What I Wish I Knew at My First RCA Conference
By: Melinda Russell
The RCA conference last year, in Denver, was one of the best experiences of my life. I am so glad I went while I was still in college because I know it will be a completely difference experience once I am there representing a company, not just myself. I had a great time in Denver, but there were some things I wish I knew before going to the conference.
- Throw your printed resumes out the window. The conference is fast paced, every time you blink there are new people and things in front of you. People do not have the place to put a paper or the attention span to care about a full resume. You need to be able to think on your feet. Business cards are key at the conference. People would ask me for my business card and I had to awkwardly tell them I did not have one. You miss opportunities without them. The only time a full resume would be necessary is if you know a company is actually conducting interviews at the conference. Making business cards was most important thing I wish I had known beforehand. Do not be scared or intimidated by the idea. The cards can be pretty basic. Your name, phone number, and email will suffice. Other things you can put are school, goals, year of graduation, and your biggest accomplishment.
- Networking is just as scary as you think it is, but you have to jump in with both feet. Talking to strangers, especially people older and more successful than you can be very intimidating. You need to be prepared to get out of your bubble and start conversations. Before going to the conference, think of some questions you may want to ask professionals. “What advice do you have for somebody looking for their first job?” “How did you get to be where you are?” Opportunities and learning experiences will not come to you; you have to seek them out. There are endless opportunities at the conference, except none of them will be waiting for you. You have to be able to strike a conversation with people. These people could be your future employers. Armed with your trusty business cards, you will be able to talk to people, find things in common, connect with them, and exchange contact information for future correspondences. In this day and age, having contacts is just as important as having a good resume. Which is why you should not only e networking with professionals, but also your peers. The more friends you have when you go out in the real world, the better. It is, without a doubt, easier to get a job when you know someone at the company. You never know where you will be in life when you graduate, maybe the person you shared a cab with will be the key to a job. Which brings me to my next point….
- Be prepared to network, even in the bathroom. Small talk leads to great things. In the bathroom, elevator, hotel, airport shuttle, anywhere you can think of is a possibility of a new connection. Places outside of the conference are sometimes less tense, and it is easier to casually talk. You never know who you will bump into, like the VP of PepsiCo in the line for the bathroom. Never be afraid to start a friendly conversation.
- Yay technology. The handy RCA Conference (which you can find by downloading Eventsential and searching RCA2017), will tell you everything you need to know about the conference, and even some things you will never care to know. The app is already available for purchase. You should get it soon so you can start planning the different events you want to go to, and to see what companies will be represented. Researching companies beforehand will help you when networking. There is so much to do at the conference it can be overwhelming, having a loose plan coming into it helps make it more manageable.
- Everybody needs a break at some point. Above all, save time for yourself. Things get pretty crazy, and even stressful, depending on your goals for the conference. You are in a city you probably have not been to before, go out and explore. Getting a breath of fresh air after being in the same building for eight hours will help you focus and relax.
Your conference experience is sure to be fabulous if you think about these points. Have fun. One thing to keep in mind, most of the business professionals attending view getting to go to the conference as a refreshing change from their office. Do not be afraid of them. If you have any more questions or want a friend at the conference, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.