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Dean's List: The Class Act

By Selena Fragassi


“Education is in my blood,” Robb Webb, CMP resolutely affirms as he looks back over the course of his nearly 20-year career. It wasn’t so long ago that he was working in the conference planning department at Bentley University in Massachusetts—but in 2011, he came across an opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk by joining Envision as its director of conference services in Washington, D.C. In his new role, Webb now becomes the planner organizing experiential programs for career-minded students where they can shadow fields of interest by visiting resident doctors at hospitals or seeing court lawyers in action.

“Envision was actually a client of mine at Bentley,” says Webb, “and one night I was talking with my predecessor who was getting ready to leave the organization, and I thought it would be a good fit for me having been in higher education for so long. It was a big decision for my family, but I’ve never looked back.” Webb fills us in on how he made the transition, his biggest piece of advice for planners looking to host in a collegiate setting and what improvements still need to be made.

Unique Venues: Was the transition from client relations to employee of Envision challenging?
Robb Webb: “Knowing I would be working with so many colleges in my new role made me really excited. I met so many different people in the collegiate industry across the country over the years, which made it easier because I felt like it would be a comfortable fit.”

UV: How often do you get to book with campuses for Envision’s programs?
RW: “It’s about 75% colleges and universities, 25% hotels, which is up from a 50-50 split. It’s important for us to use campuses to give students the feel of sleeping in dorms and eating in dining halls. That being said, hotels are still a big value partner because we have year-round programs or curriculums that are better suited to a hotel layout.”

UV: Having now been on both sides of job, what do you see as some of the areas where collegiate services need to improve?
RW: “ Definitely the one-stop shop certification. As a planner it’s so helpful. It doesn’t mean I won’t book with a place that is not certified, but it’s certainly an advantage. I book 85 sites a year with at least 85 contracts, so if there’s just one person I need to communicate with that’s great for me. Another area is the booking policies. We like to commit a year out and tell students where we will be next summer to get our early enrollments up, but a lot of universities can’t commit that far in advance. I know their hands are tied with internal clients, but even a soft promise and working with teams goes a long way in getting more business.”

UV: What is your biggest piece of advice for planners interesting in booking a meeting or event on a campus?
RW: “It’s beneficial speaking with other planners who have done so. Most schools are happy to give references so you should call a planner who has been there before and get their feedback on the process and how it works.”

UV: What are some of your biggest personal achievements over the years?
RW: “Being a husband and father number one, but it was also a proud moment getting my MBA after years of balancing work and little kids at the time and going to school at night. I was also honored to have been president of ACCED-I. That was one of the best times of my career.”

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