Megan Murnane, a senior at Washington State University, was one of two winners of the Barbara Ericksen Memorial Fund scholarship to attend the 2015 AWC National Conference. She also won the AWC Rising Star Award in 2015. The other scholarship winner to the conference was Sarah Dewberry, who attends Rogers State University. Read about their conference experiences below.
Connecting to Conference: A Rising Star’s View
by Megan Murnane
Association for Women in Communications members converged at Kansas City, Missouri to connect, engage and advance at the 2015 national conference. At the Embassy Suites, attendees had the chance to listen to inspiring speakers and have thought-provoking discussions.
The two-day conference started with an “AWC Connects” workshop. The focus was on sharing ideas as well as discussing problems with the respective chapters and working to find solutions. Connecting and talking with other members gave me the confidence to try out some new ideas with the student chapter I am president of.
The opening luncheon, sponsored by the AWC Matrix Foundation, was held after the workshop. The keynote speaker was Nanette Braun, Chief of Communications and Advocacy at UN Women. Engaging and advancing women is what she is focused on, especially engaging world leaders to have gender parity by 2030, called “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality”. When asked why women often shy away from leadership roles, Braun pointed out that there are not enough role models for them to aspire to, and that needs to change.
The theme for the conference continued with Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc. Her presentation encouraged women to connect with each other by being passionate and supportive, and celebrating success. With engaging by mentoring and being mentored, we are helping one another become better people. Building on women being leaders, O’Reilly encouraged women to take the podium when they have something to say, and be okay with being disliked, especially if you are in a position of leadership. Being disliked is something that is hard for women to be able to accept, and I think is one of the major inhibitors of more women taking on leadership roles.
Advancing also has to do with advancing technology. Discussions on how to advance in regards to technology happened on both days of the conference. A social media roundtable at the end of the first day concluded that social platforms are still relatively new territory and there is no “right” way to use it. Whatever makes the individual comfortable in regards to engaging and advancing, then that is what should be done.
Breakout session “Digital Magazines: Bring Your Message to Life” by Kimberly Bird, Director of Communications at Kforce, looked at technology and discussed the way to present and use it. The major takeaway was to be a leader if you want certain technology to be implemented in your organization or company. Some tips in stepping up were to organize a meeting or even launch a pilot to show the program and answer any questions there may be about it. Also be sure to show how this may advance the organization, like with analytics as instant feedback.
Breakout session number two was “10 Ways to Create Social Media Content on a Budget” by Melanie Padgett Powers, a writer, editor and social media content strategist. This session highlighted taking advantage of the current free technology that is out there. Social media accounts for an organization works best if one connects with what matters to their audience, as well as engage them with things like contests. By looking at analytics, a social media strategy can be modified to be more effective in reaching your audience.
The headliner award luncheon on the second day was sponsored by Jones PR and the winner of the headline award was Brenda Jones Barwick, who founded Jones PR. Barwick encouraged attendees to engage and connect with people that are influential in their career and ask for mentorship. She showed research done by the Harvard Business Review that showed that women had exhibited leadership traits naturally. Barwick highlighted that how to advance as a leader you need to figure out what kind of leader you are. In doing this as well as developing an expertise, reading leadership books and dressing as a leader, Barwick believed that all women could advance and excel in those leadership roles.
Both group sessions after the luncheon discussed the technology in the past and how to adapt to changing career fields. “Blurring the Lines between Marketing and Non-biased Reporting” by Claire Celsi of the Public Relations Project emphasized to always keep your networks current and to always be learning new skills. “The Meaning of (Your Digital) Life” by Dr. J. Anthony Snorgrass, a professor at Avila University said that the meaning of (digital) life is whatever you want it to be. Don’t let technology control you, instead control it by learning about it. Overall, connecting and engaging with people and technology will help to advance your career.
The event culminated with the speaker for the AWC Clarion Awards. Tory Johnson, author of The Shift and contributor for “Good Morning America” was the International Matrix Award winner. Johnson spoke that to ultimately connect, engage and advance, you have to be confident in yourself. Always strive to be the best version of the story you can tell yourself, and believe that every day is a good day to have a good day. By doing and implementing these little things that was learned throughout the conference, it can put into action the big things that can happen for yourself.
After connecting with other women and engaging with the presentations, I am confident that this weekend gave me the tools to advance my organization and myself.
Support the AWC Matrix Foundation
If you would like to help the AWC Matrix Foundation support learning and networking opportunities for students, continuing education for our members, recognition for outstanding women, and possible communications research projects, please donate online here. All gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. In addition, as you shop online throughout the year, please sign up for www.Igive.com. Be sure to designate the Matrix Foundation as a recipient of a portion of the funds you spend. There is no additional cost to you. Learn more about ways to contribute to the AWC Matrix Foundation here.
Student Endorses Conference
By Sarah Dewberry
If you are looking to join an organization, look no further than the Association for Women in Communications!
Attending the Association for Women in Communications conference in Kansas City was pure joy. I got to learn a lot from amazing women in the communications field, along with meeting some fabulous women, whom I can now call friends.
While in Kansas City, we had the time to learn from several speakers about what the world is like for social media and I feel like I learned a lot in the process.
Having won the scholarship to attend the conference in Kansas City opened my eyes to what is to come when I graduate college in May, and I cannot wait to see what being a part of AWC as a college graduate has in store.
If you are in the communications field, joining AWC will open a lot of doors for you. You will not regret joining such a wonderful organization as AWC!