Five tips for the NABJ (or any) Convention

The National Association of Black Journalists‘ 37th Annual Convention and Career Fair starts Wednesday. It’s a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends, make new contacts and find out about jobs and internships.

There are more than a few people offering up tips for surviving this year’s conference and even though I am far from an expert I figured I would five simple tips that have helped me over the years. Feel free to use them at NABJ or any conference you find yourself at.

Bring comfortable shoes

It seems like a simple one but it is one many people forget. It is possible for shoes to be comfortable and fashionable; those are the ones you should pack. Those Timberland boots or five inch heels may look great with your outfit but after a few hours of walking on day one you will be ready to sell your soul for a pair of Sketchers. Also comfortable shoes can help you with the send tip…

Be patient

There are going to be thousands of people packed into a relatively small space. No amount of sighing, eye rolling, cursing or mumbling is going to make a line move faster. Also, at a lot of these conventions some of the people working are volunteers doing it out of the goodness of their heart (and maybe a reduced registration). So don’t get mad at them if there is a two hour wait to get your registration packet. When asking question during panels, some people are a little long winded. Shouting them down from the back of the audience or mumbling something that can be heard by people around you won’t help.

Attend a panel outside of your area

There will be professionals and soon to be professionals from all areas of journalism at ther so embrace the opportunity to learn something new. Are you a visual journalist? Then check out a panel put on by digital task force. Sports people, go check out an LGBT discussion. Digital guys go see what is happening with arts and entertainment.

I always try to check out at least one panel that is not in my field. It a good way to meet new people and broaden your skill set.

Help others/Be respectful

If you see a conference rookie who looks lost, give them a few pointers. Fellas, if a panel is standing room only, offer you seat to a lady. Ladies if a man offers you his seat consider it a kind gesture, not a sexist one. Everyone is looking for a job nowadays, so don’t monopolize the job fair booths. The quality of the time you spend talking to them is way more important than the quantity.

Have fun

It seems like every year I go to a conference I see less and less people going out and the ones that do go to afterhours events tend to be wall flowers.  Avoid uptight professional syndrome and have a little fun when you go out. I know many conference vets will tell you not to go out and embarrass yourself on the dance floor and they have a point. However there is a lot of space between dropping it like it’s hot and being a wallflower.  I’ve been lucky in that I have always worked for people who didn’t mind and in some cases wanted their employees to go out and have a little fun. So you want to cupid shuffle, do the cupid shuffle. If a slow jam comes on and you see someone cute across the room (especially if it is me) go ask them to dance. The convention should be informative AND fun. So don’t skimp on the later.

Those five should get you started but there are others. The Digital Journalism Task Force has some good tips from their Twitter chats and there’s always the NABJ’s official Twitter account. When in doubt don’t be afraid to ask. Most importantly just remember to have fun and don’t hurt anyone.

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