PRSSA National Conference: How to bring it all back

By: Natasha Seitz

On Oct. 14, nine students from IUPUI jetted off to Orlando, Fla. to attend the 2011 PRSSA National Conference Perception is Reality: Inspiring Effective Communications. We spent five days soaking up more than sun – learning everything from how to excel in international public relations to how to implement social media strategy.

As a fifth-year senior, I’ve experienced and enjoyed (or sometimes just endured) a variety of leadership conferences, networking events and professional development opportunities. From student government summits to sorority conventions, my repertoire of icebreakers, teambuilding activities, motivational-speaker sayings and breakout-session selection skills is continuously growing.

And while I always return from a conference inspired, like I was from this year’s PRSSA National Conference, the enthusiasm quickly wears off when the routine of normal life picks back up.

How do you avoid the after-conference dip and turn your learning experience into more than just a weekend vacation? Here are my top three tips:

1. Note your takeaways (literally)

Reflect each night during the conference on the three best things you learned. That shocking statistic the keynote speaker said? That amazing, inspiring, best-string-of-words-ever-composed-by-a-single-individual quote you heard in a breakout session? Write those down and when you arrive home, post your biggest takeaways on a sticky note in a place you’ll read it everyday.

Need an example? Three of my top takeaways from National Conference, which are still on posted on my laptop, are:

  • “If it wasn’t a crazy idea, it wouldn’t be a breakthrough.” Peter Diamandis, President and CEO of XPRIZE Foundation
  • “What’s your ‘Disney Difference’?” Craig Dezern, Vice President of Global PR at Disney Destinations
  • “There’s a reason Mickey and Minnie never got married. Date an idea… but don’t marry it.” Gary McCormick, APR, Fellow PRSA, Director of Partnerships Development at HGTV

2. Drop four thank-you cards in the mail

Think about the following four people:

  • The speaker who inspired you the most
  • A speaker who challenged you or taught you something new
  • A fellow conference attendee you connected with
  • Someone who helped organize the conference

Now pick up four thank-you cards and write (yes, by hand!). Don’t just say thank you – tell the speakers what you’ll do with the information they gave you or tell your new conference friend how you would like to keep in touch. Create personal connections in a way people have to remember you.

3. Socialize and share your experience

Don’t keep that valuable conference knowledge all to yourself – spread the love! Tell others what you learned and not only will you educate others, but you’ll be reminded of the details most people forget during the after-conference dip.

How should you share your conference experience? You could:

  • Write a monthly blog
  • Tweet your takeaways
  • Send an e-newsletter to classmates and PRSSA chapter
  • Organize a presentation on campus
  • Host a webinar
  • Bring a conference speaker to your school

Interested in continuing to learn about this year’s PRSSA National Conference? Following the conference hashtag (#prssanc) on Twitter and subscribe to the PRSSA blog.

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