This Saturday I attended Her Conference, a conference for young, awesome college women from all over to come together and learn from inspiring and hardworking speakers in the media industry (and each other!). I’m a writer at my school’s chapter of Her Campus and I’m also a member of Her Campus’s InfluencerHer Collective for bloggers, so I really couldn’t wait to hang out with other girls who do the same thing as me and maybe even want to go into the same industry.
It was a two-day conference but I only attended the Saturday portion, which was INCREDIBLY life-changing in so many ways. I didn’t want that to sound cliche, but it’s really how I feel about my experience, but if it helps I don’t call too many things ‘life-changing.’ Anyway, everything was spectacular from start to finish so I’ve decided to tell you all about it! I’m not gonna lie; this post is pretty long so please bear with me! I’ve split up my thoughts into two categories to make things more organized because not only did attending my first ~fancy~ NYC conference give me important life/career advice, it also taught me a lesson or two about conferences in general! So without making this post any longer than it needs to be, here’s what I learned this weekend. Oh, btw, this is NOT a sponsored post! I just want to share my experience with you and maybe even hear some of your experiences too!
When attending conferences…
1. Know exactly how to get to the conference location.
Getting lost on your big day can be really stressful! The last thing you want is to ruin your hair, hurt your feet from walking extra, and sweat through your clothes in the summer heat trying to find the location. I was able to scope out the area a few days before the conference so that day of I wouldn’t have to figure out where to turn or how far to walk. If you’re able to do this, I definitely suggest it. But if you can’t, at least know exactly what transportation you’d need to get you there and how long it would take so that you can plan ahead and allow enough time to find your destination.
2. Also know more than one way to get there!
After I hopped off the train the morning of the event, I started heading down the street the way I had done a few days before. I was going to make a left across the street, except I couldn’t…the amazingness of Manhattan decided to make an appearance that morning in the form of a movie set in the middle of the street!! I was told that I couldn’t walk there and needed to turn in a different direction. Great. This was NOT the route I practiced! I knew I’d screw myself over without exact directions, so I used a GPS app on my phone and luckily it worked really well and still got me to the conference on time! If you’re using public transportation, it’s also a good idea to know alternative buses or trains because delays and service changes can occur and you need to be prepared!
3. Always bring proof of registration.
Check-in went smoothly for me, but if you’re attending ANY event that you had to register for in advanced, always bring proof that you did in fact sign up (especially if you weren’t able to print out a physical confirmation!). Take a picture on your phone and save it as proof. It would absolutely suck if you came all that way only to not be admitted because you didn’t have proof of registration. And if you do have a physical ticket printout, DON’T FORGET TO BRING IT WITH YOU!
4. Always know where the bathroom is.
Even if you don’t need to use the bathroom right that very second, at least know where it is in relation to everything else because you might need to pop in there to touch up your makeup, fix your hair, or pee after all the hydration you’ve been giving yourself. Bathrooms are also one of the most important places you should be able to find no matter where you go — class in a new lecture hall; the movie theatre; another country.
5. Be ready to take notes.
I know you’ll probably feel like you’re back in class taking notes, but bring a small notebook or journal and a pen. At Her Conference, we actually received a really cute spiral journal, but you should still come prepared just in case. I heard so many inspirational words from speakers like fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff and Editor-in-Chief of SELF Joyce Chang, and I wanted to be able to remember that, and remember the pieces of advice we got from them and panelists. Don’t think that you’ll be able to remember everything in the heat of the moment, because I guarantee that after you get home, crash on your bed and wake up the next morning, you would have forgotten half the amazing advice you were given.
6. Free stuff is and always will be GLORIOUS.
Holy mother of all that is free and fabulous. I knew that we would be getting some free goodies from sponsors like ULTA (yaaaassssss), Tinder, and Vera Bradley, not to mention a free lunch courtesy of the ever-amazing Shake Shack, but I didn’t expect to get THIS much free stuff! I got full-sized cosmetics, magazines, a t-shirt, and way more! There was also a table set up where Suja, this awesome brand of organic cold pressed juices, was set up so we could speak to the rep about the juices and get free bottles of their probiotic waters and juices. I tried the Pineapple and Cayenne (strange combo, right!?!?) probiotic water and it was SO tasty! I really want to try more of their drinks now. Another freebie fave of mine is a tube of Urban Decay’s Vice lipstick in ‘Firebird’. It’s such a gorgeous purple-y lipstick! Even if you don’t get basically a suitcase of free things, whatever items you do get will certainly be useful, be it pens, water bottles (yassss), or notepads.
7. Pockets are Godsent.
I was wearing this green button down dress and I’m not used to wearing things that actually have real pockets (not fake ones!) so I was pleasantly surprised to find that my dress had pockets! I had been stuffing my phone into my handbag because I didn’t want to hold it in my hand and drop it should I accidentally bump into someone. But after realizing I had good, deep pockets I started keeping it there. It was way easier to pull it out to snap a picture! If you can wear something with pockets, you’re golden. You will thank yourself!
8. Bring a small bag that’s still big enough to hold all your necessities.
Thank goodness my bag wasn’t too big because I would’ve had a really hard time walking around with that and my giant conference swag bag! In case you’re curious, I packed my wallet, phone, portable charger, blotting sheets, lipstick, a small journal, a pen, and business cards. Large handbags aren’t necessary, unless you have so many items that you actually need to bring a large handbag (and even so, make sure you’ll actually need everything that you bring).
9. Dress comfortably!
I wore the green dress I told you about along with cute, leopard print flats. My outfit didn’t have layers or a whole lot of accessories as I normally like to have, but I was very comfortable the whole day. Oh, by the way, the conference lasted from 8:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening! That being said, I didn’t want to wear heels because I knew I’d personally regret it. If the conference duration were shorter I probably would’ve taken a chance and worn wedges, but you should definitely use your discretion.
10. Know exactly where you should head next BEFORE it’s time to go there.
At Her Conference there were some really great panels that we could choose to attend, but because some of them were going on while others were, choices needed to be made. I’m glad I attended the panels that I did because they all really helped me! Anyway, my new friend (who I met at the conference!!) and I made sure we knew the room locations of the panels we wanted to attend because we needed to get over there as quickly as possible so that we could get seats because the panels got crowded. FYI, we only stood once!
11. Try everything!
I tried that Suja juice and did not regret it one bit! I also took pictures at a Tinder station and against one of those cool backgrounds with sponsor names that celebrities take pictures in front of (I felt so fab!). I even got to take professional headshots! My point is that you should do everything you want to do because if you don’t you’ll regret it. If you want to take a picture with a panelist, go for it! If you want to try out a cool workshop, the world is your oyster!
I also learned…
12. I don’t want to go to graduate school anymore.
At first I thought that applying to grad school for a Master’s in Journalism should be my next step after I get my Bachelor’s — I even worked out which school was my first choice! But after listening to the EIC of SELF magazine say that she 110% would’ve gotten where she is now even without grad school, well, that really put things in perspective for me. Going to grad school for Journalism isn’t the same as going for Business, for example. If anything, after grad school you’d be competing against undergrads for entry level jobs in the industry. This really made me decide that I shouldn’t make that my next step.
13. Don’t be afraid of coffee and an email.
I learned that it’s okay to email someone in the industry, like an editorial assistant, and ask them to grab lunch or coffee with you. It sounds like a gutsy move (one that even I wouldn’t think to make!), but we shouldn’t be afraid of going through with it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could say they’re busy and can’t make it, or they could just not respond. Either way, at least you tried.
14. Always own up to your mistakes no matter how terrible they are.
We got to hear some mistakes made by some of the panelists during their editorial careers thus far, and as bad as this sounds, it was refreshing to know that mistakes do happen, even to our role models, and they were able to overcome them. The best way to do that is to own up to your mistakes! Don’t try to sweep them under the rug or make up some b.s. excuse. We’ll all probably make a huge mistake at some point in our careers — no one is above that — so it was nice to really hear a truth from real people.
15. There’s no 9-5 in the media industry.
This can be exciting or intimidating (or both!) depending on how you want to look at it. Breaking news doesn’t happen on schedule; you might find yourself prepping for a trending piece at 11p.m., or you might come to work earlier than usual to have enough time to shoot a video. You need to be able to understand that and work with it and still put your best work forward. This isn’t what we’re used to as college students, and honestly, this sounds pretty hardcore, so kudos to all those who slay at doing that!
16. Networking starts when you walk in the door.
In other words, if you’re working, interning, etc., you should be making connections and getting to know your co-workers everyday. I’ll admit that on my very first day of my internship I was super quiet. I did what I was told and asked questions but otherwise I didn’t try to get to know anyone. Fortunately, it was something that I caught early and started working on. Don’t wait until you walk through the office door one last time before you decide to add your co-workers on Facebook, or get their contact info to go to lunch in the future.
P.S. be sure to check out my post on internship mistakes to avoid making for more tips like this!
17. I’m doing pretty well for myself so far.
It has been just under a year since I’ve decided that the media industry is where I want to be after graduation, and I’ve realized that all my efforts thus far to put my work out there for professionals, brands, fellow students, and like-minded individuals to read has really paid off. That along with getting an internship and developing skills in other areas to make myself well-rounded is what will really help me get noticed, and that’s another thing I learned this weekend. This was a great confirmation because everyone should know that yes, they’re killin’ it at what they’re doing right now and they’re completely on the right track!
18. It’s okay that I’m not pushy.
I’m an assertive person, but I just don’t know how to shove myself in front of someone. Like, I actually fight with myself on whether or not I should give someone a business card sometimes! I also sometimes decide against it just because I think that this person has already gotten so many. Some may say that that’s a missed opportunity, but after hearing that you really shouldn’t come on too strong, I’m actually okay with those decisions. I guess sometimes we’re so caught up in being as impressive as possible and making sure that we don’t walk away without giving that person a business card that we forget that a personal connection is just as important!
19. Nothing will happen as you expect it to.
I love having a defined plan and I love sticking to it; that’s just the type of person I am. Sure, I can go for some spontaneity here and there, but when it comes to things like my future, I’d rather have that timeline for security. However, I learned that I should chuck my timeline (the words of Andi Dorfman from ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’!!!) Surprisingly, that was comforting to hear. I, like many others, have this image of where I’ll be later in life and everything I will have accomplished. But who knows what’s really going to be in store along the way? Things could be way more life-changing than you expect it to be, so don’t be discouraged if things don’t start taking the direction you thought it would.
Whoo! Sorry for that super long post, but I just had SO MUCH to tell you! I’m super glad that I went to this Conference and got to listen to everyone who spoke, because I definitely learned some valuable things that I probably would’ve learned the hard way later on! I definitely can’t wait to go again next year! Have you ever been to a conference before? What are some things that you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments!