Along with several thousand other Christian media professionals, I’m going to be in Nashville for “Proclaim 18” — the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) 75th annual convention, Feb. 27-Mar. 2. It’s going to be a busy four days with current and prospective clients, contacts and peers.
From having attended a bunch of these kind of events over my years in the media business, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the most of the opportunity. Here are six things to keep in mind that might help you.
“Fail to plan and you plan to fail” is never more true than when there are so many opportunities in front of you. Even if you have endless stamina, there are only so many hours in the day. So take some time to prepare; decide who you have to see, who you’d like to see, and maybe even who you know you don’t need to see! Make as many appointments ahead of time as you can, but don’t block yourself in entirely; you’re going to want to have some wiggle room.
Set yourself a daily schedule. Be sure to build in enough time to get from one meeting to another, if they are arranged for different parts of the venue. Late is always rude, and in the communications world, it also says you don’t treat deadlines seriously. Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by the glitzy things you often see at these kind of events. If they are having to work that hard to get your attention, chances are it’s not worth your time.
This is a complement to, not a contradiction of, the previous point. Be open to the unexpected encounters and opportunities that may come your way. You might be able to arrange a short meeting in some of that deliberate free time you have set aside, or at the very least swap contact information to follow up later. Don’t be too blinkered.
Events like these are all about business — or the business of ministry — but they can get a little intense. By injecting a little grace and humanity into things, taking time to offer a kind word or a helping hand just because, you may find you stand out a bit from all the other hard hustlers. I always try to remember that, at the end of the day, Christian media is about building the Kingdom of God. Even as I go about that task, am I doing so in a way that pleases God?
Seriously, this is really important. Make sure that you have a pair of comfortable, well-broken-in shoes. You are going to be spending a lot of time on your feet, and that can be tiring. With that in mind, carry as little as you can as you move around. An overstuffed briefcase will wear you down. Find a place to store all those things you pick up along the way and collect them at the end of the day. And stay well hydrated and food-fueled.
It ain’t over when it’s over. In some ways it’s just beginning. First there’s the business you did at the event to tie up. But then there’s a chance to connect with all those other people you may have swapped business cards or chatted briefly with. Send a short, but personal email saying you were glad to have connected; maybe reference where you met, or something about their website, to show you really know who they are.
I hope these tips from a seasoned conference attendee may help. And if you see me at “Proclaim 18,” please say hello!