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ExPRessions :: Guest Post :: Five Steps for Students for an Awesome Conference Experience

Guest Post by Hannah DeMilta

There are several upcoming conferences for students and professionals this spring season. At Otterbein College we are excited to be hosting PaRtners Conference on April 24th. This year’s theme is the PR Olympics and registration is open to all students online now. I’ve attended several similar conferences as an undergraduate and wanted to share some of my experiences and ideas of how to get the most from these events. (Sign up here for the PaRtners Conference)

Step One: Check registration options. Making the decision to register early is always smart so you can save on costs. Also, plan ahead and take advantage of group rates if they are offered. If you are really looking to cut costs see if they offer an option to volunteer for free or reduced registration. If they don’t have a student registration rate listed, don’t be afraid to ask. It might pay off in the end. PaRtners Conference early registration has passed but you do save $10 by registering before, avoid paying at the door.

Step Two: Do you your homework. Are the speakers and session topics listed online? Do you know the city or region where the event is being hosted? Are there are other networking opportunities or tweet ups being planned in conjunction with the conference? Check out both the official website for some facts, but also listen to others attendees. You can read the session descriptions and speaker bios for PaRtners Conference online here. We also encourage attendees to hang out with us at the un-official Old Bag mixer after the conference.

Step Three: Have a game plan. Know what sessions you want to attend and who you want to meet. This is especially important at larger conferences but it doesn’t hurt for the small ones as well. I can almost guarantee this will change once you arrive but it doesn’t hurt. I used this mentality this past month when attending SXSW interactive in Austin. I had a plan but was flexible and open to change.

Step Four: Set up your own opportunities. If you are traveling somewhere out of your normal network take the opportunity to network outside of just the planned conference activities. Set up meetings or tours. If you are with a PRSSA group, perhaps take an agency tour or meet with local alum in that area. There are some great places to visit in Columbus, if you want more information or need recommendations please let us know.

Step Five: Network online. Thanks to social media there are many opportunities to network with presenters and other attendees before you even arrive at the conference. For PaRtners Conference we created a Twitter list of all organizers, speakers and registered attendees to help you find people. Begin to build relationships and gain name recognition beforehand. It will be way more beneficial when you’re trying to network in person at the event.

I hope that you have fun at any conference you may attend this spring and of course encourage you to consider visiting us in Columbus for PaRtenrs Conference. Follow the conversation on Twitter: #ocpartners

Sign up here: http://centralohiopartners.eventbrite.com/

Hannah DeMilta is the site manager at SportsNetworker.com and a senior public relations major at Otterbein College. She is serving as the Director of Programs for PaRtners Conference. Please feel free to email Hannah.DeMilta [at] otterbein.edu or connect via Twitter @HannahDeMilta


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Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.