I know The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando is so hard to pass up for journalists of the Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin leanings (does anyone really want to be in Hufflepuff?). But, if you really want to take full advantage of EIJ 2015, I suggest leaving your Ollivander-made wand at home, and come ready with your Muggle Androids and Apple devices.
How can you make the best use of your time at EIJ 2015? Plan ahead. It’s simple, it’s boring, but it works. Now that we have the big picture out of the way, let’s take a look at a micro-view of planning.
The first question to ask yourself is “what do I find most valuable about EIJ?” Determine if it is networking, breakout sessions, workshops, board meetings, after-hours socializing, or something else in between. Perhaps you can rank those options. Whatever you feel is the most important, find a way to prioritize it and give yourself ample time at the conference to fulfill your needs.
I’ve found one of the most valuable aspects of EIJ are the fresh, unique, eye-opening ideas presented during breakout sessions. Every year, I’ve walked away with new ways to approach my job as a newscast producer. Not every session is mind-blowing; some reinforce what you already know. I suggest before arriving in Orlando, you should go on the EIJ website to review every session available, and select ones you *must see, ones you will consider, and ones you can pass. You may have two sessions that you can’t miss, or you might have seven. I select some sessions where I feel I can learn something new. I also select some sessions that are not quite in my realm of familiarity, so I am exposed to a new environment.
Leave Room for Flexibility
Even with all the planning you’ll do, you can’t make it too rigid. An opportunity might appear on Friday in which you need to take advantage the next day. That’s why prioritizing sessions or meetings allows you to skip the less important ones.
For those who are young and looking for a job, find people who are in a hiring positions, and introduce yourself. You are allowed to be selective in the people you approach because you are on a mission. But keep in mind, even the ones who aren’t hiring, might know someone else not attending EIJ who might want you as an employee. Use your judgment to gauge how much time to spend with those folks. Remember, your time is limited; you won’t be able to meet everyone over the weekend. Organize specific times each day in which you can best meet and speak with the top people you have in mind.
Break Your Social Circle
For the college students attending with peers: get away from them. I know it is easy and comfortable to stick with each other and approach a manager in a pack. I’ve done it myself. But you want to show you have an assertive side, and
can stand on your own two feet. Let them know it’s not personal if you are going at it alone. You’ll have plenty of time to spend with friends/peers on campus, but these managers won’t be there too.
For repeat attendees, book a little bit of time to meet with journalism peers in other cities. I’ve enjoyed the side meetings with Generation J members who come from different backgrounds. There are brilliant people everywhere at this conference.
An hour before dinner. Re-charge your battery for everything that happens once the sun goes down.
My favorite non-journalism aspects of the conference are always at night. The Opening Night Reception and EIJ Dance are a terrific way to connect with others on a personal, non-work related way. Not only is it an opportunity to have fun, but you can demonstrate the ability to separate journalism from other things you enjoy.
Mike Brannen is the executive producer of the KOB-TV morning newscast in Albuquerque, NM. Previously, he was a newscast producer at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis/St. Paul and KIRO-TV in Seattle. He received an MA in Broadcast Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010 and received his Bachelor of Journalism degree the year before. The Milwaukee, WI native shares more about his life at mikebrannen.com.