When the room is filled with communications professionals, you’d expect the networking session at the W100 Annual Conference to be a lively affair. And it is. If you could listen in to the conversations taking place, you would hear colleagues sharing their experiences with peers from across the world.

A communications director of an Australian university, which, for the first time, will soon be assessed on the impact of its research, talks to a communications director at a UK university who has already been through the long, arduous, process.

A delegate from Japan, where universities increasingly need to attract international students in order to survive and where the concept of marketing is relatively new, learns from the UK and Dutch delegates whose universities have a long tradition of internationalisation.

A delegate from Finland, a country that has faced huge cuts in its education budget, talks to delegates from other countries about how her institution is coping.

A communications director at a highly devolved Dutch university where every faculty has their own agenda, shares her experiences of managing reputation with a communications director from a Canadian university with a large, centralised communications team.

A vice-president at an American university shares his experiences of restructuring his team and integrating the digital function with a UK communications director who is currently going through the same, painful, process.

It’s surprising how honest, open and frank the delegates are being – sharing their experiences, their worries, their successes. At a very basic level, these are all competitors, competing for attention from the students of the world, for research funding, for the best staff.

But by sharing they are all benefiting and learning. Many are finding that they are facing the same challenges in their jobs, no matter what part of the world they come from. It’s reassuring to know that you are not the only one facing cuts, restructuring, increasing competition or more scrutiny.

Many seem to know each other well, greeting each other like long lost friends. Others are meeting for the first time, realising they have acquaintances in common or shared experiences. The W100 Annual Conference really is a unique event, and judging by the activity on social media, it’s highly valued by the people that attend.

See you at next year’s event in Utrecht!