It’s been two years since school communicators were together for an in-person National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) NSPRA Seminar. The excitement is real — and building! — for the upcoming event in New Orleans July 11-14.
The Seminar is the only in-person annual opportunity for school PR pros to take in professional development and networking opportunities that are specifically catered 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 creating your personal agenda.
Make a Plan Before Your Arrive
Once you arrive at the Seminar, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of activities and sessions to choose from. Take time before you arrive to review the “at-a-glance” schedule, download the conference’s official mobile app to familiarize yourself with the sessions and events, and make notes of which ones sound the most interesting to you.
The NSPRA Seminar is more than just sessions and events — it’s just as much about the people! Be sure to think ahead about lunches, dinners and evening activities, too. Plan to get together with your local SPRA or a colleague that you haven’t seen in a while. Networking at NSPRA is just as important as attending sessions and keynotes!
PRO TIP #1: Make meal reservations in advance if you plan to attend with a group. Reservations at the restaurants in and around the hotel will book quickly.
PRO TIP #2: Pick your sessions carefully. Select a variety of topics that you are genuinely interested in learning more about and/or sessions that will provide you with immediate ways to improve your skillset on the job. Don’t feel pressure to attend a session just because a friend or colleague is going or presenting. NSPRA Seminar is an opportunity to set an agenda that matches your unique needs.
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 of people for lunch or for an evening of good conversation and networking. NSPRA members are some of the most inclusive individuals you’ll ever meet!
If you aren’t already well connected and are looking for ways to find friends to socialize and attend sessions with, be sure to get connected on social media ahead of time.
Twitter: Join the conversation by being part of the #K12SchoolPR and #SchoolPR threads. Follow @NSPRA to keep up with any Seminar related discussions. 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 12 at 6 PM. It’s always a fun, relaxing event!
Facebook: Join the “School Communication Pros Discussion Page” group and follow @NSPRA!
Locally: Touch base with your local SPRA to start a conversation with people nearby who are also attending the Seminar.
PRO TIP #1: A great way to meet people at NSPRA Seminar is by attending the kick-off event on Sunday evening at 5:30 PM: the Equity and Inclusivity Mixer. This is open to all Seminar attendees and is a great way to mix and mingle with people from all over the country. Sponsored by Finalsite, you’ll also walk away with some cool swag just for showing up. 😎
PRO TIP #2: Are you an exercise lover? Don’t miss out on a workout at the conference! On Sunday, July 11 at 6:30 AM, join Cathy Kedjidjian, APR, and other NSPRA members in the Sheraton Hotel lobby for the annual #K12PR5K walk/jog/run. It’s a great way to get your conference started off on the right foot.
Write Down Your Key Session Takeaways and Presenter Names
NSPRA Seminar can feel a little bit like drinking from a fire hose. Making sure you absorb as much as you can from each session starts with taking great notes.
Write down your key takeaways as well as any new ideas that come to mind after listening to a session. You may be surprised with the new creativity that comes to you after sitting in on a few inspiring sessions.
Don’t be afraid to write down the names and contact information of presenters who you’d like to learn more from or who particularly inspired you. Take a moment to say "hello" afterward and make a connection face-to-face. Most presenters will be glad you stopped by and would be happy to stay in touch with you in the future. Connect with them on Twitter and/or LinkedIn and keep the conversations and connections going.
Visit the NSPRA Marketplace
The NSPRA Marketplace may not be on your agenda, but definitely make time to stop in. Open Monday, July 12 and Tuesday, July 13, you’ll get a chance to connect with vendors you know and love, and others who you might be interested in learning more about. You’ll walk away with a lot of free swag (Finalsite will have some amazing stuff you won’t want to miss) and potentially a new partner to help drive your school communications forward.
NSPRA is also facilitating a fun game this year where marketplace attendees can win a $100 Amazon gift card for visiting vendor booths. Learn more about it at the entrance of the marketplace area!
Explore New Orleans
Although you are going to NSPRA Seminar “on business,” one of the great 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 New Orleans!
Nicknamed the "Big Easy," New Orleans is known for its nightlife, jazz music, spicy cuisine and of course, Mardi Gras. If your schedule permits, here are some sites and activities the city is known for that would make for a great experience!
- Cafe Du Monde: This restaurant is a New Orleans tradition. Enjoy world-famous beignets and their signature coffee and chicory.
- Ghost tours: New Orleans is among the most haunted cities in America. There are lots of ghost tours happening year round.
- Swamp boat & bayou tours: Take in the scenes by airboat on a New Orleans swamp boat or bayou tour. Your tour will likely include alligator sightings. 🐊
- Decide who has the best Hurricane drink: Pat O’Brien’s or Lafitte’s Blacksmith.
- Be entertained by street musicians! Don’t forget to tip.
- WWII Museum: If you’re into history, visit the National World War II museum in New Orleans, a top-rated NOLA attraction.
- Visit the Garden District: Known as a “historical melting pot,” the Garden District is filled with historic homes, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
- Mother’s Restaurant: Plan ahead, there’s usually a wait!
Ways to Save Money
Attending an out-of-state conference is pricey, and many attendees are looking for ways to save money. One of the easiest ways to do this is to stock up your hotel room with breakfast essentials and snacks to eliminate the need for eating out for every meal.
On the first day of the NSPRA seminar, consider visiting a nearby grocery store to stock up on essentials. Not only does this save a ton of money, but it’s also a way to eat healthier. We suggest taking a walk (or Uber) to Rouse’s Market. It’s locally owned, and a 13-minute walk or 5-minute car ride from the Sheraton Hotel.
PRO TIP: 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.
The NSPRA Seminar is a wonderful place to learn, grow and connect as a school communications professional. Make the most of your time at the conference by planning ahead and following a few of the tips in our guide to make sure your experience is fantastic.
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 Director 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.