Running a conference without running around like a headless chicken

By Mary Kate Brogan

Earlier this year, I proposed to Elon’s chapter of Society of Professional Journalists that we host a conference for all members of student media – a kind of journalism boot camp, if you will. Wouldn’t it be a nice way to get our student media to come together? I thought. But how will I know how to run something like this? It turns out, I found the perfect session to learn more: DIY: How to do your own conference and why you should… or shouldn’t, presented by Bryce McNeil of Georgia State University.

Anna Yang, graphic designer for GSU's The Signal, created a fabulous logo for the conference. Image courtesy of Anna N. Yang.

Anna Yang, graphic designer for GSU’s The Signal, created a fabulous logo for the conference. Image courtesy of Anna N. Yang.

GSU hosted the Modern Media Conference in 2012 and 2013 after McNeil learned of an old GSU tradition, “media day,” that had been discontinued in the 90s. The Modern Media Conference was a two-day conference that included more than 30 panels and speakers from the world of journalism and communications.

McNeil covered the dos and don’ts of running a conference as well as some of the reasons you shouldn’t run one, but everything he said about the reasons you should made me think of the ways that Elon could do one and do it well.

He talked about inviting successful alumni, particularly recent grads. I thought of Elon’s recent comm school grads (two in particular, at Fox21 and Martha Stewart Living) and the benefits it could have for students to see someone who is so successful just out of college.

He talked about working with your school’s internship coordinator to talk to people who would be willing to do. I realized I had never thought to talk to Nagatha about this kind of workshop before. Since she is constantly in contact with companies about internships, that one should’ve been a no-brainer.

He talked about how important organizing an event can be for a student on their resume. I thought about the sport and event management majors who have to put on an event for one of their classes – wouldn’t helping to run an entire day-long conference look great on their resumes?

Overall, McNeil’s session stuck with me, and I not only got a lot of great advice from the session that I’ll be able to apply to my own pursuits, but I also connected with him and with an adviser at University of South Carolina who had previously run a media boot camp. The session should make it much more manageable to have a great conference that will benefit the student body of Elon’s school of communications, and that’s just what we need.

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