By: Madeline Balicoco
At the PRSSA 2017 National Conference, I was inspired by the hundreds of PR students who charged into meeting accomplished professionals, networking with their peers and immersing themselves in revolutionary ideas. Because this was my first time attending a national conference, mingling within a vast, driven network and soaking in an immense amount of innovative insight was a bit overwhelming. If you’re not a seasoned conference attendee, I found that these simple tips helped me throughout my #PRSSANC experience:
1. Get out of your comfort zone and network. As the largest gathering of PR students in the country, the PRSSA 2017 National Conference welcomed attendees from across the U.S. and South America. I quickly learned that conferences are amazing opportunities to meet industry peers with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas. If you’re intimidated by networking or are unsure where to start, try conversing with one person at a time, then with one group at a time. Don’t let your comfort zone stop you from meeting new people. The opportunity to make connections with hundreds of driven, diverse professionals is rare, so take advantage of it!
2. Attend sessions outside your expertise. We all have special interests and niches, but sessions outside of your expertise will expose you to valuable, new ideas. When I attended the session Message in Motion: Visual Storytelling, I dived into video content creation — which I have no experience in. Although it was out of my comfort zone, I was inspired and intrigued by the key information that was outside of my niche. By the end of the session, I was grateful that I exposed myself to a completely different aspect of the PR industry. Opening yourself to new ideas will give you a diverse perspective and understanding of our ever-evolving industry. You may even apply new information from different niches to your career.
3. Implement a digital detox to fully enjoy the sessions. I discovered dividing my attention between speakers and my mobile device was counterproductive. Don’t get me wrong, I love following the rapid tweets that are shot out throughout large events like these. The consistent online conversations during PRSSA’s national conference were awesome opportunities to engage with other attendees. However, I fully enjoyed the conference’s sessions once I put my phone in my bag, took handwritten notes and immersed myself in the innovative ideas that were being presented. Jump onto your social media platforms before, between and after sessions. I guarantee those online conversations will still be there.
4. Connect with speakers in-person and online. Don’t forget that you can make connections with the conference’s speakers as well. If you feel inspired by a speaker’s presentation, tell them either in-person, online or both. Keep an eye out for any contact information speakers provide such as social media handles, LinkedIn links or emails. This way, you can connect with them or ask follow-up questions. Make sure that you express what part of the presentation really resonated with you. If you’re authentic and kind in your questions and thank you notes, you’ll definitely make a good impression.
It’s important to make the most out of your conference experience! My PRSSA 2017 National Conference experience taught me to get out of my comfort zone and charge into the various opportunities that await professionals at these valuable industry events. What are some of your personal conference tips?