Why Every Chapter President Should Attend Leadership Rally

I recently attended the PRSSA 2016 Leadership Rally in Scottsdale, Arizona. The weekend leadership training provided me with the opportunity to network with PRSSA Chapter leadership from across the country as well as PRSA members and the PRSSA National Board. I traveled more than 2,000 miles from my home Chapter at Kent State University to attend. Here are three reasons I’m glad I did.

Build your network through social media and in person.

I was nervous about traveling alone to a conference of more than 100 attendees where I didn’t know anyone, but I started building my network early. I was able to interact and connect with attendees by following the hashtag #PRSSALR on Twitter before Leadership Rally even began. This gave me some familiarity with attendees and helped me meet some attendees at the Phoenix airport to travel to Scottsdale together.

Chapter presidents (left to right) Natasha Martinez from Loyola New Orleans, Nicole Tackley from Marist College, Erin Zaranec from Kent State University (me), Alana Anselmi from University of Dayton and Kelley Bahata from East Stroudsburg University at the Welcome Reception during the PRSSA 2016 Leadership Rally.

Say goodbye to comfort zones and hello new friends.

Once I arrived at Leadership Rally, I immediately reached out to attendees I met through Twitter. We were all new to the area, so no one wanted to be sitting in their room alone. During check-in, I made more of an effort to talk to my peers than I would have if I was surrounded by a group of friends from home. As a result, I was at the pool with about 10 other attendees within an hour of arriving in Arizona. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly smile to make a new connection.

Don’t be afraid to ask other attendees what their plans are for the evening. We had Saturday evening free, and I ended up exploring Phoenix with a group of attendees and even spotted an NBA player in the mall. These memories would have never been made if I hadn’t branched out and focused on other attendees.

Represent your Chapter.

Breakout sessions allowed time to sit with other Chapter leaders and exchange best practices, leadership styles, Chapter programming and more. Being the only representative from my Chapter, I spent more energy focusing on these sessions to ensure I could take as much knowledge back to Kent State as possible. I found that by being alone I was more dedicated to taking notes and focusing on sessions than I would have been if my friends were with me.

If you have to attend a conference with students from any major, public relations students are one of the best groups to be placed with. Everyone is really outgoing and friendly.

The connections I made this June will be valuable to me throughout the upcoming year and in October when it’s time to reunite at the  PRSSA 2016 National Conference in Indianapolis. You’ll always leave with a great group of new friends from a PRSSA national event.

Erin Zaranec is a senior at Kent State University and is serving as the PRSSA Chapter President. Follow her on Twitter @E_Zaran or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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