Last year, NSPRA let the good times roll in New Orleans; this year, Chicago natives will be saying, “Welcome to Sweet Home Chicago!” While the pandemic has slowed conference attendance, many education conferences have begun to see record attendance – a clear sign that folks are ready to be back in person. We’re excited to preview the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Seminar at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk in Chicago, Illinois, on July 17-20, 2022!
The seminar is among the only national in-person annual opportunity for school PR pros to take in professional development and networking opportunities catered explicitly toward their unique roles in public education.
Whether you’ve been going for years or it’s going to be your first time attending, there’s a lot to take in at the seminar. To make the most of your conference experience, we’ve created this guide to help you structure your time and decide what sessions and events to choose from when designing your plan.
Tip #1 Make a Plan Before Your Arrive
There are so many events, sessions, networking opportunities, and school PR people that it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you arrive. Planning now for your sessions, events, and evening plans will ease the pressure of decision-making during the seminar!
NSPRA Agenda & Schedule
Be sure to review the NSPRA Seminar “at-a-glance” schedule before you arrive to plan accordingly. Don’t feel pressure to attend a session just because a friend or colleague is going or presenting. Frequently, session topics will align with upcoming initiatives, so pick your events & sessions carefully. You can download NSPRA’s seminar mobile app a few days before the event.
Make dinner reservations in advance if you plan to attend with a group. Reservations at the restaurants in and around the hotel will book quickly.
Tip # 2 Meet New People & Build on Relationships
For us, NSPRA Seminars get better and better each year because our friendship circles and networks grow with time. Sometimes, NSPRA is the only time in a calendar year when you’ll see colleagues and school PR friends face-to-face. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and join a new group for lunch or an evening of good conversation and networking. NSPRA members are some of the most inclusive individuals you’ll ever meet!
NSPRA Official Networking Events During the Seminar
NSPRA recently sent members a list of official networking events that will take place during the seminar. We’ll see you there!
Please also join Finalsite for a complimentary happy hour at the Sheraton’s main floor bar on Monday, July 18 from 5-6:30 p.m.
If you aren’t already well connected and are looking for ways to find friends to socialize and attend sessions with, be sure to join the conversations on social media ahead of time.
Twitter: Join the #K12SchoolPR and #SchoolPR threads and follow @NSPRA to keep up with any seminar-related discussions. You can also follow Morgan and me on Twitter; we’ll be live-tweeting during the conference!
Another great networking event is the #K12PRCHAT Tweetup, an annual meetup for #SchoolPR pros who network year-round on Twitter. This year’s NSPRA Tweetup is on Monday, July 18, at 5:30 p.m. It’s always a fun and relaxing event!
Facebook: Join the NSPRA Seminar Facebook group and follow NSPRA on Twitter or Facebook!
Enjoy a Morning Run/Walk!
Are you an exercise lover? Don’t miss a workout just because of the conference! On Sunday, July 16 at 6:30 a.m., join Chicagoland resident and president-elect of NSPRA Cathy Kedjidjian, APR, and other NSPRA members in the Sheraton Grand Hotel lobby for the annual #K12PR5K walk/jog/run/grab-a-coffee. It’s a great way to get your conference started off on the right foot.
Tip #3: Write Down Your Key Session Takeaways and Presenter Names
The NSPRA Seminar is full of great people and content. To get the most from each session, write notes and access the presentation resources and slides through NSPRA or the presenter if offered.
Jot down your key takeaways and any new ideas that come to mind after enjoying a session. After the seminar, you might be surprised how many you can implement in your district.
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to presenters after the session to tell them what you thought of the presentation. Presenters are folks like you and me and they’ll be glad you stopped to chat! Connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn, and keep the conversations and connections going!
If you’re looking for an impactful session that will leave you with actionable steps to take home with you, stop in at Finalsite’s presentation on Tuesday at 3 p.m: “7 ways to leverage your website for staff recruitment and retention.” Need an extra incentive? We’ll have Nothing Bundt Cakes for attendees!
Tip #4: Visit the NSPRA Marketplace
The NSPRA Marketplace may not be on your agenda but make time to stop in! You’ll get a chance to connect with vendor partners you know and love and others for who you might want to learn more. In 2021, we met dozens of folks who scheduled a demo of Finalsite’s CMS and many are now beloved clients! Plus, who doesn’t love free School PR swag!?
Tip #5: Explore Chicago
Although you are going to the NSPRA Seminar “on business,” one of the best parts of the conference is exploring a new city each year. Take some time on the weekend or in the evenings to explore the wonderful city of Chicago!
We recommend using Google Maps to navigate all of Chicago, including the bus and train system. Do you know about the water taxi system?
Destinations for Every Tourist
- Experience Wrigley Field by taking the Red Line from Grand to Addison. The Chicago Cubs play the New York Mets while the seminar is in town!
- Navy Pier is full of attractions, events, dining, shopping, and more!
- Millennium Park is one of the unique parks in the U.S.
- Next door to Millennium Park is Maggie Daley Park — lots to do and see!
- The Bean (Cloud Gate) is a must-do for your social media feed!
- Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is a shopping lover's dream destination!
- Love aquatic animals? Shedd Aquarium is a must-visit attraction!
- The seminar hotel is located right along the 1.25-mile RiverWalk!
- Are you a lover of science? The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science centers in the world.
- A Chicago Architecture Tour — explore the beautiful design of downtown Chicago!
Lesser-known, Must-visit Destinations
- The J. Parker - Cocktails & American fare with a rooftop view of Lake Michigan!
- The Wieners Circle - An iconic hotdog stand on the north side of Chicago serving up high-quality street food with a side of insults.
- The 606 Trail
- Museum of Broadcast Communications
- The American Writers Museum
Tip #6: Find Ways to Save Money
Attending an out-of-state conference is pricey, and many attendees are looking for ways to save money.
The first thing we recommend is to visit the grocery and spirit shop. We’ve saved a lot of money at NSPRA by stocking up on breakfast essentials and healthy snacks. Don’t forget your water bottles and mixers for evening libations.
Buying groceries saves money, but it’s also a way to eat healthier throughout the week. We researched the area and recommend visiting Target Grocery or Bockwinkel’s Market near the Sheraton Grand Hotel.
Attend Vendor-Sponsored Events
If you’re looking to save on food and drink costs, attend more vendor-sponsored events! Most of the time, food and drinks are complimentary. Finalsite would love to buy you a drink on Monday from 5-6:30 in the Sheraton hotel bar. Consider this your personal invite to our happy hour!
Another way to save money is to reach out to your local SPRA to see if any attendees want to split the cost of a room. While this is not feasible for some, there are requests every year from attendees looking for this type of arrangement.
The NSPRA Seminar is a fantastic place to learn, grow and connect as a school communications professional. Make the most of your time at the seminar by planning and following a few of our guide's tips to ensure your experience is excellent.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Joshua Sauer, APR, is an Educational Sales Consultant with Finalsite. Before joining Finalsite, he spent six years working as a #SchoolPR professional for a large public school district in Oklahoma and one year as a freelance webmaster. Joshua is heavily involved at the national level in school PR and is the former president of the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association (OKSPRA). In 2017, he founded the popular #ROAD2NSPRA Twitter campaign, which has raised over $5,000 for the NSPRA Foundation. Joshua is an Accredited Public Relations (APR) practitioner with more than 11 years of marketing and PR work experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Morgan Delack is Finalsite's VP of Communications, leading the marketing team's public school content, branding initiatives and professional development events. Morgan's background is a mixture of public school communications and television journalism, having worked in both industries for several years. She was named among NSPRA's 35 under 35 and has earned two Emmy Awards for her work in broadcasting. Morgan lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids.