PRSA International Conference 2010 – Mixed Take-Aways

Last week I attended the PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C. It was a mixed experience.
First, this was my first conference as a commuter. Instead of staying at the host hotel, I commuted in each day from my NOVA home. Man, I just hate commuting.
Saturday was the Assembly. I was a delegate for the PRSA NCC chapter. The chapter has 14 delegates and I enjoyed the other folks in the delegation. We had some good conversations, kept each other warm in the frigid ballroom and kept each other awake after lunch.
The assembly was well run. We generally kept ahead of schedule, until late afternoon when the leadership seemed to slow things down so we would not finish early. Oh well. It was a good experience and I was pleased to be part of the inner workings of PRSA.
Sunday was the opening of the conference. My first impression of my colleagues that day grew stronger as the conference progressed – hey, people, get your eyes off your phones! Everyone stood around looking at their phones, not each other. This was amazing for a group of people who engage with others as part of their profession. I expect this glued-to-cell behavior from teens, and was surprised to see this among my colleagues.
On a positive side, I was glad that social media has graduated to just-a-tool status in 2010.  At past conferences, social media has been something no one seemed to understand or have their hands around. In 2010, it is just another tool in the arsenal and like all tools we all need to know how to leverage it. Cool.
The exhibit hall had a good assortment of vendors related to the profession. Unfortunately, the vendors spilled over into the professional development workshops. Many of the workshops were presented ONLY by vendors. Ug. Are there not enough professionals out there who have something they can share with the rest of us to keep vendors from teaching us how to advance our own profession?
Over the course of the conference there were four keynoters. These too were a mixed bag. Without naming names, some understood who they were talking to (PR professionals) and some did not. I appreciated the speakers who came with an appropriate message to share.
Another takeaway – twitter is definitely a tool of now. There was a lively twitter conversation throughout. At assembly, I got a better idea of the pulse of the delegates from twitter than the speakers on the floor. Ditto during the rest of the conference. I could tell what the best workshops were within 10 minutes of each session by checking twitter.
I found a large number of great colleagues to add to my twitter follow list (far more than I did by talking with people), and have enjoyed their insights since the conference ended.
Kind of funny was the competition for the dominant hash tag for the conference. Despite the attempt to make the official hash tag #prsa_ic, many others persisted throughout. I chuckled when next the reps from next year’s conference declared their own hash tag.
Overall, now that I have caught up on sleep and had the benefit of several non-Metro days, I am pleased to have been a part of the 2010 international conference. Thanks to all of you who looked up from your phones long enough to participate with me – I enjoyed sharing the experience with you.