ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 23, 2009

The Value of Participation: PRSA 2009 International Conference


A few weeks ago I wrote about finding YouTube videos of Conference presenters to decide which ones you want to attend. You have schedule allotments for eight workshops, which you have to select from 80+ possibilities.

In reply, someone e-mailed a poignant question:

“I tried your YouTube workshop evaluation idea. For one of the speakers there was a whole workshop available. If I can YouTube the workshop, what is the value in attending the Conference?”

The video features Michael McDougall, APR, of Bausch & Lomb — who is presenting “Working at the Speed of ‘New’: Secrets for Conquering (and Surviving) the 24-Second News Cycle” (brochure page 11) at the Conference on Sunday, November 8 — answering audience questions as part of a panel of major corporate communications leaders discussing managing corporate reputations earlier this year. Since YouTube limits video length, you have to check the “related videos” column to see parts two and three.

To answer the reader’s inquiry: The value of learning via attendance vs. videos? It comes from participation. For one, it’s difficult to probe deeper with questions or ask for a speaker’s business card when a video finishes.

Truth is, I also can check out many of the speakers’ books from the library, too; or follow their blogs. However, this doesn’t quite achieve what I can when able to debate with the presenter or participate in the live discussion with audience colleagues. There’s an accelerated learning and exchange of ideas in person. It’s the same reason classroom learning holds strong when the technology to deliver lectures via video has existed for at least two decades. You get more out of it.

Second, the professional and personal networking aspect of a conference outguns the professional development any day. This is where I make new connections, renew old ones and delve into an exchange of ideas with colleagues that forms lifelong bonds, opens new career paths and builds businesses. Ours is a profession not just of “network.” but of personal connections. There’s something personal about those that you just can’t replicate with a camera. Bolster online, yes. But that ain’t replicating.

Closely connected is that element of total immersion. Attending a conference pulls you out of your office— your day-to-day routine — and puts you in a different state of mind.

Third, involvement.

This one’s not just about a conference. It’s about grabbing opportunity. Though an organization like PRSA can dish up networking and professional development opportunities, you get far more out of it if you put more in. Get hands on. Immerse yourself. Contribute your talents and voice as part of a task force, committee or board. It pays off in colleagues getting to know who you are from your contribution. Earned respect — it opens doors of influence you weren’t even aware existed. You can shape PRSA itself.

At the International Conference, PRSA is hosting several workshops specifically to help you accomplish this. To start getting involved (or to amplify your existing involvement), include one (or more) of these on your schedule.

Oh, and there’s always taking a moment to play hooky. It IS in San Diego. It’s a very different experience from surfing YouTube.

Casey DeLorme headshot (1)Casey DeLorme, APR, is an award-winning public relations professional with extensive experience in online/social media marketing, presentations/presentation coaching, special events, media relations, creative strategic planning, and crisis communications. He moved his firm, Getspine Communications, to San Diego (from Tucson, Ariz.) in 2007 because he wanted to surf and paraglide more. He is a past chair of PRSA’s Western District and current co-chair of PRSA’s PRSSA Affiliate Task Force.

Join Casey at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7–10 in San Diego, CA!

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