4 Things Nobody Tells You About Conferences

A few weeks have passed since I returned from Boston, where I attended the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference. Over the course of four days, I learned a lot…and not just about public relations and communications.

1. Conferences are expensive.

PRSSA General Assembly, Park Plaza Hotel Ballroom

I technically knew this going into the experience. I was the only person able to attend from my university, largely because of the cost, but also because of the inconvenient overlap with midterms week. Paying the full price for registration was unavoidable, but that just fueled my desire to make things less expensive in every other aspect. Cutting transportation costs was possible with an elaborate plan involving two cars, two MegaBuses, and a hostel. It took me much longer to get to Boston than it would have with a direct flight from Harrisburg, but it made my round-trip transportation cost less than a one-way flight. Then, I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend during the conference. If I needed to pay $250 a night for a hotel, attending the conference would not have been a possibility. In all of my planning, I did forget to consider the costs associated with traveling from Elizabeth’s house into the city…and food.

2. It is possible that you will not be fed.

I was under the impression that conferences provided most of your meals, if not just heavy snacks that could pass for meals. This was a lie. The first night, my excitement for dinner was met with ballpark snack food–theme fitting, but two soft pretzel sticks is not a meal. During the four days, only one full meal was provided. KIND handed out flowers instead of granola bars. I’m still not sure why we needed flowers in the middle of the conference.

3. The geographic location does not matter.

The World’s Fastest Harvard Tour and photoshoot, courtesy of Elizabeth Barber.

I was intrigued by the conference when I first landed a position on Susquehanna’s PRSSA executive board. My enthusiasm skyrocketed when I discovered that the conference was being held in Boston. Two years ago, I first visited Boston: a two-day stop on the drive back from Vermont, the caveat of my agreement to participate in a 100 mile running relay. My dad and I managed to tackle the entire Freedom Trail, a few marathon related sites, and the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. I longed to see more. However, the conference schedule was packed and I spent little time outside of the hotel and the train. I managed to squeeze in a five minute (yes, really five minute) tour of Harvard, Boston Common (mostly because I walked past it twice a day during my commute), and ice cream from Toscanini’s. It was Monday before there was a substantial break in the schedule. At that point, I was happy to sit in a hotel room and chat with my new friends. I was too tired to see any appeal in walking around the city.

4. Your feet will hurt.

Smiling through the pain with Emily (left) and Carley (right), my new friends from University of Florida.

When I packed for the conference, I thought I was excessive with the shoes I brought: two pairs of flats (one comfortable, one uncomfortable), a pair of comfortable heels, and a pair of casual shoes to be worn on the bus to and from Boston/ in the free time that never happened. On day one, I happily slipped into my dress and heels in an Au Bon Pain bathroom. Day two, I put the heels on again; they were more comfortable than the flats anyway. Fourteen hours and almost five miles later, I no longer thought my heels were comfortable. On day three, the comfortable flats did not match my outfit, meaning it was the heels or the painful flats. I went with the flats and got a blister. By the last day, I went back to the heels (with the painful flats in my bag in-case-of-emergency.) At one point that day, I felt no pain. I was numb.

In the end, there is not much I would change about my first conference experience. The knowledge I gained and connections I made were worth every cent. Grabbing lunch or dinner meant bonding with new friends. Boston isn’t going anywhere, the conference was a unique experience. However, I definitely would have definitely changed my footwear decisions.

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