Enter the contest to win a PR/social media book by commenting on this post. Information here.
Conferences related to public relations are a great opportunity for networking and professional development. Although I won’t be attending the 2009 PRSSA National Conference, I do have a few tips for the students who will be. I’ve attended several PRSSA conferences at CMU, one national conference and a Ragan Unconference.
1. Swap business cards to connect with people after the conference. You’ll be meeting countless people, so write short notes on the back of the cards to help you remember who they were and what you discussed. (Example: “Met at dinner. Discussed agency work. Has planned a professional development event before.”)
2. Never sit next to the same person twice. Networking was the most fun when I sat beside complete strangers and struck up a conversation with them. If you only sit with people you know, you won’t get as much out of the conference.
3. Ask questions. Whether you are in a session or sitting next to someone you don’t know, ask questions to get a conversation going and to learn more. Strive to get as much out of the conference as you can.
4. Know the schedule. You’ll make your life 10 times easier if you know what sessions you plan to attend and where they will be held. Plan to get to sessions as early as possible. This gives you time to network. Also, remember that some sessions fill up fast (in my experience, event planning and entertainment PR sessions were the fullest).
5. Take good notes. You might be able to refer back to them for a project or write a blog post about what you learned.
6. Be a professional. Even though you are a student, you are at a professional conference. Have fun, but act professional. There are PRSA professionals nearby and some of the students could be your future coworkers.
7. Dress nice, but comfortable. Professional dress is the norm at many conferences. Keep comfort in mind. For example, flip flops are unacceptable, so buy some gel inserts for your heels or have a comfortable pair of flats.
8. Get a decent amount of sleep. With a full day of sessions and a night of socials, it’s hard to find time to rest at conferences. But definitely try to get some sleep because you don’t want to miss a good session because you’re exhausted.
9. Take advantage of every opportunity and session. You aren’t required to show up to sessions, so you might be tempted to enjoy the San Diego beaches instead. Don’t miss out on opportunities to network with your peers and learn from professionals though.
10. Follow up with those you met. When you go home, you’ll be incredibly motivated about your career. Be sure to send notes to people you met and thank the speakers for attending the event. It’s great to make that last connection and you will stand out in their mind.
I won’t be there to experience the 2009 PRSSA National Conference, but I’m sure it will be a great experience for those who are attending.