5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Attending My First Professional Conference
By Hayley Payne, Social media reporter & PR and Communication student
Attending a conference in your field is one of the most valuable experiences you can have while at university. This year I was one of the students lucky enough to receive the Student Professional Development & Community Enrichment Sponsorship Fund provided by [email protected]
On 27 May of this year, I flew to Toronto to attend the World Public Relations Forum, not knowing the monumental impact the following three-day conference would have on my life. Since returning home I have brainstormed a few things I wish I’d known before I walked into the conference centre on day one.
1.The importance of business cards
Having business cards at a conference is paramount. I had no idea of their significance until I started networking. People would give me their business card and tell me to contact them and add them on LinkedIn and I couldn’t give them anything in return. I will never again attend a conference without them.
2.The power of networking
The saying ‘It isn’t what you know but who you know’ could never be truer in today’s job market. Do not waste the opportunity to network at conferences. Talk to absolutely everyone and anyone that you meet, because you never know who you could meet next. For all you know saying ‘hi’ to that person at the buffet may just be the start to landing you your dream job.
For the majority of conferences it will be business attire. That doesn’t mean that your outfits must be boring and plain. I decided to wear a brightly coloured dress and many people commented that it made me easy to spot and remember; which is always a bonus at a conference. Be bold and show your personality.
4.People will take you seriously even though you’re a student
Don’t be afraid to talk to people. I was overwhelmed by how willing people were to talk to me about my interests and future career prospects. Some of these people worked for huge multinational companies, yet they were more than willing to spend their time talking with me and sharing their knowledge.
5.Research speakers before attending
Take the time to research speakers before attending. Not only will this be beneficial when choosing which sessions to attend, it allows you to narrow down a list of people you definitely want to network with. I didn’t do this and was shocked to see that the friendly guy I had met in a Monday seminar was Tuesday’s breakfast keynote speaker. It definitely helps to do your research!
My experience at the World Public Relations Forum was truly life changing and has no doubt enhanced my career prospects. You can find out more information about this and similar programs at – [email protected]
Do you have ‘wish I’d known moments’ from attending professional and other careers related conferences? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!