expensive, despite getting special rates from ICEF. It is recommended that a nearby hotel at a much more suitable price is preferred. I opted to stay at the RIU Plaza Berlin, and paid almost half the price of what I would have paid for the Intercontinental Hotel. The event venue was only a 10 minute walk away which was very convenient.

Additional tip: Exchange your money to Euro before arriving to Germany as many hotels (4 Star) refuse to exchange currency. As always, my credit card ran to my rescue!


Meetings with Prospective Agents

Although I had arranged 30 meetings across 2 days, in the final week prior to the event, I began getting cancellations of appointments. 3 appointments were cancelled before I arrived to Berlin and 2 were cancelled while I was there. I was told by ICEF representatives that the cancellations were most probably due to visa difficulties. This was a setback in my expectations as I had 5 empty slots that needed to be filled. Additionally, the agents that had cancelled were mostly from Africa. The fact that I had requested to meet many agents from Africa meant that it would be difficult to find any other agents from that region. Only 6% of agents that attended were from Africa. Eventually, I decided to request appointments from other markets to fill the slots instead.

Meetings with prospective agents went rather well. Everyone in the venue had a common interest, to improve their businesses. Naturally, there was a very friendly dialogue with all agents that I met. After every meeting you get a sense of ‘Yes!, got this agent on-board, will be getting more students next year’. However, this is not the case. I was warned of this by my director as well prior to the event. I took a selfie with every agent I met in order to remember who was who. It’s very difficult to keep so many faces and names in your mind in 2 days. It was very easy to just walk up to people and randomly meet them. I managed to exchange contacts with a few potential agents and representatives of education technology companies. In short, all meetings and communication went pretty well and met my expectations, but be ready for possible cancellations that may come up on your schedule.


The Extras

ICEF welcomes you with a free ICEF handbag (rather good quality) and welcome pack when you first walk in to register. The welcome pack has your schedule inside with a memory stick/card as well.  Perhaps one of the most important extras, ICEF also gives you the chance to keep up with the latest trends in education and international student recruitment from around the world by organising many workshops and seminars throughout a whole day. ICEF themselves also give a workshop for first timers on how to get the maximum from the event. Attendance is not compulsory, you can decide which seminar to attend or not, and I managed to attend a total of 3 seminars in the day. I was meant to attend another; however, unfortunately it got cancelled. Nonetheless, I found all seminars very beneficial and felt that they really added value to the organisation. Finally, the welcome reception and workshop party was fun to attend, and it gave everyone a chance to network and enjoy some live music after a busy day.


The 30 Day Post Evaluation

After leaving the event in a very optimistic attitude, I got back to the office and quickly wrote up my follow up emails to the prospective agents I especially wanted to work with. Out of 27 agents, I sent an email to around 20 asking if they would like to continue with collaboration and a reminder document of the institution along with our selfie picture together. It’s been 30 days now, and around 12 have got back to me asking for the contract to be signed.  So far, around 5-6 of these have been prompt with their emails and seem like they are seriously ready to work with us. Follow up is vital after the event in order to keep your institution in the mind of the agents. Nowadays, Whatsapp or Viber is a more convenient, faster and a more popular tool for communication rather than email, so I am keeping the communication going with these tools as well. Despite this, I am keeping a realistic approach expecting that the number of agents that we will consistently get students from will fall to about 2-3. Even if 1 agent sends 1 student, the fair cost would be covered. I will provide an update on this article in around August 2017 to see whether we have been successful. Overall, after attending ICEF Berlin, you will feel a lot of difference in the level of optimism from the final day of the event and 30 days afterwards, so follow up and constant communication is crucial to keep that level up.


Final Verdict, to Attend or not to Attend?

ICEF has done a fantastic job in becoming the leader of such events bringing the educator and agents together under one roof. You can almost smell the experience that they have gained throughout the years in this sector. Every bit of detail has been carefully planned and thought through while organising this event in order to keep the attendees happy. From the educators’ or agents’ point of view, I definitely believe it is worth attending if you are looking to establish new partnerships in new markets. The opportunity is put on a plate for you to grab. Registering early and carefully planning your meetings about a month in advance is strongly recommended. Although the fee may seem a lot for first timers, I believe that the gains will be well worth it if you attend with the right attitude, mind set and objectives. I met both educators and agents that had been attending for the 3rd or 4th time, so something must be going right for them to continue attending. I haven’t heard the same feedback for other events ICEF organised in other countries, and hope to attend them also one day to be able to compare them, but as far as ICEF Berlin goes, it certainly gets the thumbs up from me.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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Facts and Figures for the ICEF Berlin Workshop 2016 (Taken from the ICEF website):

  • 2 444 participants from 1 583 organisations in 100 countries and 6 continents
  • 1 110 educators representing 656 education institutions in 40 countries
  • 1 032 agents representing 797 agencies in 96 countries
  • 171 service providers representing 78 organisations in 18 countries
  • 26 Work & Travel providers representing 16 organisations in 7 countries
  • 26 284  pre-scheduled meetings and 983 scheduled meetings through Marcom Onsite during 2 days


Agent Demographics


Educator Demographics


Educator Profile


Full ICEF report on the Berlin 2016 event can be found here.


International Student Recruitment: How to Keep in Prospective Students’ Minds with your Presentation


In my opinion, visiting schools around the world is perhaps one of the most effective ways of recruiting international students. When attending education exhibitions, there are so many universities around that it is a much more difficult task for the prospective student to be persuaded. Every university has a selling point and I believe at some point the prospective student can switch off with so much information fed to them. However, with school presentations, you can catch a large number of students’ attention and have a lasting presence in their minds if you can put on the right performance. Not always will it result in recruiting students, but I’m pretty certain that your performance in your presentation can and will increase your brand recognition in the long run as well. So I have put together 6 points on how to wow your audience and have a lasting effect in their minds for future recruitment with the right presentation.

1) What message do I want to give?

The first thing you must do is think and plan carefully the message that you want to give to prospective students. There is only so much that you can say in a short amount of time without them starting to get distracted. Think about what it actually is that they want to hear from you. You have to give your message in a super clear manner. Think about the most frequent questions that are asked from you. Make sure you put these answers in-between an attention catching intro and an effective finalizing summary and you’re good to go on to the next stage.

2) How long should my presentation be?

Schools are very reluctant to give you much time, but they do normally allow an hour for you to speak with them. Despite this time frame, let’s not forget that an average attention span for students is around 10-18 minutes. Therefore try to keep your presentation between 30-35 minutes at most and allow 15-20 minutes for questions.

3) What  presentation tool should I use?

Although many people around the world are still using Microsoft PowerPoint, when giving presentations to students I recommend that either Prezi, PowToon or #Slides is used. The reason is that the slides are just so much more fun to look at than PowerPoint. This means that you will keep the prospective students’ attention much longer than PowerPoint. If anyone is still using PowerPoint to give presentations to young prospective students, then trust me, you must change today!

4) How should I design my presentation?

Always remind yourself about the profile of your audience. Although you may have a lot to say and want to write many points in your slides, don’t forget that you also need to put some visuals to keep your audience’s attention on your presentation. Try and design your presentation in such a way so that an interesting picture will also at the same time describe what you actually trying to say. It will be fun and interesting to look at, and you will keep your audience wondering what will come next.

5)  My presentation is complete, now what?

Now it’s time to work on your performance. You may be a quite person in your private time, you may look like the sensible type from outside, you may even get told that you don’t look like you have the profile for the job because of your calmness with others. However, when you get on that stage, when the microphone is handed to you, this is the time when you turn into a star and give that performance that will wow the prospective students when no one expected from you to do so. There are two concrete rules for this; practice and confidence. Practice your presentation over and over again. Learn every bit of it with your eyes closed. This will cut out any pauses in your speech, it will cut out any “errms” and “uuhhs”, it will also speed up your presentation time. When you practice, you also develop a good tone of voice as well. Practice brings you confidence, and having a high level of confidence can actually be felt by your audience, assuring them that you are on the ball and giving them the trust on what you are saying to them. When students feel like they can trust what you’re saying, that is when they start to consider your university as a next potential destination.

6)  Should I present alone or with a partner?

If your partner is trained for this presentation as you are, then feel free to present with him/her. However, if you travel with academic faculty members, current students or alumni to intentionally give these presentations, then I’m afraid your presentation will not have the same wow affect as it would have done if you had done it alone. In this case, I would advise you to conduct the presentation yourself and leave your partner for questions. Do not get me wrong, having an academic faculty member, a current student or alumni with you abroad definitely has huge advantages! However, if you want your presentation to stand out, keep them to the side and use them afterwards to bolster and back up your performance.

Start improving tomorrow

With an attractive and to the point presentation along with a powerful delivery, the chances of recruiting students for your institution will significantly increase. Not only that, but your brand awareness will also increase because you will have a lasting effect in the prospective students’ minds. You may not recruit that specific student, but you may recruit a friend or family member of that student when he/she goes home and describes the cool presentation of the university that visited his/her school. So tomorrow, get your team together, go over your current presentation, and start improving it if you haven’t yet done so!

Good Luck!

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Higher Education: 7 Tips to Select the Right Student Recruitment Agent for Universities


As the number of universities looking to diversify their students and break into new markets increase, we are seeing an increasing surge of student recruitment agencies (education consultants they call themselves) pop up around the world. No matter how much you research about a specific market, without finding the right contacts to support you, breaking into that market can prove to be a very challenging task.

You may think (and we wished it were that way!) that the ideal way of breaking into a new market would be to contact schools directly and visit them so that you can reach the prospective students via presentations. However, unfortunately this is not as easy as you think. In many countries, you may find that your emails are not even answered, the phone number found on the high schools website is not working, the secretary that eventually does pick up the phone ( after calling 8 times!) may not speak English etc. The time difference is another setback especially when trying to call countries in East Asia.

These issues prompt universities to start searching for a middle man (Education Agents) so that they can facilitate this process and support the university with breaking into the market. If you find an agent with the right connections, you can eventually visit schools at the right time, visit high level officials in the ministry of education in that country and fly over after the national exam results are out so that you can brief high school students/graduates about your university in the agent’s office. Not only this, but agents assist students with their applications and after through training by the university representatives, while also giving the best possible information to the student about your institution. When all these benefits are added up, finding an agent that can be your representative is a very attractive idea.

So how do you find the right student recruitment agent to work with? Here are 7 tips that will help you find the right person in order to break into the target market;

1-Is the student recruitment agency certified?

There are so many agents working around the world without certification. Many are even doing this as a part time job! I’ve even seen students who are still pursuing their studies, enter this business and have indeed become successful. However, my piece of advice would be to always stick with a certified agent. This means that they are approved from their government and ministry of education. This also is an indicator of just how serious they are in this business and their level of commitment.

2-Does the student recruitment agency have connections with local schools as well as the ministry of education?

If the agent has a strong network in the market, then that agent’s a real player. It means that the agent can be your key for success in that market. However, it still doesn’t mean that the job is over. Crucial questions must be asked to get a better idea of just how well connected he/she is;

a) How often do you visit or network with high school representatives?

b) What type of previous experience do you have with the ministry of education?

c) What type of schedule could we put together to promote the university?

d) What would be the best time to plan and execute such a schedule?

These questions can give you an idea of just how well the agent is connected without directly asking them if they can do what you actually want them to do. If you ask a prospective agent ‘can we do school visits?’, they will not say ‘no’. They will say ‘yes’, so that they can get the contract signed between both parties.

3-How many universities does the student recruitment agency work with?

This is a tricky one. Do you go for the established agent with years of experience working with over a hundred universities? Or do you go with someone that has only a handful of universities? My experience has shown that agents who have a small number of universities perform much better then bigger companies. This is because bigger companies already have a set of universities which they are happily working with and getting paid from. Additionally, counsellors working at these companies already have a set of universities whose application process they are comfortable with and have not got any negative feedback from students enrolled there. So why would they all of a sudden turn their focus to a new university? Unless you are offering huge commissions, these counsellors will not be pressured into sending your institution students. Therefore, do not expect a big number from these companies. On the other hand, working with a smaller company means that there will be more focus on your university along with an increase in referrals which will result in a higher number of students.

4-How many students does the student recruitment agency send abroad each year?

This information will give you an idea of just how active the agency is. Find out exactly which type of programs these students are sent to. Are they language programs, undergraduate programs or postgraduate programs? Which program has the most focus? Neither a very huge number or a very small number should impress you. It is important to work with an agent that is busy enough to keep his/her focus on student recruitment, but at the same time should be thirsty enough to send even more students abroad.

5-Does the student recruitment agency charge students for administration fees?

Student recruitment agents have their own reasons for charging students or not for applications. As universities we cannot interfere in an agent’s business model. However, in order not to put students off, we do prefer that agents do not charge students as they get their hard works reward through commission payments anyway. This also prevents any possible conflicts between the student and the agent as well. We have seen many cases where students fill in an application via an agent but then do not follow up with it as soon as a fee is requested from them. They then search for another agent to assist them, and conflict between agents may occur. Although this may not seem like a huge problem at first, it may create a bottle neck for prospective students that would like to study at your university.

6-What is the yearly budget for social media advertising and which social media channels are used?

Almost every agent you speak with will tell you that they actively use social media for marketing purposes. But just how active are they? How many adverts do they pay for on Facebook? What about YouTube? Instagram? Twitter? How many times a month will they advertise your institution? These are all questions that need answering. With these questions you will get a clear understanding of just how engaged they are in regards to digital marketing.

7-Are there any exhibitions organized by the student recruitment agency?

Exhibitions are huge money generators for agents. This is because they receive money from attending universities, and they also collect leads to follow up for the future. Therefore most agents organize education exhibitions in order to generate more income. Attending fairs is  very beneficial only if the visitor profile is right, so make sure that you find out about past expo statistics in order to figure out whether to attend the expo or not. Not all agents organize exhibitions. If they feel satisfied by the foot traffic to the office and the results, then they do not feel the need to organize such an event. Nonetheless, having an exhibition organizing agent should be seen as another plus for your marketing strategy, providing that the audience is right.

As the level of competition among agents becomes ever so fierce in today’s environment, finding the right agent becomes ever so difficult for universities. In fact, you may find that many agents can give false promises just so that they can get your university on their clientèle list. They then do not meet their promises or fail to organize any type of meeting for you to be able to break into that market. It’s a difficult process for us university representatives. You want to make sure that you will find such an agent that will support your efforts in increasing your brand’s awareness and most important of all, your student numbers. At the same time, the agent has to be convinced that his/hers efforts will pay off. As you can imagine, it is a difficult balance to find. However, the 7 tips mentioned in this piece can ensure that you keep on the right track to select the right agent for your institution.

 Good Luck!

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