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A Behind the Scenes Look at PRAdvanced

Photo Cred: Haley (Huixuan) Liu,, @nauxiuhuixuan

As PRAdvanced has come and gone. I’ve started to reflect on all the work that went into the making the conference great. The more I reflected, the more I realized that I missed a decent amount of the conference due to volunteering for it. Often you’ll hear about conferences on the glitzy surface level, and if that’s what you’re looking for, this isn’t a post for you. Let’s get real about PRAdvanced from a volunteering perspective.

Friday, February 22nd: Reception at Dean Elmore’s Home

Guests arrived at Dean Elmore’s beautiful home and were greeted by the charismatic Dean himself. A beautiful spread of horderves including falafel and chicken kafta was laid out in the dining room. The guests spent the evening laughing, singing, dancing, and gathering around the piano.

Behind the scenes, our volunteers and conference committee were simultaneously prepping for the conference on the following day. Two hours before the reception, volunteers arrived at the Photonics Center to survey the location and test the electronic systems. Following this, the volunteers rushed to Dean Elmore’s home just in time to greet some of the conference attendees. And when the night came to an end for them, it only began for the volunteers. They spent the night printing programs and signage, writing thank you letters to speakers, and getting last minute essentials for the conference. By the time most of the preparation was over, it was already 2:00 AM.

Photo Cred: Jean Marc,, @see_thru_the_lens

Saturday, February 23rd: Conference Day

The conference began at 8:00 AM with registration and breakfast. Attendees enjoyed as assortment of breakfast foods while they networked with each other, speakers, and professors, waiting for the day to begin.

While most attendees were fast asleep at 5:30 AM, our volunteers were filing into the photonics building, arms full of conference essentials; from registration packs to a helium tank nothing was left behind. Prior to 8:00 AM, volunteers ran around moving coat racks, setting up breakfast, and final testing sound systems for the morning keynote speaker. By 8:30 AM, the registration table was bustling. Volunteers handed out registration packs, checked coats, and answered attendee questions.

Photo Cred: Jean Marc,, @see_thru_the_lens

The conference had keynote speakers, breakout sessions, a panel, career fair, and resume critique. Attendees heard a variety of speakers including Anthony Harrison, Director of Corporate Media Relations at Facebook; Brandi Boatner, Social and Influencer Communications Lead for Global Markets at IBM; and Barri Rafferty, President and CEO of Ketchum Global. Anthony captured the audience with his personable keynote about being your authentic self and being transparent. Brandi had the audience laughing yet also crying tears of joy, laughter, sadness, and reflection. She focused on the concept of covering, meaning that they hide aspects of them to help themselves fit in with the status quo. For example, a black woman may cover in the workplace by not wearing their natural hair. Barri then closed out the day with an inspiring keynote.  She’s the first woman to lead a top five global firm. Barri showed the importance of diversity in the realm of creativity, and how brands fall short when they don’t reach their diverse audiences.

During the keynotes and sessions, volunteers ran around corralling attendees and speakers alike. They took turns at the registration table and greeted any late-arriving attendees. They left sessions early to greet speakers who were just arriving and ate lunch at odd times. They worked as the invisible hands that kept the conference running throughout the day.

Photo Cred: Jean Marc,, @see_thru_the_lens

As volunteers, we often are so focused on making the conference a success that we don’t take the time to appreciate the experience that’s right in front of us. While most of the day was hectic for us volunteers, we were still able to experience the product of our hours of work that made the insanity worth it.

Photo Cred: Jean Marc,, @see_thru_the_lens

By Imani Roberson

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