Believe me, when I say, your paper could be much more significant than you realize.

There’s an inherent sense of adventure within us, a yearning to explore new possibilities and embrace novel experiences. College conferences offer the perfect avenue for satiating this desire, with countless opportunities for students to either attend or present their research papers. While you might be aware of conferences related to your field, you may question their significance. Allow me, a second-year graduate student in communication, to shed light on what you can gain from these conferences, drawing from my own experience of presenting at the annual international conference of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

First and foremost, conferences offer a platform to connect with a diverse array of individuals. This presents a golden opportunity to engage with key figures who can significantly impact your academic and professional journey. You might meet a professor you wish to collaborate with or join their university program, encounter successful professionals from whom you can learn, or find like-minded students for knowledge exchange. It’s crucial to put yourself out there, ask insightful questions, and make lasting impressions. My interactions with professors and professionals at the PRSA conference not only enriched my understanding of the PR industry but also introduced me to numerous Ph.D. programs in communication. Expanding your network and learning from experts in your field becomes possible through these connections.

Secondly, conferences provide an arena to enhance your public speaking skills and refine your research based on valuable feedback. While not all students get the chance to present, if you do, make the most of it. I presented a research proposal that initially seemed destined to remain confined to classwork. However, my professor encouraged me to submit it to PRSA, and it was accepted. This opportunity allowed me to develop my presentation skills, and based on the feedback I received, it turned out to be the most engaging presentation on my panel.

Last but not least, your conference presentation can shine brightly on your curriculum vitae (CV). Undergraduate and master’s students are not generally expected to present at conferences, which gives those who do an edge, showcasing their dedication and academic excellence. Furthermore, your presentation might lead to publications, scholarships, or even awards with cash prizes. In my case, I was honored with the Betsy Plank Award for the best graduate student paper. This recognition is not just gratifying but also advantageous for your academic and professional future.

Now, you might wonder about the process of actually attending a conference. The key steps involve ensuring you have a relevant paper, following formatting guidelines, meeting submission deadlines, booking accommodations and flights, securing funding (consider the Student Research and Travel grant or faculty consultations), and preparing thoroughly for the conference itself.

In conclusion, conferences come with their challenges, but isn’t life all about overcoming obstacles? As the saying goes, “Good things don’t come easy.” Embrace the challenge, place yourself in demanding situations, and once you weather the storm, you’ll bask in the sunny shores of accomplishment and personal growth.

There is a sense of adventure in all of us. A burning desire to unlock new possibilities and live new experiences. One place to satisfy this desire is college conferences. There are thousands of conferences where students can either attend or submit their papers for presentation. You probably know some of the conferences you can attend related to your field, but you may ask yourself: Why should I? Is it really important? Do I have what it takes? What should I do there? Does it give me any benefits? Oh yes. I am a second-year graduate student of communication, and I am going to tell you exactly what you can gain by going to conferences based on my own experience of presenting at the annual international conference of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

First and foremost, you get to meet so many people at different conferences. This gives you a golden opportunity to introduce yourself to key figures that may directly or indirectly. You could meet a professor you would like to work with or even join their university’s program. You could meet a successful professional you would like to learn from. Or you could find other students like yourself to connect with to exchange thoughts and ideas. You want to take the extra step and meet with anyone you can. I met with many professors and professionals at the PRSA conference. They helped me gain more insight into the PR industry and introduced me to many Ph.D. programs in communication. It is important to put your name out there. Ask good questions and make them remember you. All of this allows you to expand your network and learn from experts in your field.

Second, you can improve your public speaking skills as well as your research based on feedback. We do not always get to present at a conference, but when we do, we need to take advantage of it. I wrote a simple but detailed and extensive research proposal in a research methodologies class with no expectations of ever presenting it to anyone, let alone at a conference. However, my professor encouraged me to submit it to PRSA and see if they were interested. Sure enough, they got back to me after six weeks in late July and asked me to present my paper at their conference in mid October. I used my presentation techniques to keep my presentation structured. Sure enough, based on my audience’s feedback, it was clearly the most intriguing one they listened to on my panel.

Third and lastly, your presentation at a conference would serve as a shining star on your curriculum vitae (CV). Conference presentations are not expected of bachelor’s and master’s students. Therefore, they give those who have it an advantage over everyone else and show a student’s dedication and academic excellence. And you never know. Your presentation may even get you a publication, scholarship, or an award with some prize money. In my case, I won the Betsy Plank Award for the best graduate student paper. It feels really nice when you get recognition like this. Trust me. Now this is all well and good, but “What is the process of actually going to a conference?”, you may ask.

Most importantly, you need to have a relevant paper for the conference you want to submit to. Believe me, when I say, your paper could be much more significant than you realize. So, do not underestimate it and go for it. Once you have made sure you are eligible for your conference of choice, remember to meticulously follow the instructions to format your paper. Make sure it fully fits the conference’s description. And of course, make sure you do not miss the submission deadline. Once you have been accepted to attend or present at a conference, make sure to book your hotel and flights as soon as possible. Speaking of booking, funding is another concern for all of us. A great source is the Student Research and Travel grant by the Office of Student Research. Also, do not shy away from consulting with your faculty members for additional funding. Finally, make certain that you are prepared for the conference itself. Prepare to attend or present, network, follow the dress code, and other preparations as necessary. If you prepare accordingly, it will be an experience you will never forget.

In the end, there are many difficult challenges that you should face when going to a conference. But is that not everyday life? It truly is as they say, “Good things do not come easy”. Challenge yourself. Put yourself in tough situations. And once you have passed the stormy sea, you will witness your growth and be proud of what you have achieved on the calm sunny shores of victory.

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