How to Navigate National Conference

Photo Courtesy of Scripps PRSSA
Photo Courtesy of Scripps PRSSA

As public relations students, we’ve heard the phrase “get involved” a million times. However, the real challenge is not just listening to those words, but actually acting upon them. With the PRSSA 2013 National Conference right around the corner, there is no better time to get involved, and no matter your position in your Chapter — whether it be Chapter president or new member — there are opportunities for everyone.

I attended National Conference for the first time as a sophomore, and although I was a young attendee, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. For those of you that are #PRSSANC first-timers, here is a preparation guide:

Make business cards. Make business cards and hand them out to people you’d like to network with. You will cross paths with hundreds of people, ranging from Chapter members and advisers to CEOs and new professionals, and you will want to be prepared. Include pertinent information, including name, university, major, graduation date, email, phone number, personal website address and Twitter handle. Create a unique design or format for your business card that reflects your personality — you will stand out among the crowd and others will remember you.

Sit in the front row.  If you’re at a session with a speaker that interests you, sit in the front row and ask questions during the Q-and-A period. They will be more likely to remember you if you are actively engaged, and you will be able to reach them quicker once the session is over to talk to them one-on-one.

Bring your phone charger. At National Conference, you will be taking a ton of pictures, live-tweeting and adding people on LinkedIn, so be prepared for your phone to die at least once or twice throughout the day. Bring your charger or backup battery case to make sure you have enough juice to last throughout the day. #PRprobs

Attend the Career Development Exhibition. At the Career Development Exhibition, recruiters, HR reps and professionals from different companies like Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum and General Motors will be available to speak with you so you can explore potential opportunities. This is a great networking event, and it gives you the chance to learn more about different companies, as well as available jobs and internships. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job or an internship, you can expand your network and call upon those professionals you met at National Conference when you do decide to enter the job or internship hunt.

Make new friends. You are about to attend a Conference with thousands of students who have interests similar to yours. Instead of sticking with your Chapter the whole time, try branching out and meeting students from other Chapters, or get to know your region better. These are the people that will be your co-workers one day, and it will be beneficial to have connections all over the country.

Have FUN! Although this Conference is about professional development and networking, it is also meant to be fun. Attend the 1920s-themed Opening Night Celebration; explore Philly and step out of your comfort zone. The best way to make the most of your experience is to just try everything and have fun while doing it.

Do you have any other ideas on how to navigate National Conference? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Cidnye Weimer is a junior strategic communications major at Ohio University in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is also pursuing a business administration minor and a Global Leadership Certificate. Cidnye is the vice president of social media for ScrippsPRSSA and this will be her second time attending National Conference. Follow her @CidnyeWeimer or add her on LinkedIn

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