Thoughts to consider when attending a conference

Next week, I’m attending the PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia, Penn. This will be the third year in a row that I’ve been able to attend the conference. Previously, I went to Orlando, Fla. in 2011 and San Francisco, Calif. in 2012.

During my previous two trips, I’ve learned a lot about attending conferences and making the most of the incredible opportunity.

So, I want to share those with you – because I know that you, as future leaders of EMU PRSSA, will one day get to attend National Conference (or other PRSSA national/regional conferences like National Assembly and Leadership Rally!) and could use some of this information that I’ve been so lucky to learn.

You can even use these tips for other conferences you may attend that have nothing to do with PRSSA!

PRSSA National Conference 2011

PRSSA National Conference 2011

Network. At national conference, you’ll meet a LOT of fellow PRSSA students and a LOT of PR professionals. Make sure you introduce yourself to these people and listen to what they have to say.

Making this connection (more on this later) could help you in your job hunt. Also, at the end of a session introduce yourself to the speaker(s) of the workshop. Thank them for the their presentation and advice, introduce yourself, ask more questions if you have them.

Ask questions. There’s going to be a lot of information thrown at you during the sessions. If you’re confused or want clarification, there will be time at the end of the presentation to ask questions. Sometimes, there’s a panel of professions who are just there to take questions about specific industry. Utilize the opportunity and ask as many questions as possible.

Choose wisely. There are probably at least four sessions going on at once during each workshop time. Don’t just pick a session because it’s where all the others from EMU are going or because the speaker is cool.

Pick something that you want to hear about or need help with. If you really need resume advice, go to a session about perfecting your resume. If you’re really interested in travel PR, then go to that session. There are a bunch of options – make sure you choose what’s best for you!

Make the connection. One of my favorite parts about National Conference is the career exhibition during the last full day of the conference. During this session, a bunch (and I mean a LOT!) of agencies, businesses, graduate schools, etc. set up for students to meet and greet.

Kinda like a career fair. You get to go around and learn about each company and talk to recruiters. Make that connection with the recruiter! Get in their head and give them your business card and resume. Pitch yourself.

Experience the culture. Any time you travel to a conference, you always want to get out and experience the city, but if you’re like me, you feel obligated to attend as many sessions as possible.

But, take it from me, it’s OK to skip a session so you can go see the historic landmarks and experience the culture of a place you’ve never been before. Especially if it is somewhere you’ve never been and don’t think you’ll ever get experience again. Learning doesn’t just take place sitting and listening to a lecture or a panel. 

Emily Vontom

2 responses to “Thoughts to consider when attending a conference

  1. This is a great first-hand account of how valuable conferences like this are. I hope I have the chance to attend one day for the networking and learning oopportunities.

  2. The best part about attending a convention in a new city is meeting up with some of the new people you have met and meeting after for a night cap to discuss what you learned and share ideas and personal stories. It is a great way to take in that city’s vibe as well.

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