Because they have the marquee speaking roles, we’ll hear plenty about Arianna Huffington and Todd Buchholz appearing at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value.
Huffington is known for her politically-influential Huffington Post blog, books and presence on National Public Radio’s “Left, Right, & Center” political roundtable.
Buchholz was a director of economic policy to President George H.W. Bush (W’s daddy). Since, he’s been a top-selling author, speaker, columnist and commentator on all things economic. He has also taught economics at Harvard and is a 2009 fellow at Cambridge University. Oh, and he is managing director of a $15 billion hedge fund. For more, see Buccholtz’s official bio. He’s reportedly quite the speaker.
Schedule-wise, everyone gets to see those two because “keynote” means they’re the only thing on the schedule at their allotted times.
But 80+ more expert presenters …
What about those 80+ other workshops included in your Conference registration? Many are scheduled at the same time as others. The way the Conference schedule works, you have to choose just eight. That’s a lot of deciding.
Though each of the workshops is carefully selected for both presenter expertise and topic relevance, my experience is that program quality can vary from workshop to workshop. (I’ve attended PRSA’s International Conferences since 2004.) Many have wowed me, some have been merely interesting and useful, and, yes, a couple have been duds.
Note: If you would like to be considered as a workshop presenter for the 2010 International Conference, check the PRSA Web site in mid-January for “call for presentations” announcements. It’s an intensive process to pick the best. PRSA’s team works year-round on choosing the few that make it to prime time.
Fortunately, some Conference veterans (i.e., “senior practitioners”) shared with the younger, greener Casey a few tricks for making the most of my selections.
It starts first with content:
- What do you need to know now? Which of these can help you do your job better?
- Where are you headed? Which of these can help you advance your career? (Any areas of expertise you’d like to move to in the future?)
- Which ones sound, well … just cool?
- Personal favorite: What workshops will challenge your understanding of public relations or help you better grasp an area you know nothing about? (Or even frown upon?) These are career-changers. Technophobe? You need one on social media. Hate old-school public relations? Find the oldest-school presenter you can. Plan to come away learning just one thing.
To make these selections, we have that 40-page Conference brochure filled with 100-word workshop descriptions and a bunch of little icons that help give that blurb some context. Not all that different from the blurb at the end of this blog post telling you how insanely cool I am.
This is great for a brochure, but I need more. How dynamic is this speaker? What else have they done? Can I get a sample of them in action?
Joy of joy: Search engines and YouTube. Where presenters put themselves online, it’s a free-for-all for those who take a moment to look. Presenter beware ’cause we’re savvy shoppers.
So I picked three random* workshops from the Conference brochure and sought to answer:
- What additional details can I find on this presenter to help me decide?
- Can I find video of this presenter in action?
- Can I find an actual workshop this presenter has placed online?
Random* workshop #1: “Proving the Value of Public Relations (And Why So Many People Get It Wrong)” Presenter: Mark F. Weiner, CEO, PRIME Research (brochure p.14)
Quick search, specifically for videos, I find Mr. Weiner delivering a “welcome” message for another October event. Now I have a sense of how he presents, at least in a video clip.
I should note the importance of making sure you’re getting the right person/company. There are several Mark Weiners in the world. (And I’m NOT the only Casey DeLorme.)
Also note, this is a video in the wild. It’s NOT a PRSA-sanctioned piece. Nor have I any affiliation with any of the presenters I’ve included here. I simply found what I could online.
Random* workshop #2: “Sticky Messaging for the Media” Presenter: Andrew Gilman, CEO, CommCore Consulting Group (brochure p. 13)
Turns out Mr. Gilman has a blog and does video posts. I can browse a bit and decide the relevance and value of what he discusses and presents.
Yay! I got a sample of how he delivers media training. (In high definition!)
Random* workshop #3: “People Are the Killer App: How to Grow Word of Mouth Movements With Your Brand Fans” Presenter: Geno Church. (brochure p. 17)
Mr. Church has a few video clips online. I included one at the top of this post. Thirty seconds of what his workshops are like. Others allowed me to go more in depth; interviews and even client pitch videos.
Of course, videos aren’t the end-all of how you should choose your Conference workshops. In my quick research for this article, I didn’t find a video featuring a female presenter. (I searched on five different ones.) I did find blogs, press releases and other elements testifying to presenter expertise for nearly everyone.
But, having already whittled down the number of workshops I’m considering based on their relevance to my needs, videos are a great tool for further making a decision. After all, I’m paying good money to attend. PRSA’s staff and Conference volunteers have worked hard to deliver something of serious value. Shouldn’t I really take that one extra step to get the most of it?
Oh, and a trick to lessen the labor: Google’s Show/Hide options toggle. It shows up once you conduct a search and lets you narrow what you see to just videos. (Bing.com has a similar function.)
IMHO, presenting is as much showmanship as it is sharing expertise. Plus, the technology for making and sharing a clip is widely available, accessible and relatively inexpensive. Enough so that I advocate PRSA require a video clip submission from each presenter for future Conferences. How handy would it be to sit down to a YouTube channel where you could essentially “audition” which workshops you wanted to attend? Or send videos to colleagues for their opinion? Or to your boss or HR department to prove the value of your Conference attendance?
*Note on random selection: Speakers for this post were selected by pulling three pages (without looking) from the Conference brochure I tore apart for last week’s post. The pages were kept carefully disordered and strewn with many other papers on my desk for this purpose.
Casey DeLorme, APR, is an award-winning public relations professional with extensive experience in online/social media marketing, presentations/presentation coaching, special events, media relations, creative strategic planning and crisis communications. He moved his firm, Getspine Communications, to San Diego (from Tucson, Ariz.) in 2007 because he wanted to surf and paraglide more often. He is a past chair of PRSA’s Western District and current co-chair of PRSA’s PRSSA Student Affiliate Task Force.
Join Casey at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7–10 in San Diego, California!
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Bravo, Casey! You’ve done it again! Great tips for making the most of the PRSA International Conference!!!
What a pleasant surprise to have your recommendation! The theme of this year’s conference seeks to provide solutions for our profession’s universal quest to demonstrate and generate value. The importance of the topic, the quality of the program and the fine line-up of speakers makes my inclusion on your list even more gratifying.
I look forward to meeting you at the 2009 conference.