A Guide to the 2019 Slate Innovation Summit

This year marks my fifth Slate Innovation Summit. I think that gets me a pin. Five years ago I was just a few months in to working at Technolutions and nervous about meeting my first clients in person (mostly because I was relatively new and didn’t want to be put on the spot to answer a question I might not know the answer to). Luckily, I had fantastic clients who have become great friends over the years (and didn’t put me on the spot).
A lot has changed in five years. The venue, the Technolutions team, Slate, my job—everything. The Slate Innovation Summit has changed, too. Changed in size, in location, in scope. And with all of those changes, institutions are looking for the best plan of attack to taking on this incredible event. I have some ideas there.

Slate Innovation Summit App

I recall sitting in a Town Hall (that’s what they call a company-wide meeting at Technolutions) two years ago when the idea was presented to have an application for Summit. Something I loved (among over things) about my time at Technolutions was the openness to ideas and the ability to pitch those directly to your colleagues and the CEO. Voyager integration into Trips? ✋🏼 While the app didn’t take off that year, I’m glad to see that Technolutions has implemented Guidebook. The app puts together a great experience and as I’ve experienced thus far, it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and plan out your sessions and itinerary. Feel free to connect with me there.

Base Camp

I hear there are some interesting things in store for Base Camp this year. If you aren’t familiar or this is your first Summit, Base Camp typically takes a deeper dive into Slate modules. This year the sessions are organized as Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels. Those can be hard to break down when you feel like there’s so much to learn in the system. As of the time I’m writing, there are still openings. While I wouldn’t recommend it for a new school, if you have a solid grasp on Slate, this is a great opportunity to expand your horizons. Be certain you have a solid understanding of the modules before you get to the session (even at the Beginner level). If you’ve built a report or two in your time, skip that Beginner session. Is drip marketing something you’ve accomplished? Maybe think about portals as a different communication tool and attend that session instead. Be strategic and know what you’re already doing well (don’t underassess your skills). I can tell you—I have a solid grip on liquid markup (s/o to existence filters for the 117th time this month), but if Paul Turchan is teaching a session, I’m there. Don’t forget the champagne right after and if you’re not busy with some deep dish pizza plans, we’ve placed some recommendations below for spots to visit in Chicago.

Tackling the Sessions

I am frequently asked about best practices in Slate. But when it comes to tackling sessions at Summit, I’m not sure there’s one to be had. The list of sessions this year contains some of the expected in terms of communications and workflow, and some newer panel discussions in the thought leadership and Slate Interactive realms. Above all, I recommend finding your affinity group(s) and making those sessions a priority. We all know how strong the Slate community is and this is just another opportunity to connect with your colleagues from other campuses. Here’s what’s currently on my shortlist of sessions:

  • Slate Interactive: Dear {{Preferred}}: You’re Invited to Learn More About Event Communications
  • Form Follows Function: Supercharging your Portals
  • Custom Content for Portals: Submission Through New Student Arrival
  • Measuring Efficacy of Events
  • Leveraging Reports in Slate
  • Give ‘Em What They Want: Designing and Personalizing Drip Marketing Campaigns
  • Designing Data-Driven Marketing Strategies for the Top of Your Funnel
  • Wow and How: Collaborating to Create Efficiencies and Slate Magic Across Campus (mostly because they’re promising magic)

Bring your laptop but don’t get lost in taking notes. Technolutions makes all sessions available post-Summit, and you can always reach out to presenters for clarification. I recommend really tuning in and watching the session. Take notes, for sure. Write down your questions. But also make sure you get a chance to ask your questions during the Q&A. If you don’t, the most important note to take is the email of the presenter (if you haven’t already connected in the Guidebook app).

What Not to Do

Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t lose track of your implementation. Don’t immediately attempt to implement a new feature. I’ve said it before and I will say it a thousand more times…you need to focus on what you need to go live with Slate. If this is your first Summit, chances are you may not be fully implemented. Get there first. Slate is an ever-evolving tool and the benefit of having it is that regardless of the feature introduced, you’re already paying for it and it’ll still be there in six months. If you’ve gotten by for a year or more without it, you can get by for a few more months.


It’s a great city. If you have some downtime either before or after Summit, here are some RHB recommendations:

Rick Bailey, Founder, Principal

For sure, visit Art Institute of Chicago. No collection like it. You can take days to see it all, but even an hour will refresh your mind and spirit. Gaze at the Marc Chagall stained window. That alone is worth the ticket. Visit the Contemporary exhibit and stop in Piano, the restaurant there, and order a Negroni made with Grand Poppy. Okay, Chicago was made for foodies and there are a thousand good options. Purple Pig’s a downtown dining favorite (I heard they are or have moved up the street so check Yelp). If they’re too busy, go across the street from there with friends to Bandera. Order anything; it’s all good in a cool space. Whiskey lovers should make their way to the Franklin Room (Sam’s note: check to see if they have the bologna sandwich) and all others head to Broken Shaker in the Freehand Hotel.

Tammy Bailey, Founder, CFO

This time of year I love to walk down Michigan Avenue. Usually you’ll see loads of beautiful flowers that I enjoy walking by while observing the people. Start just north of the river and walk down to where it meets Lake Shore Drive. One of my favorite experiences is to have lunch or dinner at Café Spiaggia (I prefer the Cafe even though they have a restaurant). Sit in the window if available – you’ll have a nice slice of a view of the water and curve of the outer Drive. Great wine selection, fab food and desserts!

Sam Waterson, Executive Vice President and Creative Director

Al’s Beef: The Historic Little Italy Location on Taylor Street 
This is my all-time favorite Italian beef spot. My choice is the “Regular Beef and Sausage”, wet (“extra gravy” which is more like a jus, sopped on the roll not submerged). The soft roll, unctuous beef and the snap of a char-grilled, familiarly-seasoned Italian sausage is well, the best.

Wrigley Field
Easily one of the best baseball parks in America, there’s not much more enjoyable that an afternoon game at Clark and Addison. Warm sun, an Old Style and a Hebrew National (NO KETCHUP) will give you the energy you need to take all of your new Slate knowledge back to campus. The Cubs are in town and playing the southside rival White Sox during the week and a four-game stretch with the never-entertaining Mets.

The Girl and the Goat
There is no shortage of fine dining in the city, but a place we find ourselves returning to is The Girl and the Goat and Little Goat Diner. Everything chef Stephanie Izard does is gold, so consider Little Goat an option for a delicious casual diner dinner and Girl and the Goat for a more upscale (but not stuffy) experience. Make your reservations soon.

See you at Summit!

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Alex Williams

Alex is the Vice President of Relationship Development at RHB.