There and Back Again: Rebecca Timms’ National Conference Journey from Student to Professional

RebeccaTimmsMany years ago in Philadelphia, leaders from across the nation worked together to craft a vision that would lead to great opportunity. There was a struggle, as many of the best things in life require. But the delegates were ultimately successful, voting to set a bright future in motion for generations to come.

You may be thinking of the United States here, and you’d be correct. But I’m also talking about PRSSA.

Plenty of folks know the general points of the Society’s founding in 1968, but what you might not realize is that the meeting to establish PRSSA happened in the City of Brotherly Love — the location for this year’s National Conference and the place I call home.

Early on in my PRSSA career, I was part of the National Conference Committee for the event’s last trip to Philly, helping ensure that the students who traveled here learned more about our profession and enjoyed their time exploring the city. I couldn’t be happier to see students coming back for what I know will be a whirlwind visit of the best kind.

Having been to National Conference five times as an attendee and planner — and shortly, speaker — here are a few insider tips to make the most of your experience:

1. Do your homework. Carve out time to look at who’s speaking at National Conference this year and start Googling. The more you know about the presenters and topics, the better you’ll able to decide which sessions to attend. Plus, you’ll have enough intel to ask smart — and impressive — questions.

2. Sit with strangers. This goes against the grain of what every adult likely told you growing up, but it’s the way to go at National Conference. PRSSA is made up of a diverse group of students hailing from all over the country, who likely have backgrounds and aspirations different from yours. Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people.

3. Always attend a session. Here’s the scene: You’ve been looking forward to the “Step Up to the Plate: Sports PR” session (shameless plug) for months and find yourself running late to the meeting space. When you arrive, the room is full and you can’t get in. What do you do? Find another session. You may serendipitously find yourself listening to your next mentor or learning about a career path you never considered.

4. Plan out your free time. As a Philly native, I know what our city has to offer, and much of it is well within walking distance of your hotel. Don’t leave without taking in some of the sights, sounds and especially eats! Check out VisitPhilly for the basics and beyond, and the tourism office’s blog, uwishunu (“you wish you knew”), to get a local’s perspective on what’s happening in town the weekend of Conference. You’ll find options to fit into your day and budget.

Rebecca Timms is in her fourth season with the Philadelphia 76ers as their public relations coordinator and served as the 2009–10 National President of PRSSA. You can connect with her on Twitter @rebeccatimms or on LinkedIn.

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