Published on October 17, 2016, at 4:33 p.m.
by Sonny Franks
Attending a conference in any industry can be daunting. But when you think about attending an event full of the best and brightest of the public relations industry — a group that prides itself on its networking prowess — that feeling can go from daunting to overwhelming. However, there are simple ways to set yourself apart so you can be #flawless at the PRSSA National Conference in Indianapolis next week.
1. Look good on paper.
Give your résumé its final editing session and get it printed at least three days before you leave. There is something about looking at a document on paper that gives you the magical ability to spot flaws you never noticed staring back at you from your computer screen as you worked on this document for the last two months. By doing it early, you give yourself some wiggle room and the opportunity to make a last-minute printing run when you inevitably notice that you forgot the “h” in “sophomore.” (Fun fact I just learned: InDesign totally has spellcheck. Look it up.)
It is simply not worth the stress of having to get something printed in an unfamiliar town on a tight schedule, so do it before you leave and print plenty of extras.
– Business Cards
There is nothing that makes me feel more professional than nonchalantly offering to exchange business cards with someone. Business cards give you a way to set yourself apart, make yourself memorable and display your personal brand.
2. Do your research.
This will probably feel creepy, but it can be our little secret.
Endeavor to know the name and background of every speaker in the program. Once you know a bit about them, search each of their names on LinkedIn to see if you have any shared connections that could facilitate an introduction before or during the event. Even if you don’t have any connections in common, this process will help you identify what you do have in common that you can bring up in person.
Next, reach out to your professors, advisers or any other professional contacts who may be attending. This conference gives you a reason to reach out to anyone you have ever connected with through PRSSA and see if they will be attending the conference. Even if they aren’t attending, they may be impressed to hear that you are and may introduce you to someone else they know who will be in attendance.
3. Pack the essentials.
Plan out your outfits ahead of time and check the weather. Conferences held in unfamiliar climates can be tricky, so pack a variety of options and layers if you aren’t sure.
Beyond clothes, there are a few necessities to be sure to pack.
– Portable charger
(So your live tweets from the most informative breakout session of your life don’t have to abruptly come to an end when your phone dies.)
(So all of those beautiful résumés you printed out back home don’t get creased in your bag.)
(Believe me, you will want to take notes.)
(Don’t be surprised when the hotel convenience shop is suddenly out of all mint-flavored items on the second day of the conference.)
4. Plan ahead.
Go through the program and decide what sessions you plan on attending before you get there. In the moment, it can be easy to follow the crowd to a session you aren’t that interested in because you didn’t know where else to go.
If you are going with a group, get together and plan out who will be attending which sessions and agree to pool your notes so that at the end you can all have notes from every speaker. If you’re going alone, make a friend at the beginning of the conference and see if they’ll be attending any sessions you won’t be and agree to share your notes.
These steps definitely take a lot of time and effort on the front end, but if you follow through with them, you will not be disappointed come conference time.
Do you have any tips to share? Comment them below!