Why attending a conference is so important for students


We can all remember, or are still experiencing, the feeling of being the low man on the totem pole. For many students, that feeling is all too well known during their first industry conference. Figuring out what to pack, what to wear, and what you are going to do once you get there can be overwhelming, even with the help of professors and advisors. No matter how overwhelming, don’t let the anxiety get to you — it is so important to attend these conferences.

We caught up with a few Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow during the AAEA – The Agricultural Communicators Network’s Ag Media Summit to see what they have learned at their first industry conference.

Network, network, network

All professionals realize the importance of networking. You never know where the connections you make today will lead you tomorrow. Don’t play down connections you make at these conferences. As a student, it is important to remember to keep an open mind. You can tell a lot about a company’s culture by asking the right questions.

Haley Olson, an Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow student from Cal Poly said, “When you walk around the expo, be confident and go up to the booths. Start a conversation, even if it’s not about internships, just talk with them and found out what their company is about. Like our professor said, even just talking to them you might figure out what you want to do, or what you don’t want to do. It has been really fun getting advice from the companies and inquiring about internships and just making those networking connections that will be really helpful in the future.”

Learn tips and tricks from industry professionals

At most conferences, workshops are offered to develop your skills. The workshops offered are typically from the best in the industry. These industry leaders are constantly pushing the envelope and exploring new opportunities within the industry. During their workshops they will share tips and tricks within a specialty. For example Ann Wylie, consultant at Wylie Communications, told participants to think outside of the writing pyramid and engage the reader more with different writing styles.

Hannah Van Der Schans an Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow member from Texas Tech gave great advice for students seeking those tips and tricks from professionals: “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. The first time can be awkward, but next time will be easier to ask those questions.”

Better understand the culture of the industry

Just like every industry is different, so is every company. A great way to better understand each industry and company is to immerse yourself in it. Agriculture is an industry unique in many ways, one of which is its relaxed nature. And you can experience so many different cultures, all in one conference.

Some conferences you even get to experience different cultures all in one place. This year the AAEA conferences lined up with the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Congress, at which over 30 countries were represented. Katelynn Mary Butler also a member of Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow from Texas Tech said, “There are 31 different countries here. Getting to hear different ideas from people from Britain or people from Africa, that camaraderie that even though we don’t live in the same country, we all get to listen and learn the same things and share in the same experiences.”

Next time your professor or advisor plans a trip to go to an agricultural industry conference, take a risk and go — you will not regret it.

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