5 ways PR pros can maximize conference participation

Industry gatherings provide an excellent opportunity to network and strategize for your career. Consider these tips to make the most of your experience.

Conferences offer opportunities to step up your game at work, elevate your personal brand and advance your career.

Here are five simple ways to maximize your participation at an industry conference:

1. Participate in the program.

As soon as you register, check the schedule and see if there are opportunities for you to submit and present a case study or to introduce one of the speakers.

Gaining exposure in front of an audience of your industry peers can be invaluable. If you’re presenting your ideas and accomplishments or introducing one of the keynote speakers, you may pique the interest of key people in the field you have never met. This could lead to a coveted partnership or future career opportunity.

Be sure to contact the conference organizers in advance of your presentation to ensure that they will be able to provide professional photos of your participation that you can then post on your LinkedIn page and other professional social channels. Doing this will ensure that your contacts who did not attend the conference will see the value that industry leaders see in your contributions, possibly generating other potential connections or opportunities.

2. Interview high-performing peers and industry leaders.

Check out the conference program well in advance and highlight sessions being led by noted leaders or those sessions that cover common challenges.

Reach out to the presenters in advance and see if they will agree to a short interview, conducted by you, during a break or before or after the program. There’s really no downside for them as you will be promoting their ideas to their target audience and reinforcing their status as an industry leader.

Once you’ve booked the interview, be sure to write up a blog post immediately following the conference, gain their approval and send it right off to an appropriate media outlet. When it publishes, promote it all over your social channels and tag the person you interviewed for maximum impact.

3. Write up interesting sessions.

Even if you didn’t get to schedule interviews with presenters, you can take your notes from particularly interesting or relevant sessions and write up a blog post for trade outlets.

As an example, I attended the College Media Conference last June and attended an excellent session highlighting how to turn your college president into a thought leader. With the permission of the presenter, a peer at another college who had done an incredible job in this arena, I wrote up the session for the marketing and communications blog on Inside Higher Ed.

The payoff was threefold. Those who didn’t attend the conference session benefitted from top tips. The PR pro gained recognition. Plus, I was able to network with someone who has expertise in an area of particular interest to me.

4. Network, network, network.

Everyone at industry conferences wants to share their best and worst experiences, gain solutions to common problems and meet people who can be part of their professional support team.

Sit with different people at every meal, ask where they work and about their biggest challenges. Wait on line to meet presenters in person after their sessions and exchange business cards so you can reach out after the conference.

When I was working on a branding project, I attended an excellent session at a conference led by a peer at NYU who had just completed a major branding initiative. After congratulating him on his excellent presentation and top-flight work, I asked if it would be okay to reach out when we both returned home. He was more than gracious and invited me to bring my team for a sit-down at his office.

We gained quite a bit of information on best practices for leading a huge, important effort from this colleague. Other times, I have reached out to peers I met at conferences to discuss ideas and share potential plans. All were happy to share what they had learned.

5. Keep a takeaway to do list.

You hear great ideas at conferences and may want to implement some of them, but if you are just wishing and not planning it will never happen.

I keep a notepad with me from the beginning of the conference and take note of very specific to-dos to follow up on upon my return. It could be scheduling a coffee with a reporter I met, pitching a story based on something I heard at the conference or scheduling a call with a peer facing a similar challenge.

Conferences provide an opportunity for professional and personal growth and development. Try these ideas at your next conference to maximize your experience and take your career to the next level.

How do you maximize your participation at industry conferences, PR Daily readers?

Ellie Schlam is the executive director of communications and marketing at Touro College and University System. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data

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