Reflecting on #INTEGRATE16

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As an undergraduate, I studied public relations. To supplement my classroom education and gain real-world experience, I joined the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Through this organization, I attended a variety of conferences from Portland, Oregon to Austin, Texas and everywhere in between. After attending seven conferences with PRSSA, I thought I had an idea of what INTEGRATE would be like, but I could not have been more wrong.

As a conference attendee, you see the finished product. It’s like going to the theater to see a movie; you do not witness or understand what goes on behind the scenes. Yes, throughout my undergraduate years, I helped plan meetings, activities and conferences, so I had an idea of the work required to plan and execute a successful event; however, I never planned anything of this magnitude.

I started work as a graduate assistant with the Reed College of Media and its Integrated Marketing Communications program just three weeks ago. Since my first day on the job, the word INTEGRATE was engrained into my memory. I was told it was “Beason season,” (Nicole Beason is the lead conference planner.) and that I would do nothing but live and breathe INTEGRATE until June 5, 2016.

Throughout my first two weeks as a graduate assistant, I helped with small conference tasks like alphabetizing name badges, assembling gift bags and picking up prizes. I also had an opportunity to help plan the social media challenge. Although I knew my role in planning the INTEGRATE conference was small, I began to feel some ownership in the event and a stake in its success.

As the first day of #INTEGRATE16 approached, I was excited, nervous, anxious; just a ball of emotion. I was excited to meet professors, graduates and fellow students. I was nervous to mess something up, and I was anxious for the conference to start. When day one of INTEGRATE commenced, I wanted to help in any and every way possible, and I was, happily, put to work.

Working an event, especially a conference the size of INTEGRATE, is extremely draining. Honestly, I did not realize the amount of planning that this conference required until I arrived at West Virginia University’s Media Innovation Center on June 3, 2016. Every detail of the event was planned, from where food was coming from to when speakers were arriving to what color chairs were to be placed in each row. Everyone in the office moved in harmony, like one well-oiled machine.

As a graduate assistant, I did my best to follow suit; however, every once in a while, I liked to step back and watch. From my observations, I learned the power of teamwork, the importance of preparation and the true purpose of coffee. Overall, my first-ever INTEGRATE conference was spectacular. The speakers were awesome! The attendees were great, and this all served as a comforting reinforcement that integrated marketing communications is the right career path for me.

 

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