SDC: Behind the Scenes

On December 5, 2014, PRSSA hosted our annual Student Development Conference. Attendees of the conference enjoyed advice from three notable speakers, networking and a resume building workshop. While EMU PRSSA members and guests of the University enjoyed the day, the members of the PRSSA E-Board stepped back and watched as an event born of months of collaborative effort came to fruition.

Our Vice President of Public Relations, Leah Rodriguez, was a critical part of our SDC planning operation, as most responsibilities ranging from communicating with catering to making centerpieces fell to her. Leah was truly instrumental in making the day a success. In addition to her hard work, each member of the executive board played their part in making the day everything that it was. Here is a breakdown of what my role as the Chief Financial Officer was, and what I learned from each task that I completed:

Appeal for funding:

This was single handedly the biggest task that I personally worked on in the process of working towards SDC. Ken Bowen, our PRSSA president and I used one of our Tuesday meeting nights to appeal for funding from Student Government here on campus. I can’t even lie to you – the process was so incredibly stressful. The members of Student Government have a clear job to do, which is to not delegate university funds to something that isn’t worth the investment. I respect the job that they need to get done, and recognize that part of the process of doing such is adding a little stress and a lot of questions to the lives of those looking for funding.

Source: Under30Ceo

Source: Under30Ceo

The questions asked of Ken and I revolved around what the event was going to entail, who it would benefit and other related topics. With each passing question, my overthinking got more and more convinced that our appeal for funding would not get approved. However, my overreacting could not have been more incorrect and we ultimately were unanimously approved for the funding.

What I learned from this task was that we needed to be aware of where our funds were coming from and how we were going to use every penny. In the process of preparing for our meeting with Student Government, I created a budget breakdown that itemized each and every thing that we would be purchasing for SDC. During the meeting, Student Government referenced this budget frequently in order to make sure that they too understood exactly where the money was going.

I aspire to be an event coordinator for a non-profit organization one day, and the skills and experiences that I gained from working with the financial side of SDC will prove to be incredibly useful one day. This experience was a good eye opener to how aware and cautious you truly have to be when it comes to funding an event. Just as the old cliché goes, money does not grow on trees. I had to know exactly what each item would cost, how much money we as an organization could put forth, and how much funding from outside organizations we would need to pull in. All of these things also have to be minded when planning larger or corporate events, therefore appealing for funding for SDC provided me with a very educational experience that will without a doubt prove to be useful in the future.

Word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth!

A second huge component of planning for SDC was getting people to register and come! For us as E-Board members that meant tweeting about it, retweeting tweets from our chapter’s Twitter page, posting about it on Facebook, and talking it up in our classes. Whether that meant answering questions, bringing it up to the class, or reminding people to register, spreading the news about SDC via word of mouth was one of the most important steps throughout the SDC planning process.

On top of discussing the event with my Eastern Michigan University peers, I also was presented with an opportunity to chat about SDC with the president of a PRSSA chapter from a different institution. This particular individual ultimately ended up attending the event and bringing other members from her chapter with her, thus broadening our networking spectrum and helping students even beyond our own student body develop themselves professional.

The takeaway from that for me as a future PR practitioner is simple: Without publicity, an event could very well flop and on top of that, word of mouth is a free, convenient and effective form of publicity. Sure, as a future PR person I will have other means and potentially more funding to spread the message about an event through a different mean, however, the lesson that I learned while helping plan SDC is that you have to use the resources available to you, and cannot be afraid to speak up about something that you are working hard for!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Come the day of SDC, we were all excited for the event that was going to unfold. Little did I know that yet another valuable lesson was waiting for me at the event. Being one of the very few individuals at EMU whose life contains a Friday class, I was very regretfully unable to attend the morning of the conference and hear what the three speakers had to say. However, I was able to scramble my way over to the student center after my class and arrive in time to enjoy lunch, the resume panel and the resume workshop. These tools were priceless to me in my professional development. In addition to the lessons that I learned about resumes, I also gained perhaps the most important lesson of them all. At the end of all the planning and all of the stress, I realized during my time at SDC that enjoying the event that you poured so much heart and soul into is just as crucial as the event planning itself.

Someday, I will be working in the public relations field and hopefully I will be planning events for the organization in which I work for. At the end of all the planning, a very valuable takeaway from SDC was that it is so incredibly important to enjoy the event you worked so hard for. Thinking in terms of SDC, we had guest attendees from other institutions. Had we acted as if the conference didn’t matter to us or that we were not having fun, the experiences that our guests had would have been greatly diminished. On the flip side of that, someday if I am given the opportunity to work on large corporate scale events, attendees would be highly likely to not have as good of a time if they see that the people who planned the whole day were not enjoying themselves and the work and effort they put into things.

Whether you attended SDC or not, there were a plethora of valuable takeaways and lessons for the future both in the content presented at the conference, but also in the behind the scenes work that the E-Board did to make the day happen. If you didn’t attend SDC, you’re in luck, it’s an annual event! If you did (or didn’t) but working behind the scenes on such a thing is something that intrigues you, please consider running for E-Board! As an E-Board member you have the chance to experience valuable professional development opportunities that will be priceless in the future. And plus you get to meet a lot of awesome people who love PR as much as you, which is a great bonus.

Andrea Mellendorf
Chief Financial Officer
EMU PRSSA
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