Monday, October 18, 2010 | Category: PSE Fairs
Ken Steele checked out the biggest post-secondary consumer show in North America, the 2010 Ontario Universities’ Fair, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. His latest blog summarizes what’s new.
The Ontario Universities’ Fair (OUF) has things down to a science now, and after reviewing it for five years I’m going to use some shorthand, by focusing primarily on what’s new this year. Check out my previous blogs about the 2006 OUF, 2007 OUF, 2008 OUF, and 2009 OUF for a complete review of all things OUF.
The security perimeter and the crowds of teens on the opening Friday were pretty much unchanged since last year. One difference noticeable even before entering the exhibit hall was that the Council of Ontario Universities had its own COU cloth bags, which were distributed to students before they entered the hall. This year, universities were not giving out their own bags, which in previous years have been a clear attempt to market in the crowd. I rather miss the Guelph bags that proudly proclaimed, “this bag is not plastic” and the paper bags from Carleton. (Ah well, one more way in which the universities can no longer differentiate themselves.)
First off, several universities have invested heavily in brand new exhibit booths. Perhaps most striking is the University of Waterloo booth, which since 2006 at least has been a cold, high-tech chrome lattice on black curtains around a side wall. This year’s booth was a more welcoming centre island design, and introduced bright colours, coded for each faculty. Particularly striking was the way that the booth design integrated flatscreen displays in the corners, so that the booth seemed to come alive with moving text and graphics.
It was also a relief to see a brand new exhibit for Ryerson. For about as long as I can remember, Ryerson’s exhibit has been a very long, shocking blue wall, with suspended signs for each faculty and school. (In earlier years, reps sat behind a counter that made them look like bank tellers.) The new exhibit is bright, with large colourful photography and tons of interaction with the crowd.
The Laurentian University exhibit also underwent a major transformation this year, and sported plenty of dynamic colour video displays behind a subtle etched glass wall of text (which is almost visible to the right in the photo above).
Trent University gave its booth a fresh facelift with new graphics and bright colours.
The University of Guelph exhibit also felt fresh, although I don’t think it has changed since last year. Since I haven’t included it in previous blogs, I do so now.
Nipissing University continues to attract a crowd — and ridiculously long line-ups! — with their photographic background. This year instead of campus, the backdrop is a northern Ontario road, and they have added a cardboard cut-out roadster in which friends can pose as though on their way to visit Nipissing’s campus. Hey, if it still works to attract attention and engage prospective students — don’t fix what ain’t broke, I guess!
Likewise, Lakehead University has continued a tradition that is now three or four years old, giving out funky black T-shirts to students willing to provide their contact information. This year’s designs include “Be the Shift”, “My Plan A (My Planet Earth)”, and a series of verbs starting with “Question” and incorporating the word “Unite”.
New this year (since the gadgets didn’t exist last year) were iPads, and boy were they everywhere! Kudos to the University of Ottawa in particular for the very stylish podium approach, encouraging students to enter their contact information right on the iPad which they could win. I captured similar contests from Trent and Lakehead, with opportunities to win Apple’s latest and greatest device. (I am a fanboy, I admit it.)
Somehow the laptops at the York University booth (and others) seemed downright quaint, even though they were a brand new approach just a couple of years ago. And Carleton is evidently striving for the low-tech, high-touch effect with a stack of paper forms and a box of branded pencils! (Memorable because it’s different, I guess…)
As in previous years, the Student Life Expo in the SkyWalk between Union Station and the MTCC was the site of a bustling collection of Ontario colleges and out-of-province universities, along with just a few corporate exhibitors (computers, cell phones and the like). Although the Student Life Expo is completely unrelated to the OUF, I really think it does a great service to prospective PSE students by bringing together even more of their choices as they contemplate university.
Most striking at this year’s Student Life Expo was a new, much larger and slicker exhibit for St Francis Xavier University. StFX went all out, with a custom-built backdrop, touchscreen monitors with an interactive virtual campus tour, and the giant foam “X ring” seen last year. StFX’s exhibit looked almost as large and professional as some of the university exhibits inside the MTCC.
Equally large, although not quite so flashy, was the University of Alberta exhibit. Also at the SLE for a second year, UofA (like StFX) evidently felt it was worthwhile returning and investing in a larger footprint booth. Other than COU, UofA was the only institution I saw handing out cloth book bags — so many students entered the MTCC carrying UofA bags.
Bishop’s University also returned to the SLE this year (along with plenty of other exhibitors I’m not mentioning here), but brought a slick new little viewbook (more about that in a future blog) and an interactive display. Students were encouraged to lift a pennant and potentially win a prize (at least I think that’s how it worked).
One new exhibitor at the SLE this year was Wilfrid Laurier University — which of course also had a booth inside the MTCC. In the SLE, WLU’s exhibit was focused specifically on promoting their centennial scholarships — 100 for 100 years. An entrepreneurial idea!
Although a number of Ontario colleges also exhibited at the SLE, I include here a pic of Mohawk College’s exhibit, featuring their brand-new visual identity.
And that’s about it for what I was able to capture with my iPhone camera at the 2010 OUF! Sorry for the picture quality — after the OUF I upgraded to the new iPhone 4, so my pics from the College Fair will be higher-resolution and have the benefit of the built-in flash.
What did you see at the 2010 OUF that I failed to mention? Please comment below…
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