Every year, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) hosts a national conference for chapters and their members to attend. With locations strategically chosen to draw in attendees with a certain level of attraction, this year was held in Boston, MA. If I were to be honest, Boston, among a few others, was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go. I would be the first director of ISA to attend, but I would definitely not be the only member of ISA going.
I was joined by four of my peers, who are some of the greatest young women I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. While I learned a lot on this trip – some surprising and some not so surprising – getting to know each of them would quickly become a highlight of the five days I spent gallivanting and conferencing around the east coast.
But, before I get there, I want to share with you all the three things I learned from my time at PRSSA 2017 National Conference: The Revolution Continues.
- Make your first impression count. It does not matter if it is 100 people or one person, your first impression on those individuals counts and you need to make it worth it. As I was prepping with my mentors for a presentation they asked me to participate in, I could feel the nerves setting in. I was agitated, anxious, and I was beginning to get jittery. Whenever I tell people that I am uneasy in front of others they are always taken aback. “But you’re so calm!” is a statement I hear almost EVERY time I reveal that piece of myself to someone else. It’s because first impressions count! No one knows you are anxious or don’t know what you’re doing unless you tell them. As my mentors told me, I am the expert to everyone sitting out in the crowd. They don’t have to know how jittery I am as long as I stand up, deliver my part, and do it with the poise and grace that my educators have instilled within me.
Was I anxious? ABSOLUTELY. But here we are, one week after the presentation, and my mentors are still receiving the positive feedback from how I presented myself. First impressions count, and you only have one shot at making it a good one.
- Small schools can make big impacts. One of the most amazing parts about being at this conference was that I had the marvelous opportunity to be there when Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) got out on the radars of each and every other chapter in attendance. First, this was our first year being recognized as a nationally affiliated chapter, something that I know a lot of people have been working very hard on. To hear this announcement definitely filled my heart with some ONU pride.
But finally being nationally affiliated isn’t the big deal here; the big deal is taking not just an honorable mention but also first place at a nationally judged PRSSA competition for PR. That’s right – we won FIRST PLACE our FIRST YEAR! BOOM!! While I was not on either of the teams who were mentioned, hearing our name called was a moment I won’t soon forget and it taught me a big lesson: Big schools with powerful and strong reputations will always be scary and daunting; but little schools in the middle of cornfields still can make big waves on the biggest of stages. Those teams fought hard and their efforts made me proud. Proud to be a leader, a mentor, a classmate, and a friend.
- Be the leader you want others to be. As I mentioned earlier, the real highlight for me on this trip was getting to experience it with four of the greatest women I have ever met. All four of these young professionals serve under me in this agency. One is in her first semester, two are killing it as junior account executives, and the other one is in her first semester as account executive; I couldn’t be more proud of all four of them for the roles that they are in, the work they do, and the professionalism they display every day; I am proud to be their director and they helped me see the exact type of leader I want to be.
I don’t want to be a director who comes in and does her job only to graduate and leave; I want more, SO much more. I want to cultivate and foster skills within each of my staff members so I can know they are getting the exact skills they need to one-day step into the director’s shoes and follow in the footsteps of those who have come before them. I want to know that when I do graduate, I am leaving a legacy of educational development. Getting to know these wonderful ladies was an opportunity to have my eyes opened to the future of this agency and to know that it is a strong and successful future as long as individuals like them have hold of the reins.
Maybe it’s too soon for me to be feeling this way, but as a senior I can’t help but see the days ticking by. Soon enough, May will be here and I will be gone. My hope is that the ones who come after me keep going to events like these and learning what they might not otherwise have learned.
I stepped into that hotel expecting to be taught, and taught I was. Maybe my lessons don’t look the way I expected them to, but hey – I think the best ones usually don’t.
(AKA Madam Director 😉)
Written By: Kate Cox, Agency Director