Tips for a Successful bbcon Experience | npENGAGE

Tips for a Successful bbcon Experience

By on Oct 9, 2019


bbcon, higher ed, events

When you decide to go to bbcon, you’re making a big time and resource investment—one that will expose you to new ideas and people and hopefully inspire you when you return to work.

Think of me as your guide for the higher ed experience at bbcon. I’m a 17-time bbcon vet and have spoken 23 times at bbcons worldwide. We’re so excited you’re joining us in Nashville this year, and we want to make sure you get as much out of it as you can. Here’s my advice for how to get the most out of bbcon and I can’t wait to see you there!

Higher ed is the largest group represented at the conference with nearly 1,000 attendees representing private and public 2-year and 4-year institutions. You’re guaranteed to meet peers from departments all across campus- including advancement, marketing, financial aid, academic leadership and more.

Breaking Down the bbcon Agenda at a Glance

I really recommend that you get to the conference early, check in and get the lay of the land. The Gaylord in Nashville is gigantic and sprawling. It’s one of the biggest conference areas I’ve been to- so plan accordingly. This isn’t the week to break in new shoes—we’ll be keeping you busy and on the move.

  • Tuesday, October 15

The conference officially kicks off with breakfast and a keynote presentation from four-time Emmy award-nominated actress and humanitarian Connie Britton. Throughout her career, Britton has devoted much of her time to a wide range of charity work both in the United States and internationally. Her message with resonate with everyone in the social good sphere- both professionally and personally.

After hearing from Connie Britton, we break into our Super Sessions. For the Higher Ed Super Session, panelists from Brown University, CASE, Colgate University, and University of South Carolina will join Tim Hill, president and GM of Blackbaud Higher Education Solutions, to discuss talent management, diversity and inclusion programs, the importance of communicating your institution’s value, and more.

Following the Super Sessions, attendees then head to their selected breakout sessions for the remainder of the afternoon. Join Tim Hill and myself right after lunch for the Higher Education Strategy and Solution Showcase- we will be sharing more about our higher education roadmap and plans, exciting announcements and how to learn more year-round. Yes, Tuesday will be an intense first day, but that’s not all we have planned. Later that evening we hope you join us for the Celebration Event which features live music by Sixwire, who just performed at the NFL draft, and special guest Phil Vassar. Food and drink will be served– with plenty of dancing, music and fun. Cowboy hats and boots optional but definitely encouraged.

  • Wednesday, October 16

You’re going to want to have your alarm set on Wednesday morning. After grabbing breakfast and some early AM networking, check out the technology main stage session at 9:45 a.m. Dwight Dozier, CIO at Georgia Tech Foundation, will join on the main stage to discuss the Foundation’s experience of transitioning to the cloud with Blackbaud CRM and how it will benefit the Foundation in the future. This is main stage action you’ll want to hear from the front row! ​

The rest of Wednesday’s sessions are breakouts—this day will go smoother for you if you’ve had time prior to the event to chart out which presentations are most useful. In between, feel free to check out the Innovation Expo Hall, where you’ll find swag, lounge space, product demos, and product experts ready to answer your questions. Come say hi to us at the Higher Education Booth—where you’ll have the opportunity to get a new professional headshot, learn more about contributing thought leadership or sharing a success story (like via npENGAGE!), and meet and greet session presenters.

After a marathon run of presentations, we’ll be serving a happy hour with food and drink in the Innovation Expo Hall. Please join us to finish up the day.

  • Thursday, October 17

Thursday is a shorter day. It starts with a power up snack break, then we’ll hear from our closing main-stage keynote, enjoy a little brunch, and end the afternoon with two breakout sessions. If you’ve not yet picked up some swag, there’s no time like the present. For the last day of the conference, the Innovation Expo Hall is only open from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Getting Organized with bbcon Breakout Sessions

With more than 250 breakout sessions, how can you possibly pick which sessions to prioritize? Since I’ve been to quite a few bbcons, I’ve picked up a few tricks to narrowing your options to the sessions that will be the most impactful for your work:

  • Picking your sessions. There are 31 sessions included in the higher education track, but this doesn’t mean you have to pick this track and stick with it. We try to give attendees a mix of session topics that include thought leadership, onboarding, maintaining empowered users, and filling operational gaps with tech. Over half of our higher ed bbcon presentations feature a customer voice to help you approach specific problems, get results, or leverage technology effectively at the advice of your peers. Our end goal is to provide a variety of presentations that pique your interest and leave you with actionable insight to take back to your institution.
  • Map out a session grid. I recommend that you ask yourself what do you want to get out of bbcon? This will help you pick your sessions. Do you want to hear about technology? Do you want to hear from peers? Deciding what’s valuable to your work versus what’s just merely interesting will help you narrow down your choices. It’s much easier to approach the conference with an outline of what sessions you plan to attend beforehand.
  • Last minute change of plans. You don’t need to pre-register for any of the bbcon main or breakout sessions so you can change your mind day-of as needed. I also want to reassure you that it’s ok to change your mind even if you are sitting in the session. If that session isn’t for you, politely leave. We’d rather you attend a session that you liked and provided you what you wanted to get out of it. I assure you that the presenters will not be offended if you make a quiet exit to another session.
  • Blackbaud University Day. If you’re attending Blackbaud University Day, then you know that these sessions you should have already registered for. It’s on Monday (Oct. 14) and is designed as a workshop session to help you build your skills using Blackbaud solutions. For those planning on spending the extra day, this is an opportunity to brush up on your skills, get questions answered, or simply learn new tricks to make your work easier and more effective.

6 Quick Tips to Help You Master bbcon

  1. bbcon Mobile App – Download the Blackbaud Events app to access the bbcon 2019 mobile app. With the app you’ll be able to curate your own personal agenda, interact with other attendees using photo share, private messaging, and discussion boards, ​receive real-time notifications and updates on-site at bbcon, and more.
  2. Visit the Higher Ed Booth – We’ll be there to answer any question you might have – from site logistics, session inquiries, to questions about our solutions – we can help you on the spot or point you in the right direction to who can.
  3. Take Advantage of the Networking Opportunities – It’s a rare moment to find hundreds of peers in the same space. The conference provides many informal networking opportunities, like during lunches, the Celebration Event, or even wearing your school gear.
  4. Stop by the #bbcon Lounge – your one-stop spot to relax, recharge, and learn in a casual environment. There will be plenty of charging stations, pop-up sessions, and live sgENGAGE podcast recordings throughout.
  5. Don’t Forget Your Business Cards – Like direct mail, the exchange of business cards is not dead. Make sure your new connections know how to contact you.
  6. Create a Conference Report – Share a going-to-conference plan with your manager to help justify your attendance. When you return, write up your most important takeaways and what actions you’re taking as a result. This will also help you justify bbcon 2020.

We want to create a great experience for you. There will be networking, the opportunity to learn new skills, and approach problems from new angles based on the experiences of your peers. You’ll also get to hear more about Blackbaud solutions and chat with experts.

I love how Kim Rich, Executive Director of Advancement Services at the Medical University of South Carolina sums up the event: “I come to bbcon to see the road maps, to understand where the products and services are going.  There’s always exciting news, and it also gives me an opportunity to network with my peers and with the Blackbaud team, the data people who get it and who are always creating solutions for tomorrow.”

We’ll see you there!


As the Director of Vertical Marketing and Strategy for Blackbaud’s Higher Education Solutions group, Tiffany is accountable for leading the strategic management and execution of the team’s go-to-market strategy across the entire higher education landscape in North America. Key areas of responsibility include the strategic planning, commercialization and go-to-market execution of launching solutions and services to meet the ever-changing needs of Higher Education institutions. Additionally, Tiffany leads the team that evaluates and introduces new solutions to the market to affect the entire income stream on campus through partnership and acquisition- one recent example is the acquisition of AcademicWorks scholarship and award management solution into the Blackbaud portfolio in April 2017.

Tiffany maintains a strong commitment to nonprofit leadership and has served on a number of nonprofit boards and steering committees supporting her alma mater, mentorship programs for women beginning careers in Marketing and Technology as well as organizations combatting the many issues that arise with hunger and homelessness in our community. Tiffany currently serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Lowcountry Food Bank.

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