It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Nope, not Christmas, although it kinda feels like Christmas for college media nerds.
It’s time for the annual Fall National College Media Convention!
You’re in for a real treat (and not just because of Halloween) if you’re headed to the annual convention, hosted by Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Association, for the first time this year. If you’re making a return conference trip, you already know what I mean, but expect this year in D.C. to be even more epic than usual.
I always love the annual convention because of all of the friends I’ve made, all of the students I get to meet and (hopefully) help, and how much I learn while I’m there. This year is more special than usual for me because I’m being sworn in as president of College Media Association while we’re in D.C.
I can’t remember how many years I’ve been to Fall National College Media Convention, but it’s been a lot. As a result, I’ve learned some things about what to do and what to avoid, regardless of what city we’re in. Here are my 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of National College Media Convention.
1. LIVE TWEET AND FOLLOW THE HASHTAG
Use social media to share what you’re learning with others. The hashtag for the convention is #collegemedia19. I’ll meet you over on Twitter @profkrg.
I encourage you to follow the conversation, even if you aren’t attending the convention. I promise you’ll learn a lot, even from afar.
A couple of words of advice. It’s great to share your learning, but try not to spend the entire conference with your face in your phone or laptop. Remember that you should network with those who are there.
Aren’t exactly sure about this whole tweeting conference thing? Read my post Live Tweeting: How to Get the Most Out of Conference Attendance.
2. WEAR YOUR NAMETAG
You’ll meet a ton of people, so it’s important for them to remember who you are and vice versa. This also helps you identify conference attendees with whom you should network.
Check out my post on giving an elevator pitch and have yours ready before the conference.
Also, don’t forget to take your nametag or conference registration for free entry to the Newseum. It’s the last time to visit this treasure before it closes for good. If you haven’t been (or even if you have), I strongly encourage you to take the time to visit.
3. BRING PROFESSIONAL MATERIALS
I am the worst about forgetting to bring my business cards to conferences. Without cards, I have to write down my name, email address, blog URL, etc. for anyone who asks. It really hinders networking when you’re unprepared. Here’s a short list of things to bring:
- business cards,
- copies of your resume,
- examples of your professional work, and
- copies of your most recent publications.
There will be an area to distribute your pubs and collect those from other schools. Also, don’t forget your Best of Show entries.
4. DRESS FOR SUCCESS
You should “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” I wear professional dress all day and in the evening during the entire conference. Remember that networking is a huge portion of the conference’s purpose. Dress nicely from arrival to departure. If I see you in your PJs, I’m judging you.
Note: While I will judge you if you’re in your PJs, I will not judge you if you’re in comfy shoes. You’ll walk a lot. Be prepared.
5. ATTEND SESSIONS
You are at convention to network and learn. Too many times people seem to go to conferences to drink or sight see. I’m really not a wet blanket. I want you to have fun. I also want you to take full advantage of the conference by attending as many sessions as you can each day. If you wake up early and attend sessions, there is plenty of time for fun in the evening.
While I’m on this topic, please don’t be afraid to leave a session if you don’t find it helpful. We all want you to get the most out of the convention. Feel free to session hop, if necessary.
6. SPREAD OUT
There are a ton of sessions at convention. The best way to get the most out of your time there is to spread out your staff.
Map out who will go to what sessions each day, then find a time to get together in the afternoon or early evening to share what you’ve learned. The most up-to-date schedule can be found on the convention app.
7. ALWAYS HAVE A PEN AND PAPER
It’s impossible to remember everything you learn at a conference. You’ll also generate a lot of great ideas while listening to speakers or talking with others. Be prepared to document your ideas during the entire conference. I know it’s old school, but the best way to do this is to keep a pen and paper with you at all times. I carry my phone too, but the pen is my tool of choice. It never goes dead.
NOTE: Put your phone charger in your bag too. Your battery won’t last all day, even with a back-up.
8. GATHER SWAG
Everyone likes free stuff. Be sure to gather handouts, books, pens, notepads, etc. from the trade show floor. The exhibitors are coming to talk to you and bring you treats. Don’t be shy. If you won’t use the goods, someone in your organization will. It’s fun to bring conference swag back to your staff. And, let’s be honest, you can never have too many pens and reporter notebooks in the newsroom.
9. TALK TO STRANGERS
Don’t attend conference just to chat with the people you know or hang out with your own staff. Use this opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. And don’t be afraid to talk to speakers after their sessions, even those from pro organizations like the Washington Post. It may seem a bit intimidating at first, but they’re at convention because they want to help you.
Enjoy your time at convention to embrace your inner nerd. Conferences are one of the few places where you can sit and debate or discuss the minutiae of your industry. Take advantage of being surrounded by the most intelligent people in your business. Learn from them while you can.
10. SHARE WITH YOUR STAFF
You become invigorated with all you’ve learned at conference, but you’re tired and busy when you return to campus. We don’t always do a good job of passing on what we’ve learned to the staff. Schedule a time now to share with your staff some key things you learned at conference. Do this while you’re at convention or the week you return, so everyone gets something from your convention experience.
I hope this post helps you feel more excited and prepared for convention. It’s really a fun, nerdy time. I’ll see you in D.C.! Be sure to stop me and say hello. I love to hear “Kenna! I follow you on Twitter!” I swear, it’s not weird.
See you in D.C.!