Summing up my experience this past weekend at the PRSSA National Conference in a few hundred words is not going to be an easy task. Since being back this week, I feel like a completely different person as I walk into PRSSA meetings, as well as my public relations classes. Does that sound corny? Of course. Does it make sense? Absolutely.
To be honest, before going to the Conference this past weekend, I was skeptical of it all. I have been a member of PRSSA since I was a freshman and am now the Co-Director of Programming on the Executive Board, but I cannot say I truly felt well connected to the Society prior to this weekend, especially on the national level. I knew our Chapter had won two free registrations to the conference and I thought, why not? So on Friday, I found myself among more than 1,000 students from across the country who made their way to Orlando just for this experience.
Michael Conley, the Director of Communications for our Chapter, and myself were the two representatives from IU, beside Amy Bishop, FORUM Editor in Chief for the National PRSSA Committee. The first sessions we attended pertained to chapter development. I really got a feel for how different school’s Chapters were actively learning and practicing public relations on campus. Other schools take agency trips to network and learn about the different types of public relations practices. As a director of programming, this had me generate tons of ideas for our Chapter to further involve our members with engaging activities.
The next two days felt somewhat like a blur of hearing from high profile public relations professionals, networking, and meeting tons of students. We got to hear Rick Leventhal of Fox News speak; Soledad O’Brien of CNN talk about her experience as a reporter and storytelling; Craig Dezern, vice president of global public relations for Disney Destinations speak about international public relations. Past members of PRSSA who are now professionals were so helpful in teaching us about the industry and how we can get our foot in the door. Professionals from some of the top agencies, including Edelman, Hunter PR, and Ogilvy, were all there to share their experiences and offer advice. Everything from corporate, fashion, agency, tourism and travel, sports, to entertainment PR were all well represented and there to answer your questions.
Yet somehow between our long days of sessions, we managed to meet tons of amazing students, dance at a Masquerade Ball, and visit Downtown Disney to pick up a pair of Mickey Ears. Perhaps my favorite part was late nights, lounging around the pool after hours, awaiting security to kick us all out.
Overall, the PRSSA National Conference has been the most beneficial experience as a public relations student thus far. Between the contacts I made for possible internships and maybe even jobs, the driven students I met, and the dynamic speakers, I have a new found appreciation for our Society. We may be small in numbers compared to other Chapters, but we are just as important and pivotal to the make up of this organization that exists solely to help public relations students learn about their desired profession. I urge members to take advantage of the opportunities PRSSA offers and become involved with our Chapter because it is knowledge you cannot possibly gain in a classroom.
Co-Director of Programming