Make the most of conventions

Written by Derek Byrne

In my progression from beginning journalist to editor-in-chief, I have attended three JEA/NSPA fall national conventions: 2008 in St. Louis, 2009 in Washington, D.C. and 2010 in Kansas City. All have provided invaluable opportunities to me personally and to our entire Cambia staff at Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Mo.

The 50-minute sessions offer many subjects from top-notch teachers. In St. Louis, knowing I was a potential candidate for the editor-in-chief position for the next year, I went to classes that would strengthen my weaknesses. Editors have to take on every aspect of journalism, and must be able to teach it to others. When taken advantage of, the sessions lead to increased knowledge, better leadership and better publications.

Several other educational opportunities also exist. You can hear excellent keynote speakers, compete with other high school journalists, participate in publication swap shops and speak to college representatives from across the country. You cannot get all of this from your school’s journalism program alone.

Beyond JEA-sponsored activities, the hours in airports, at convention dances and in hotel rooms create stronger connections with staffs. Those connections make members more willing to help each other, and they will feel more comfortable giving suggestions to one another.

So, make the most out of your attendance at conventions:

Broaden your horizons. Use the variety of classes to your advantage as an editor. A wider expanse of knowledge will benefit you and allow you to serve your staff better. If you are working toward an editor position, your adviser will notice your efforts to develop skills in new areas.

Bring a notebook. The amount of information you will receive in three days is far more than can be remembered. Take detailed notes in classes and speaker sessions. Refer to them when you return home to get the most out of the sessions you attend.

Participate in yearbook swap shop. In the swap shop, you will meet and talk to yearbook staff members from all over the country, many of whom are editors. You will find some great books and concepts, as well as valuable leadership suggestions and ideas on how to conduct class.

Use classes and staff members wisely. Have staff members attend a variety of classes and take notes. Later, everyone can share new ideas, tips and concepts, helping everyone benefit from more classes.

Have staff meetings. Find a few minutes at breakfast, in between events or before bed to get your staff together for informal meetings. Discuss the current development and direction of your publication, any changes that could be made and new ideas to be tried upon your return to the classroom.

Have fun. Opportunities to spend time with your staff without the pressure of deadlines are rare. Use this chance to get to know the people you work with by taking some of your free time to sightsee, have a nice dinner and hang out in the hotel. The camaraderie you will build will lead to a more enjoyable, successful experience and motivated staff.

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Derek Byrne