A new look for ASRA

From the keynote speaker to the conference dinner, the south-eastern sun certainly shone on the ASRA conference

Rebecca Paddick writes…

With almost 500 attendees, 38 exhibiting companies, seven supplier showcases and 27 training sessions, this year’s ASRA conference was the largest to date.

Held this year in sunny Brighton, the conference kicked off with a lively keynote speech from Kate Hull Rodgers. The director of HumourUs limited is an international leading authority on humour in the workplace. She has pioneered work in the fields of laughter therapy, stress management, work-life balance and building relationships. Kate kicked off her talk with a great quote: “People who have more fun, get more done.” 

As well as discussing her own personal struggle with mental health, Kate also proved to delegates that laughter really is the best medicine, and that we should not underestimate its power in the workplace, with her engaging and interactive talk. 

New logo, new look 

After the keynote, it was time for ASRA FOR LIFE! where ASRA Communications and IT Officer Niamh Banks revealed the association’s new-look branding and website. A year in the making, ASRA teamed up with HE favourites CampusLife to create a fresh new look for asra.ac.uk  

“I was excited to able to work on this project and bring a new image and website to the membership in tandem,” explained Niamh.

“The launch was a great success and the committee had lots of very positive feedback about both the new look and the new site. The resounding opinion is that our new look is fresh, and that it resonates more with the work that ASRA does. It’s a very welcome change.”

StudentCom and CampusLife duo Tom White and Simon Horniblow then took to the stage to present their latest research ‘More than just a place to sleep – the student accommodation experience and its impact on the TEF assessment’.  

The paper highlights some interesting statistics; 75% of students believe that their accommodation has had an impact on their academic performance – 26% said it did so negatively. The research also found that 50% of students think ‘more study spaces’ would improve their leaning environment; 61% think ‘more social spaces’ would improve their social environment.

As well as announcing the latest research, the team also performed one of their typically lively and light-hearted presentations, where StudentCom Marketing Manager, Tom White, 30 years old and self-proclaimed ‘Peter Pan,’ decided to go back to university, all in the name of research, of course. Go to CampusLife’s YouTube channel to see how he got on.

More motivational

This year’s conference agenda featured a wide variety of training strands from crisis intervention, UUK code of practice and finance to personal development sessions.

A nice touch at this year’s event was the increase in the number of motivational talks. As well as the keynote address, there were inspiring talks such as ‘How to flourish personally and professionally,’ and ‘An introduction to anger management coaching’. 

The 2017 event also saw the return of motivational speaker Tim Dingle, from The L Set. After a successful stint at last year’s conference in Belfast, this year Tim explained how to successfully deal with stress. “The training sessions as always were well received; delegates particularly enjoyed the inclusion of more personal development sessions in addition to the industry-led topics,” said Lynn Wingate, ASRA Events Officer.

One slightly mad session from this year’s ASRA conference considered what lessons could be taken from the 2016 series of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and applied to the hot topic of employee engagement.

With a session entitled ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here…or Maybe Not’, Mel Loizou from Fish Climb Trees took delegates on a journey, considering three aspects of good employee engagement:

Have a Vision – delegates had a fortune-telling fish to help them do this:

Be a superhero – not just a hero but a superhero that creates environments for their team to be successful:

Become a Master of Communication – £10 was the prize for anyone that could master Mel’s communication.  Unsurprisingly no one won, demonstrating that the responsibility of communication lies with the deliverer not the receiver.

Of course, no session inspired by I’m a Celebrity could finish in any other way than by crowning a king or queen. The lucky winner from Sheffield University won some ‘Fish Climb Trees’ bespoke chocolate.

“Along with the new look and website unveil, we showcased new themes in the training plan such as Leadership, Policy Impact and Customer Service Excellence,” said Einita Sohal, ASRA Training Officer.

“Over the last year, a lot has happened outside of the world of student accommodation, traditionally our Hot Topic session is sector-related but we took a view to review external factors this year which resulted in animated discussions. Working in student accommodation we can sometimes get lost in student affairs, which naturally allows less time for our own development. So this year we introduced back to back leadership training. By focusing on leadership, your voice and your presence, we wanted members to take time out for themselves. After all we should all strive to be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.”


Meet and greet

ASRA is renowned for its excellent networking opportunities both for delegates and exhibitors, and this year was no exception. Using its great surroundings, the conference committee came up with some fantastically fun evening events, including ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside,’ an informal evening on Brighton Pier, with fish and chips and rollercoasters thrown in… thankfully not at the same time! 

ASRA Chair, Karen Burke

The final evening featured the Rainbow Ball – a formal evening with a colourful twist. The perfect way to round off a great conference. We’re looking forward to ASRA 2018! 

The great reveal for the new website and branding was well received with many commenting on how ‘fresh’ and different it looked (in a positive way of course). Campuslife and Niamh Banks have all worked extremely hard to ensure we are now providing our members with a great resource which has a vast amount of information 

ASRA Chair, Karen Burke

The #asra2017 conference was a great success both from a delegate and an association perspective. The conference sold out quickly and we still had people looking to book even when we had no remaining spaces.  For the association, that was a resounding vote of confidence and again proves to us that ASRA runs the leading student accommodation conference in the UK and Ireland

Niamh Banks, ASRA Communications and IT Officer

Our new, vibrant, modern and identifiable logo was launched at the Conference, quickly followed by the updated, streamlined and user friendly website. ASRA was ready for a refresh and this was delivered in abundance; feedback on both the logo and website has been amazing 

Lynn Wingate, ASRA Events Officer

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