Committing to attend Your Year in PR, whether for just one day or for both days, is a big investment of your time and money. To get the most out of the experience, preparation is vital.
There is nothing more annoying than arriving at an event feeling flustered because you’re late, don’t have everything you need – or even that you haven’t got the dress code right for the occasion.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about preparing for Your Year in PR.
1.Set up a dedicated email folder for Your Year in PR
Redirect any mail relating to Your Year in PR to the folder, so you can find emails relating to the event easily - including when the pre-event call is and the directions you'll need on the day.
Whitelist my email address (i.e. add it to a safe list of emails) to ensure they don’t end up in spam. The method for doing this will vary according to your email provider, but if you Google ‘how to whitelist an address with [INSERT NAME OF EMAIL PROVIDER]’ you can easily find instructions.
2.Introduce yourself in the Your Year in PR Facebook Group and connect with other delegates
Attending live events is not just about the speakers; you also get to connect with like-minded business owners you might end up working with in the future. But walking into a conference can be hard – particularly when you don’t know many people.
Even if you haven’t met in person, it’s much easier to walk into an event when you ‘know’ people from social media. There's a private Facebook Group for Your Year in PR delegates. This is the place to get to know people, pose questions (both to myself and other delegates) and have conversations. Do go ahead and introduce yourself to everyone.
4.Join Twitter (if you haven’t already)
Twitter is the social media network where most journalists hang out - and when you're planning your content and PR for the year ahead, you'll find that Twitter is a great place to share your content. So if you’re not already active on Twitter, you should think about setting up an account and starting to use it. (It's not essential, just something I recommend).
If you’re a complete newbie, this article on how to get started with Twitter is a useful guide.
Your Year in PR has a dedicated Twitter hashtag you can use before, during and after the event (#YYIPR17) which can be a great way to find and stay in touch with other delegates.
If you want to get more experience of using Twitter, do join my #soulfulprhour Twitter chat on Sunday evenings 8-9pm (BST). If you're a complete newbie, read my guide on how to take part in a Twitter chat.
You might also want to follow our Your Year in PR Twitter list.
5. Research the venue and book travel in advance
The last thing you want is to arrive at the event late, sweaty and flustered, having spent half an hour running around looking for the venue. So book your travel well in advance if you can, get the exact address of the venue and plan your route from the station/airport/car park. Booking travel well in advance can also help you save money on attending the conference.
Plan to arrive early if you can (the doors open at 9:15am), but unless it is unavoidable, we would ask you not to arrive before that time. The hour or so leading up to the start of an event can be a busy (and sometimes stressful) time. Allowing us to get on with our preparations uninterrupted will help you have a much better conference experience (and give you time to gather your thoughts before you arrive). There are plenty of cafes around, including Shoreditch Grind, Look Mum No Hands and Central Street Cafe, where you can grab a coffee.
6. Study the conference schedule
Spend some time familiarising yourself with the conference schedule, including the time the doors open and timings for breaks and lunch. This will help you plan for networking opportunities. Many conferences have networking over coffee and/or breakfast before the event start, which can be a great time to connect with others delegates and introduce yourself to speakers. We'll post the Your Year in PR schedule here as soon as it's confirmed.
7. Do some background reading
If there are topics being covered in the conference that are unfamiliar to you, it can be a good idea to do some background reading. My book, Your Press Release is Breaking My Heart, is a great starting point for Your Year in PR delegates (but is absolutely not compulsory) and will be particularly helpful if you're fairly new to PR.
8. Organise your marketing materials
Make sure you have plenty of up-to-date business cards to share with people you meet at the event and any other materials you might want to share. For example, even if I’m not speaking at an event, I usually take along some copies of my book and media diary which often results in online sales.
9. Consider blogging about your experience
Attending a live event can be overwhelming. There is so much information coming at you, it can be easy to miss things. Reflecting on your experience and setting goals can be a great way to document your experience. You may also be able to turn it into useful content for your own audience.
I’d recommend writing a ‘before’ and ‘after’ blog post. Stating publicly on your blog that you are attending an event also gives you accountability (telling your audience you’re learning how to plan your PR strategy means you have to follow through, right?).
Here's some content the delegates from my Soulful PR Live event created:-
Why I’ve decided to attend a PR conference by Adanna Bankole
How to prepare for an important conference by Cathy Wassell
Keeping your energy high at live events – five top tips by Raphaelle Cox
10. Do a technology check
Your Year in PR delegates are welcome to bring a laptop or tablet to the event, but a pen and paper will do just fine.
If you are bringing some tech, make sure all your electronic devices are fully charged before the event. The venue does have wall sockets, but only a handful – some of which will be in use for the audio and visual equipment – so don’t rely on them being available.
Personally I always carry a portable charger for my phone and it’s definitely worth investing in one. I use the Juice Bar.
It’s also worth checking you have enough memory on your phone for taking photos and videos at the event.
Oh and don’t forget your favourite notebook and pen. We will have spare paper and pens, but collecting your thoughts in one place is usually much better than scribbling on scraps of paper that can easily be lost. And of course, you'll be picking up your 2018 Media Diary at the event!
11. Plan your outfit (yes really!)
Your Year in PR delegates are generally casual/smart casual, which is pretty typical of most conferences these days, so anything goes, but if you run your own business, you are your brand. It’s worth thinking about how you want that brand to be perceived and how that is reflected in your personal appearance on the day.
Do bear in mind that you will be sitting around for long periods of time and that the venue is air-conditioned so can get chilly (so having a jumper or cardi in your bag is a good idea). And if you go for killer heels, you might be glad of a change of shoes for the journey home.
12. Design your follow-up strategy (and block out time for it)
It’s easy to leave a conference full of brilliant ideas – that’s what events are all about. Sadly, it’s just as easy to get bogged down the minute you get back to your desk, forget everything you’ve learned and not follow up on the opportunities you’ve created. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by blocking out a few hours (ideally as soon as you get back to your desk) to reflect on what you’ve learned and follow up on the connections you’ve made.
The great news for Your Year in PR delegates is that we’ve created Day 2 of the event as a content creation day, an opportunity to really get to grips with all the learning from day one, and start to formulate a plan to put into action everything they’ve learnt.