The Value of Attending Conferences

When the opportunity arises to attend a conference or convention related to your desired field of study, don’t refuse it. Especially if you’re a college student. 

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend MediaFest22, a college media convention, in Washington, D.C. That same weekend, Vladamiere Perry, president of the SUNY Plattsburgh chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, attended the organization’s annual “Frame Your Future” conference in Chicago. Here’s what we got out of it.


The first thing you notice as you enter the conference environment is that you are surrounded by like-minded people. You all share a goal, and you feel like you are both supporting one another as well as competing. You all come from different walks of life and have different resources available to you, your club or organization. Yet at the conference, you are equals.

“You get a taste of what professionals in the field do,” said Nancy Church, adviser for Perry’s club. She is a retired distinguished professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at SUNY Plattsburgh.

You also get to hear from the best of your field. Mediafest22 featured keynote speakers such as the journalist Bill Whitaker, “What Would You Do?” host John Quinones and even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two reporters who broke the Watergate scandal leading to President Richard Nixon’s resignation. “Frame Your Future” featured Editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine Jason Feifer and Cary Singleton, founder of the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship. 

Perry had been reading Feifer’s articles in Entrepreneur Magazine for two to three years, and at the conference, he was able to meet Feifer and obtain a signed copy of his book “Build for Tomorrow.”

 A conference is a place where anything can happen — there are endless opportunities.

Vladamiere Perry and Nancy Church pose with Jason Feifer, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, while holding up copies of his book. Provided by Vladamiere Perry.


Perry said he was focused on learning and improving when attending the conference. Sometimes the most valuable knowledge comes not from the various panel discussions and lessons you attend at conferences, but your fellow attendees. Besides you, there are many bright-minded, ambitious and successful people at any conference. Look at what they’re doing and learn from their example.

The “Frame Your Future” conference had several competitions for students to participate in, with rewards up to $10,000. Participating in the competitions introduces students to the competitive nature of job markets, Church said. But even if you do not progress far within a competition, you can learn by observing those who did. Church said her students could learn from the skilled business pitches their peers delivered on-stage. She wanted them to see how “incredibly good” the presenters are and learn from them.

“I don’t think I could do what they did,” Church said about the students’ competition pitches.

For myself, I studied the many examples of student publications across the country that attendees set out for display. I paid attention to the design choices, storytelling methods and topics covered and will try to implement that in my own work.

A projection of an interview with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at Mediafest22. Photo by Aleksandra Sidorova.


The goal of any conference is to connect people. For a college student, networking can mean an easier time securing internship or job opportunities by talking to potential employers directly. At the very least, you’ll be able to add new connections to your LinkedIn profile, as Perry did. 

Legal Counsel for CNN Frank LoMonte said a network is “at least as valuable as grades.” He also said he found his current job from a LinkedIn connection he made during one of his many times attending conferences. Even if you don’t land a job, interacting with people facilitates a “cross-pollination of ideas,” LoMonte said.

Networking also makes conferences valuable to non-students. Bernadette Garden is a freelance journalist in the Boston area who is hoping to get back into the business after years of staying home caring for her children. At Mediafest22, Garden met with other freelancers and some employers.

“They tell you what they’re looking for before you apply,” Garden said.

Garden said networking was more important than looking for a job, because a network means support and encouragement.

“Don’t look for jobs, look for people — get in their faces,” Garden said.

Networking is one of the most important things to do at a conference. Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash


I had never been to Washington, D.C. prior to attending the convention, and Perry said he had never been as far west as Chicago. We were both amazed by the cities we found ourselves in. However, the travel component is what stops many students from attending: travel and lodgings make up for the bulk of the cost of the trip. 

The key, Perry said, is “finding a way to use others’ money.” Perry spent $60 out of pocket for his trip to Chicago. Part of the trip was financed by a grant secured by his club adviser, and Perry eliminated the rest of the cost by asking for funding from his college’s student government organization and auxiliary services department.

“We were fortunate,” Perry said. “I don’t think I could shovel $800.”

A view of the Washington Monument. Photo by Aleksandra Sidorova.

A conference or convention can equip you with invaluable information, insight and skills, help you build a network, introduce you to internship and job prospects and motivate you to reach for greater heights — all things that make you more competitive in any market. It also is simply a fun, unforgettable experience.

“Going to a conference is one of the most memorable experiences in college,” Church said. “You might forget a lot of things, but not that.”

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