It’s that time of year — journalism convention time. From now through the end of fall (see a complete list here), there will be plenty of opportunities to attend events held by major journalism organizations. These events cost money, so here are some tips to ensure that you get the biggest bang for your buck.
The first thing you need to do is go to the convention website and look at the list of attendees and exhibitors. You need to know who’s going to be there so you can map out a plan to see key people who may be able to help you get jobs and internships.
Once you’ve done that, call or email your chosen people and set up appointments before the crush. Use every available time for meetings — breakfast, mid-morning, pre-lunch, lunch, afternoons, happy hours and even late night. I made an appointment once to meet someone at the airport before leaving a convention, so be creative.
Make sure your resume and online portfolio are ready to go, and make sure you have a full supply of business cards. A cheap option is Vistaprint, which has great designs starting at 500 cards for $9.95. For cards that stand out, I use Moo Cards, but they are a bit more pricey.
Go back to the convention website and look at the workshops. See which ones offer training that you can take back to your job on Monday, because attending conventions is all about staying relevant in your newsroom. Speaking of jobs, if your convention has an exhibit hall, go through it and chat with potential employers. Try and go during a lull in the action so you’ll have more quality time. If time is short, exchange business cards and set up a post-convention time to chat.
Take a box of note cards and stamps to fill out — and mail — thank you notes to everyone you meet. Include a detail or two of what you discussed to job their memory. Employers take notice and appreciate it when someone takes the time to send a note.
These steps will help you stand out from the pack at any convention you attend, making your investment well worth it.
Benét J. Wilson is the founder and owner of Aviation Queen LLC, a freelance writing, multimedia and consulting firm. She is an aviation/travel freelance journalist and blogger who has written for publications and blogs including AirwaysNews.com, CrankyFlier.com, ACI-NA Centerlines magazine, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine and the Runway Girl Network. She currently serves on the board of the Online News Association and is Vice Chair of Education for the National Association of Black Journalists’ Digital Journalism Task Force. She is the editor-in-chief of AllDigitocracy.org.