When I started college, I wrote down a list of things I did that made me feel “grown up” to help combat the fear and imposter syndrome I was feeling. It included things like: “Helped a friend move in exchange for pizza,” “drove a friend to the airport” and “sent a fax.” I haven’t kept up with the list over the years since (plus, who uses a fax anymore?) but if I had, “attended a conference” would have taken a place near the top. What’s more business-person-in-a-movie than a business trip, after all?
This month, I not only attended my first conference but helped a client ensure the event ran smoothly. It was very fun and I learned a lot. Here are my tips for how to support a client at a conference as a young PR professional.
Stay on Your Toes
Attending a conference as a PR professional supporting a client is different from attending as an attendee. You are there to ensure everything goes right for your client in addition to all the regular learning and networking that come with these events. As you work with your client to plan the conference experience, remember to have a Plan B, C and D in place for anything and everything that could change. Planning for every eventuality ahead of time will make the conference experience more enjoyable for you and your client.
Every plan you create may require different tools to execute. Think down to the minutiae. Will there be printed “leave-behinds” or news releases to hand out? Better have paper clips or a stapler handy. What if your client is sharing a presentation? Have a spare laptop, charger and thumb drive with the presentation ready to go. Of course, there will still be time for networking, so keep some business cards for both you and your clients close at hand. Even just bringing comfortable shoes so you can stay on your feet throughout the day can make the difference for a great conference. (Pro Tip for longer conferences: Bring at least two pairs of comfy shoes and switch them out from day to day!)
If you’re attending a conference to support a client, you’re not only being relied on as an expert. Supporting a client, especially at an in-person event, means being proactive rather than reactive. This goes hand in hand with preparing for every scenario. You will need to watch diligently for any needs that may arise and address them before they become an issue. My colleague Melissa Christensen once told me that, as a PR professional, my job was to hand my client a pen before they started to look for one. This metaphor has served me well as I’ve grown my career in understanding what it means to be proactive, and it never felt more true (and often literal) than at this conference.
Of course, being successful at a conference also takes instincts that come from a wealth of experience. I look forward to growing my skillset, especially in regard to events. If you’re looking for the experience and expertise that will make the conference run smoothly, reach out to Comprise! Our team of kick-ass professionals can provide a full suite of communications support at conferences and beyond!