In today’s world we take for granted the fact that we are connected- via social media, the internet, e mail, mobile…and yet how often do we actually make a connection?  Last night I watched eleven PR practitioners come together with a room full of second and third year PR students, and the effect was extraordinary. The CIPR’s Wessex Branch has worked with Southampton Solent University for the past three years to run a Meet the Professionals night, using a speed-dating format to make sure that everyone gets a chance to meet and exchange ideas. It is noisy, fun, exciting- and exhausting for the practitioners, who get bombarded by every conceivable sort of question.  It’s also the best demonstration I know of the power of face-to-face communication.

One practitioner to a table of between two and four students means that everyone gets a chance to ask questions- and to hear the professional’s answers to other students’ questions, too. The effect is catalytic – one idea sparks another before spinning off at a tangent, and everyone gets the benefit. It’s a form of group chemistry that changes people’s ideas. One of the students at the end said in a rather dazed tone that she had started off at the first table thinking her future career would follow a particular path, and ended the night having changed her ideas at almost every table. That’s what the event is designed to do- open eyes to new and different ways to build a career in PR. We had practitioners from agencies and in-house departments, public and private sector, B2B and B2C.  I was also delighted to see two professionals who run their own agencies, who can help students realise that “freelance” is a great opportunity to have a career of your own design, as opposed to being at the mercy of someone else’s commercial objectives.

For the practitioners, it’s a quick immersion into youthful passions, and a chance to share their own career experiences with those just starting out. Our professionals last night ranged in age from their early twenties, in their first job, to old-timers with the battle scars and war stories to prove it. All came because they see the value in connecting with and giving back to the next generation. It was also great to see three people working in the same agency, MCC International- a B2B agency in Hampshire- all graduates from Southampton Solent University at some point over the past twenty years.  That’s inspiring to this student cohort, and a great demonstration of the benefits of networking.  

For the students it was a chance to network, explore different ideas, maybe find a contact that could be useful for a dissertation, a work-placement or even a potential employer. Business cards were handed over, notes taken and I have no doubt that there will be follow up.  How often does that happen on Facebook? There is something to be said about synchronous communication of the good old fashioned face-to-face variety.


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

One Response to Face-to-face

  1. Yeah, I wrote about this on my blog too, having attended the last two.

    I’m amazed that we only get a third of the class to actually come to these, considering how useful they are. MCC were great, very helpful and very enthusiastic. I’m not usually one for ‘extra curricular’ activities, but from both these events I’ve attended I’ve come with greater knowledge, perspective and enthusiasm for PR, so I totally recommend them.

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