By: Neli Tokleh

Paying dues to join an organization is one thing. Paying dues and becoming an active member of a group can lead to a whole other direction. I joined the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) of Dallas upon graduating college and leaving the student branch of this organization (PRSSA).

PRSA Dallas hosts an annual Communications Summit, and I was stoked to join its volunteer committee this year. This opportunity gave me a chance to meet public relations professionals in Dallas and Fort Worth, and I also learned the how-to on planning a large event. My responsibilities included securing PR agencies for the career expo session, finding student volunteers for on-site assistance, and booking media to attend the media roundtables session.

I spent about four weeks working on the committee prior to the big event. Rosalynn Vasquez and Kai Stansberry headed the committee, and our team consisted of ten people. It was great having a squad of volunteers who supported one another. There was always someone willing to help me when I needed it, and I was able to return to the favor to others.

A main idea to keep in mind about event planning is to plan early! Since it was my job to contact a handful of PR agencies from Dallas, I knew I had to call them as soon as my contacts list was prepared. In general, PR practitioners and reporters often have busy schedules, so it’s important to invite them to an event as soon the details are in place. The same applies if you are looking to book speakers for an event. Continue to follow up with the invitees as they confirm with information such as what they need to bring, check-in time, dress code and the event address. Also, send a friendly reminder email on the week of the big show.

If you are a newbie entry-level PR person like me, don’t be afraid to jump at any opportunities from professional organizations. The folks from PRSA Dallas were excited and appreciative to have me on board. Serving as a volunteer gave me an inside look to how PRSA Dallas runs events, and I was able to establish personal relationships with the committee and attendees.

Neli, second to the left, poses for a picture along with PR students and recent college graduates at the Communications Summit. (10/21/2011)