The Significance of Networking at PRSSA Conferences

Many amazing moments were at this year’s Leadership Assembly in Scottsdale, Arizona. From the outstanding guest speakers, panels, workshops and mixers; leaving without becoming a better public relations professional was almost impossible. That being said, there are many takeaways, none more important than the value of creating and nurturing a network. Here are a few tips from a PRSSA senior’s experience when it comes to networking at PRSSA conventions.

How do you network at a PRSSA event?

Meeting a stranger can be daunting at first glance. Though all we can do is judge a book by its cover before speaking to one another, one has to anticipate that the other is in the same boat; this, I’ve found, is universal when it comes to PRSSA conventions such as the Leadership Assembly. Every attendee is there for the same reasons, so start there in conversations. Take off your coat of armor and allow people to know you. If you stop worrying about people liking you and just be yourself, others will see the real you. This creates an open dialogue for conversation, and you’ll be amazed by how quickly your network will expand.

What was the biggest takeaway from the 2023 Leadership Assembly?

As Ben Buttler, APR, stressed, “delegate, delegate, delegate… delegate.” This is fantastic advice for leaders, no doubt. I’d like to alter that advice to “network, network, network… network.” From all the guidance and information I consumed over the three-day event, none was more paramount than the significance of networking that I experienced firsthand, most of which was done outside of the designated session times. As you met people throughout the Assembly, you then also got to meet their networks as you reconnected with them later in the weekend. Before you knew it, an organic network developed into a simultaneous professional relationship and friendship. Also, via pure luck and one night, the newfound friend group ran into three strangers, Kevin Saghy, Carolyn Lok and Andrew Cook, who we learned would be the panel the next morning. As we talked for 20 minutes, we shared friendly banter, ultimately leading to professional connections the next day. You never know who will become part of your network, so take advantage of each opportunity to converse with someone.

How does one foster a PR network into a mutually beneficial relationship?

You made a connection — awesome! What’s next? As Kevin Saghy said during the panel, “You will always meet someone twice.” Remember this while you’re meeting someone for the first time. You never know when they will be valuable to you in the future; and you want that connection to be valuable to both members when needed. Until then, engage with your network on platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Celebrate their accomplishments, send things you think they’d find interesting and have a casual conversation occasionally. As a result, both individuals will feel more than comfortable reaching out to the other when they seek advice, a favor or an opportunity.

How does one transition their student network to the workforce post-graduation?

The knowledge and opportunities one gains from PRSSA are unmatched when it comes to other university organizations. After you graduate, how do you maintain the networking abilities and opportunities provided by PRSSA? First, maintain your networks, as was said before. Second, obtain a PRSA membership to increase your network, knowledge and opportunities as you and the network you fostered from PRSSA transition into the workforce. 

From climbing the PRSSA ladder, what advice can a university senior give others?

In retrospect, your time at a university goes by quickly, so you must take advantage of each opportunity with a can-do attitude and willingness to learn. If your university PRSSA Chapter offers to take its members to PRSSA events, conventions or assemblies, take advantage of it. You will never know how valuable these opportunities are to your future professional career until you are there and participating. Look forward to future events such as webinars, ICON and District Conferences. Lastly, never underestimate the power of a good conversation. You never know what a conversation could evolve into in the future. Have an open mind, treat others the way they want to be treated, and never pass up a good opportunity.

Carson Jones is a 2023 summa cum laude graduate who is the outgoing president of the Texas State University PRSSA Chapter in San Marcos, Texas. He has been a Texas State PRSSA member since 2019 and was the previous vice president of communications before being elected president. Under his supervision, the Texas State PRSSA Chapter increased its membership by over 80%, executed multiple out-of-state professional development trips and won first place for the 2022 National Pacesetter Award. Carson was recently named the 2023 Texas State University PR Student of the Year and has been nominated for the 2023 Gold Key Award. After graduation, Carson plans to enter the workforce and transition from a student to a PR professional. To learn more about Carson, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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