Journalism conventions are where you can find new jobs, mentors, and workshops to help your professional development. They are also a great place to meet new friends.
But to get the most out of a journalism convention, YOU have to get involved and be active. Basically put yourself out there and not sink into the wall. Whether you’re a student or a veteran journalist, every convention counts.
I’ve put together a list of tips that I hope will help you make your next convention a huge success. Thank you to my friends on Facebook, most of them journalists who shared their advice. I have edited a few to get to the point. Feel free to print out this blog and take it with you to the next journalism convention.
ADVICE FROM THE PROFESSIONALS
*Make it a goal to meet at least 5 new people each day and get their business cards. – Vicki Adame
*Say hello to each person you encounter. – Zamna Avila
*Network, don’t stalk and become annoying. – Mary Benton
*Don’t stay silent if you’re attending a workshop at the convention. Ask questions. The presenters have made time to be there. So make time to learn something new. – Shelly Conlon
*With an open mind, learn as much as you can from as many people as you can:) – Kim Pewitt-Jones
*My tips are all about business cards: Bring business cards but don’t hand them out like candy to literally every person you encounter. I often print new cards with my social media info on them for conferences where people are more likely to want to be following you online on different platforms. (Most corporate cards don’t have your social info on it, so I bring those but hardly pass them out.) Try to have an actual conversation with someone and then give your card. Don’t just shove cards in someone’s hands if it doesn’t make sense. On the back of every business card you collect, be sure to write what you talked about with that person and where you met/what you might want to follow-up with them about. And finally: DON’T use business cards as a way to add people to newsletters without their consent—it’s bad etiquette and considered a spammy practice that no one appreciates and that can actually get you in trouble. DO use business cards to create useful lists for yourself on social media—such as a Twitter list (public or private) of all the people you met at the convention so you can see them in a separate stream in your TweetDeck or HootSuite (or whatever you use). – Maura Hernandez
*Look professional, look people in the eye, firm handshake, smile, make it easy for recruiters to look at your work. Don’t just give people a link to your website, leave them with something. – YvonneLatty
*Business dress. I put everything on a portable thumb drive, 2gigs are cheap and hold stories well as they also hold resumes and references. – Brian Karem
*Nice jacket and slacks. I agree with Brian on the thumb drive. Make sure you keep all your conversations professional, positive, & intentional! – John Sparks
*Think business casual. No tie necessary. I wouldn’t do jeans. Suit with no tie or jacket and slacks are fine. – Gio Benitiz
*If you’re looking for a job – dress like it. – Miguel Almaguer
*Take full advantage of everything the convention offers,especially the networking. Comport yourself with thought to the image you’re projecting – you need know who’s looking. Whatever you do, don’t abuse the free booze. Don’t get stupid drunk, your peers have long memories! Have a wonderful time. – Ernest Gurule
*Take resumes in paper form AND on a pdf on a thumb drive. Some news managers will download it right then and there. Business cards! Yes, they still like them. And ladies, leave the skirts up to your behind and tops showing all “the girls” for the evening events. If you must wear them. During the day, look polished and professional and yes comfortable. Leave the “clubbing” attire for the club not job interview or daytime networking. Last year I saw a lot of cleavage. — me, Rebecca Aguilar
*Leave the hoochie stomper heels at home – Paula Gonzalez
*Comfortable but professional looking shoes and outfits because you are going to walk a lot, and don’t forget a charger for all your devices. – Luz Gray
*Don’t be shy. You’re not shy while doing your job so why are you shy in a social situation? Make yourself walk up to a stranger. Introduce yourself and make conversation for at least 5 minutes. – Manny Ramos
*Do not interrupt others people’s conversations, Girls do not wear clothes that you can barely move in…You need to sell yourself if you are doing an interview, however you don’t want to sound like a salesperson. If you have any social media please make sure the pictures are descent before adding some professionals to your social media.. Have an email address that conveys your name so that the recipient knows exactly who’s sending the email to… Never use email addresses (perhaps remnants of your grade-school days) that are not appropriate for use in the workplace, such as “firstname.lastname@example.org…” or “email@example.com – Astrid Rivera
*Make it easy for recruiters to see your work.Don’t rely on WiFi in the Expo Hall, make sure you have a thumb drive with all your clips, videos and resumes.I like to be dressed up in suit and tie on the first day, because that is a great first impression.On the second day I’m business casual, then dressed to the nines for the Gran Baile. – Sergio Quintana
*DON’T party too much. DO network, network, network! Oh and did I mention … Network! – Zayda Rivera
*I would say scan the layout of the job fair and then make your connections. You don’t want to look lost. Have your stuff ready. Be courteous, nice and also have something to say about your work. Go to the panels or seminars. Sometimes you get to know “people of power” in those gatherings, rather than at the booth. Bring your iPad and send a thank you note that very same night. And yes, remember that what happens in San Antonio, most likely won’t stay in San Antonio, so.. have a good time. You don’t want to be the beginning of something like this: “Do you remember, what was it, Houston or Fort Worth, when…so and so did…this ..”Jacket and slacks like Gio Benitez suggests. – Sal Morales
*Brush up your resume….less is more when the clock is ticking. – Hugo Balta (more Three Tips for a Better Resume)
*If you are speaking, Keep It Simple. This is a situation where it is better to receive than to give. – Eddie Griffin
LEAVE A CONVENTION READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD
Even though I have been a reporter for more than three decades, I have never stopped going to conventions. Why? Because you never know when your professional life will change overnight. You never know when you might be laid off or let go. I’ve been there, and thanks to my friends I have made at past conventions, I have never been without work. My friends came through for me in time of need.
Conventions have nourished my professional life. Not only have I gotten new jobs, but have also been offered speaking engagements, invites to be a panelist or moderator, and have built my “journalism brand.” Journalism conventions have also helped me build life long friendships with people who I respect and admire.
Now go out and sign up for the next convention, have fun and build on your career. Good luck!