Staring at Sept. 25 “early bird” Conference registration deadline ($200 discount), I started leafing through the 40-page Conference brochure.
Even after you tear off the front and back covers and weed out the obligatory “San Diego Is Paradise” page (though it’s true), the letter from the Conference chairs (who do deserve major thanks for their efforts), and the two pages listing everyone who lent a hand (them, too), you’re still left with 30+ pages.
So I tried whittling it down with math.
In addition to 175+ public relations leaders delivering 80+ different Professional Development programs in the eight regular (included in the Conference fee) sessions, I count six pre-Conference seminars and an intensive APR boot camp session. The Professional Development is broken into four different tracks to make it (sorta) easier to sort through.
There are also several workshops specifically on getting more from your PRSA membership, including how to step up and become a Society leader. (I think that’s how I ended up on this blog.)
Not to mention the 10 different networking luncheon choices. A chance to connect with PRSA’s specialty Sections, including the likes of Counselors Academy, Health Academy and the New Professionals.
To sort it out further, I worked up a simple matrix covering just the core elements of the Conference schedule (times are rounded to the nearest hour):
Now, include networking opportunities, coffee breaks and time in the exhibit hall. If you took advantage of everything offered (while obeying the laws of space/time physics), you would get 50+ hours of quality PRSA time in less than four days.
Oh, and you might want some time to enjoy San Diego. It’s a pretty cool place.
I realize they themed the Conference “Delivering Value” to speak to recession-influenced priorities, but maybe it’s better described as “Delivering Overload.”
But in the good way.
This brought me around to a game I play to help sort through things where I need to make decisions from too much information. You’re welcome to steal it:
A top ten list:
- Name the one thing you MUST come away from this Conference having learned, understood, or connected with. This can be as abstract as you need it to be. Just make sure that it’s to the degree that you’d be okay only having accomplished this. Nothing else matters.
- Of the eight Professional Development seminar time slots you have to fill, pick one during which you’ll play hooky and do something just for yourself.
- Fill at least two of those eight slots with topics you really don’t care about or outright do not care for. This is a chance to expose yourself to things you wouldn’t otherwise experience. Make sure you challenge yourself on this one. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s career-changing.
- Make a list of five people you definitely want to meet and add to your network.
- Make a point of talking with at least one professional much older than, and one much younger than you at the Conference. (To our oldest and youngest members, you are welcome for the instant network I just sent your way.) These individuals will help expand your perspective in both directions. Listen well.
- Make out a blank page with at least 10 (20 is even better) people you met at the Conference. This is separate from item 4. and will be used again in item 10. Make filling this list a Conference priority.
- Go to a Section “networking luncheon” (p. 36). If there isn’t one specifically for your interests, choose the next one you might have an interest in. Learning about Sections greatly expands your PRSA parameters. Worst case scenario is you have a good lunch and expand your perceptions of both public relations and your career.
- Contact your local PRSA board and find out how to connect with your representative to your PRSA District. Find out how you can connect with them and other District leaders during the Conference. Do so. Even if it’s just to meet them. Districts are the ideal means of getting involved with PRSA leadership at the National level. This is the best way to get the most out of your membership and advance your career.
- Find one NON-Conference aspect of San Diego you want to explore. The Conference hotel is perfectly located to access San Diego’s downtown and attractions farther abroad. Carve out time to do so.
- On the flight home, write personal notes/thank-yous to the individuals on the list you generated in items 5. and 6. This starts the process of their becoming career-long colleagues and friends.
Whew! I feel a little more like I’m getting the most of that delivered value.
If you have any other tricks for doing so, I’d love to hear from you.
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, Arizona) 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 Affiliate Task Force.
Join Casey at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7–10 in San Diego, CA!
Experience spectacular views in the heart of America’s Finest City.
Discover the perfect blend of coastal “cool” and downtown “hot” at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. Take in the relaxing waterfront views, and then get ready to explore the vibrant city just steps from the lobby doors. Conveniently located adjacent to the convention center and the Gaslamp Quarter’s shopping and restaurants, the hotel is also a short distance from the city’s sparkling beaches and must-see tourist attractions, including the famous San Diego Zoo, Mission Bay Aquatic Park and SeaWorld. If speed is more your style, you can rent personal watercraft and powerboats at the hotel’s marina. Two 25-story towers include 1,362 spacious nautical-themed guestrooms offering expansive views of the bustling city or San Diego Bay.
I love this!!! Great ideas, Casey!!! I especially like the networking ideas! Bravo! I don’t see how anyone who follows your suggestions can’t have an ideal conference experience!
Great tips Casey. Even for us grey-haired folks. Believe it or not, after 30-plus years as a PR executive and thought-leader this will be my first national conference. On top of that, I’m speaking on a panel about social media and PR. I’m jazzed!
You are the Zagat man for getting most out of conferences. And you are so right.
People need to realize there’s a lot more to get out of an event like the PRSA conference than just attending sessions and going to a couple networking events.
For those of us who are independents, the PRSA conference has always been a great place to get to know people in other parts of the country or beyond. I’ve often called and been called by some of those contacts when I had an issue that matched their expertise to brainstorm a bit or even recruit some assistance.
One other thought for your list. Stop and talk with the exhibitors. I’m amazed at the number of people who take a quick browse or don’t even visit the exhibit area. You might be surprised at the ideas that can be generated by talking with these folks. And let them know you’re glad they came. Their involvement really does help make the conference a success.
And Casey, I’ll look for you at the conference.