I joined the first-ever PRSSA Sunshine District Conference committee in November 2019 because I wanted to get more involved with UF PRSSA, and as a public relations student with an event management minor, this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience. 

Although I had no idea what was to come (Hint: It involved a global pandemic causing the event to be rescheduled, being promoted to overall director, and my team and I planning an entire district conference with no background experience in the midst of one of the most unprecedented times we will likely ever experience), I couldn’t have been more right. This was one of the most enriching, educational experiences of my life. 

But more than anything, this opportunity shed light on some important advice that all communicators can benefit from. I would encourage everyone interested to plan a conference on their own if given the opportunity, so they can learn from experience. Here’s some of what I learned as Director for the 2021 PRSSA District Conference, and what you would have to look forward to.

You are capable of more than you think.

I can’t tell you how many times I sat at my computer with a seemingly never ending to-do list. and an unbelievable amount of self doubt. Could I get everything done? Will everything come together in time? Will the event be a success? 

In the midst of some of the highest stress levels I’d ever experienced, one of my friends told me very seriously: “You are capable of more than you think.” 

And they were right. Every time I felt like I couldn’t get everything done, I would remind myself that my brain is just playing games with me and that I was more than capable of making it happen. And I did. 

The same is true for you. Even in the midst of classes, internship applications, work, extracurriculars, a social life and whatever else takes up your time and energy, you are capable of so much more than you realize, so don’t let your worries and doubts hold you back from achieving great things. 

The little details make all the difference.

No matter what you’re working on, maybe a class assignment, an application, an event or even just an email, the little details matter. You might think they go unnoticed, but they don’t. 

In terms of events, some of the most well-received aspects of the conference came from the little details my team and I put together, like individual runs of shows for each speaker and sponsor in attendance. People notice when you put time into something, and your intentionality will not go unnoticed by your team, your superiors and the professionals you’re networking with. 

And I get it, proofreading an email five times before sending it or creating a personalized email signature can feel a little extra at first. But it isn’t. You are constantly being assessed by emerging and established professionals, and putting effort into the little details will set you apart in the long run, so start practicing now. 

Your response time matters.

This might seem simple, but it’s so important. If you are a part of a team in any capacity, your teammates should be able to rely on you to have a quick response time. If you are leading a team in any capacity, your response time needs to be even faster. 

Throughout the event planning process, I learned very quickly how much professionals – and your peers – appreciate quick responses. In fact, I was even complimented on my response time by numerous professionals and urged to continue the practice, which goes to show how important and meaningful it is. Now, I’m not saying to rush your responses. However, it’s important that you respond thoughtfully and with urgency in every situation. 

Don’t give up. 

Back in March 2020, when the event had to be rescheduled due to the pandemic, the easy solution would have been to cancel the event altogether and avoid planning any type of event in the midst of COVID-19. The work it required to persevere like we did was intense at times, but it was completely worth it. Despite all of the challenges we faced, we put together a successful conference that attendees, speakers and sponsors alike enjoyed.

It might be easier for you to give up on some of your projects or goals. But just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. 

So what should you do when it gets tough? Keep going. If it’s something you care about, it’s worth doing. 

The 2021 PRSSA Sunshine District Conference was more than worth it. At the conference, I, along with my peers, learned from some of the most well-respected professionals in the industry. But what I learned behind the scenes was not only insight in the industry, but also insight into myself. If you take just one thing away from my experience, let it be that you can, and will, achieve great things, even when you least expect it. Don’t give up on learning, and don’t give up on yourself. 

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