Expand Your Network: 4 Tips to Conquer Your First Journalism Conference

journalism conferences header 1In the ever-changing world of journalism, it’s important for bloggers, journalists, and members of the media to grow and adapt.

Journalism conferences are a special beast to allow you to do that. These conferences offer workshops, job opportunities, networking, and so much more.

But, attending your first conference or event can be intimidating and nerve-racking, to say the least.

What to expect

Usually, events with a media focus take two different tracks.

They’re either:

  • Conferences or summits with emphasis on speaker panels, educational tracks, certifications, or awards
  • Conferences with exhibitions with a larger scope, namely publishing, content creation, digital, and media services, etc. These exhibitors include a variety of companies beyond media.

The Online News Association says that attending a conference — like its own — allows journalists and bloggers to “find tools and workflow tips that will help you get your work done smarter and more efficiently so you can focus on those big-picture needs.”

Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief with Bankrate.com, says he’s been substantially involved in planning media conferences with news organizations like the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.

“These conferences are focused on bringing together newsmakers, thought leaders and others while fostering networking and attainment of skills and work-related knowledge,” Hamrick said. “They are terrific opportunities to meet with industry leaders and peers while also learning a great deal.”

Keep these tips in mind

So you’re about to embark on your first conference experience. Here’s what you need to consider:

1. Establish a “why” and set a goal.

What does success look like to you? What do you want to get out of it? Not all conferences are created equal. Choose an event that not only will deliver the best return on your investment, but also will have the biggest impact on your business or mission.

Ask yourself: Do you want to increase brand awareness to get more pitches/readership? Do you want to increase subscribers? Do you want to sell ad space?

Maybe you’re looking for vendors to help with newsroom operations or are looking to recruit employees. Whatever your purpose, research the event and its agenda. Then consider its attendees and whether you’d like to invest being in a room with those folks.

2. Plan ahead.

Now that you’ve selected your event, register now. Registering early could potentially save you money. It also may help to create a checklist.

Stay on top of deadlines, emails from event organizers, and start brainstorming your professional agenda. Look at the full schedule and make plans.

3. Be ready to network.

You’re putting yourself out there by attending this event. Now, put yourself out there. Talk with those around you, and remember why you came to this conference.

“Because our world has become so digitally-centric, it is more important than ever before to seek out and maintain contacts with individuals and organizations in the physical world. It tends to make the difference between success or failure or mediocrity.” – Mark Hamrick, Washington bureau chief with Bankrate.com and former president of the National Press Club

Say your goal was to recruit vendors to help with newsroom operations. Consider arriving early to a workshop to hand out business cards and introduce yourself. Stick around after panels to ask questions and take notes.

4. Leave with accomplishment.

Ideally, you’re walking away with a newly learned skillset and renewed sense of purpose. You also have a pocket full of business cards to new contacts and resources to help guide your company or blog to the next level.

Hamrick encourages journalists, strategic communications professionals, and students to attend conferences and smaller-scale networking events as often as possible.

“To stand still, or to feel as if one has ‘checked-off’ the learning box early in life is to guarantee failure,” he said. “One must embrace change and be prepared to take on new tasks and skills.”

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Joanna Giannell is a Senior Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire. She is also an animal lover and music enthusiast. Tune into her insights as a social curator at @PRNpets.

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