Tales from the Conference Front: Volunteering at ConCon 2014

As the kids on South Park used to say, “You know, I learned something today.”

On November 13 and 14, 2014, freelancers and publishers gathered for Content Connections Chicago at Columbia College Film Row. Also present: a few DePaul student volunteers who were able to attend the conference for free, thanks to Professor Rebecca Johns-Trissler.

I only made it to Thursday’s programs but came away feeling energized and excited. Chicago’s a teeming hub of conferences and professional organizations, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for them in the future.

My Top Three Takeaways from ConCon 2014

1) As a freelancer, you will need custom, professional-looking business cards. They will come in handy at conferences, networking events, or anywhere else “your target market gathers,” in the words of Brad Farris, CEO of Chicago’s Anchor Advisors. Most communication with potential clients can take place online these days, and it’s key to develop a strong online presence and personal brand. But there’s something to be said about in-person contact: “you can meet 100 prospects in a two-day conference face-to-face,” to quote Farris again.

2) Being a student opens doors. People are willing to give you advice, tell you about internship opportunities, and listen to you babble on about your career aspirations. Ask people if you can take them to coffee or shadow them at work. If they say no, thank them for taking the time to respond. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

3) Be helpful. Be generous. Be kind. To borrow an oft-repeated phrase (attribution uncertain), “do well by doing good.” If you build strong relationships with clients and fellow freelancers, they may remember you and want to help you down the road.

Thoughts from DePaulian and ConCon Volunteer Marcus Emanuel

Most helpful yet obvious tip: “Don’t just mass email out letters of interest. Find specific organizations suited to your skills and craft letters individually for them. Research the recipients on LinkedIn.”

Less obvious but still helpful tip: “Research organizations that just received grants. They have money they’re looking to spend.”

Most depressing response to the question what is the single most important thing for someone who is just starting out in content to do: “Learn video.”

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