I had the opportunity to attend the PRSSA International Conference in San Diego this year as well as the PRSSA National Conference in Austin, Texas, last year. Both times were equally incredible. I met new people, made tons of connections, and explored cool, new cities. Last year, I wrote an article about my experience at National Conference, which you can find here. After two years of attending, I feel like a bit of pro, so this year I’m going to share my tips to help you get the most out of your PRSSA conference experience.
Sit as close to the front as possible
Most of the professionals presenting are great public speakers and know how to project their voices, however, sometimes students are presenting or there are technical issues. I recommend getting a seat as close as you can to the front to ensure you will be able to hear the awesome tips and tricks everyone has to offer. Plus, the lines to speak with the professionals after their presentations usually start at the front, and by sitting up front, you will be able to get in line quicker.
Bring Band-Aids and a change of shoes
This one is specifically for the ladies. You will be walking a lot, and if you are wearing heels, your feet will hurt. Bring Band-Aids to wear with your shoes to prevent blisters. At conference, you will receive a bag with giveaways from the sponsors. You can use this bag to carry a change of shoes around, whether you bring walking shoes or a pair of flats to change into when you just can’t bear the heels anymore.
Bring a reusable water bottle
They provide water with plastic cups in all the presentation rooms but I feel bad using so many plastic cups. Let’s save the environment! Bring a reusable water bottle, and fill it up throughout the day. You will stay hydrated too, which is a must during the long conference days.
Connect with everyone on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has this really cool feature that I learned about at conference. If you have the app, you can go into “My Network” at the bottom of the page. Then, in the right, bottom corner, there is a button with a person and a plus sign. If you click on this, you can find nearby people and add them as connections. This is a great thing to do at the end of a presentation. All of the students are looking to make connections, so everybody will likely accept your request. You truly never know where a connection might get you. If you want to take it a step further, you can even send people introductions and see if you can meet them in person while you are at conference.
There are several sessions in a row and you will get hungry before the breaks for meals. I highly recommend bringing snacks like granola bars that you can eat throughout the day to hold you over. No one wants to network when they’re hangry.
Invest in a Padfolio
You are going to want something to put your resumes and handouts in. A padfolio is perfect and it looks super professional. Most include a note pad, which is great for taking notes during presentations. I get a lot of use out of mine, even when I’m not at conference.
Here, I linked some of my favorites:
Bring business cards
You are going to meet a lot of people, and you will want them to remember you. Bring your business card, and hand it out as much as you want! It’s much easier to give someone a business card than a resume. If you have a really great conversation with someone, I recommend writing a little note to them on the back, mentioning something you enjoyed about your conversation. You never know how many business cards someone may be receiving but a note will help yours stand out. Don’t forget to ask for other people’s cards. You can connect with them on LinkedIn later.
Don’t forget your bathing suit
You’ll have some down time at the conference and the hotels always have nice pools and hot tubs. Bring a bathing suit. You many not end up using it but it’s nice to have just in case.
Research the city before you go
As I mentioned, you will have some down time, which means time to explore the city. Do you research before you go and pick out things you want to see, places you want to eat, etc. This will save you time once you are actually there, so you don’t spend 20 minutes trying to find a place on Yelp. Trust me, I’ve done that and then, before you know it, your lunch break is over.
Bring Gum or Mints
You don’t want to have bad breath when networking. Carrying gum or mints is an easy solution. Often, you won’t have time to freshen up after you eat, so it feels good to know you have something on hand, just in case.
Rachel is currently a senior majoring in strategic communication with minors in psychology in professional writing. She has been a member of PRSSA for three years and is an account lead for OSU’s student-run PR firm, The PRactice. Rachel hopes to work at PR agency when she graduates. She is passionate about travel and wants to work in the travel and tourism industry someday! She even has her own travel blog (www.theblushingbrunetteblog.wordpress.com). When she's not dreaming about traveling, she enjoys reading, hanging with her friends and binge-watching Netflix.