What I Learned About PR From Planning A Conference

After a year of late nights and dreaming big, Drake University’s PRSSA Chapter hosted a Regional Conference in Des Moines a few weeks ago. This experience resulted in a few unexpected lessons learned that are relevant across the public relations industry.

It’s who you know. As we began reaching out to prospective attendees, we quickly realized the value of personal connections. There were two competing regional conferences within a few hours drive of our city, which created a friendly competition for attendees. Our members utilized connections we made at the PRSSA Leadership Rally, PRSSA National Conference and local events to encourage students to attend our conference. This helped us meet our goal of over 120 attendees from five states!

Always find something in common. When it came to reaching out to speakers and sponsors, the value of connections became even more clear. Thanks to our great PR program at Drake, we had a wide network of alumni that helped us line-up speakers from companies including Edelman, HBO, Disney, John Deere, Uber, and the National Journal. Although many of these speakers had never met the current students and professors, we were able to use the Drake connection to convince them to speak.

Expect the unexpected. This was the theme of our conference because our planning team thought this was one way to sum up the exciting public relations industry. But, this mantra turned out to be an important lesson during the event. After an Illuminati believer crashed our opening keynote, we knew we were in for a wild, unexpected weekend. From overheated conference rooms to speakers ending 45 minutes early, we had to be thinking on our toes and anticipating attendees’ needs before they realized any problem. As public relations professionals, we need to be prepared for anything from social media management to press conferences. You never know when someone might crash your press conference and accuse your company of being in the Illuminati!

Surround yourself with the best people. It started with just three of us sitting in a coffee shop dreaming up a conference, and ended up with around 40 public relations, marketing and graphic design students helping run the conference. It truly was a team effort, and helped underscore the importance of having talented, passionate people helping you achieve your goal.



Lessing-Flynn was a conference sponsor, and several team members attended the event.