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ICON2022: Students’ Experience

There is no greater experience for aspiring public relations professionals than attending PRSA ICON or any other ICON event. Students were not only meeting professionals from across the country, but other incredible students. Future CEOs, independent workers, social media coordinators, content creators, and many more are here in the making. Learning from one another as peers to better our careers and make connections.

Every student in the Gaylord Texan Resort will look back to ICON2022 as one of the catalysts for their career. It is within every communications college in the country to seek attendance for themselves and their students. The informative sessions, networking opportunities, and internship prospects were plentiful. Main stage speakers, such as Professor Shanita Baraka Akintonde and Muck Wrack CEO Gregory Galant were approachable, friendly, and up for any conversation.

Courtney Brown (Left) and Abby Walden (Right), University of Tennessee, Knoxville students and local PRSSA chapter members.

Before the event began, all attendees were instructed to download the Whova app for details on sessions, locations, and direct communication with one another. Before a single session began, students were creating conversations with one another and fearlessly breaking the ice. Many of us watched as the same faces popped up in multiple threads and niche internet micro celebrities were forming. Once the sessions began, you would see them pass in the halls with a small feeling of starstruck. The ability to create such a presence with confidence, and so quickly, is beyond impressive. Looking back at these chats to see how these students got popular so quickly would be an interesting study.

Some students slowly creeped out of their shells. Maybe not to others, but to the colleagues they came with. Exiting a university, or college environment, with classmates deteriorates the acquaintance shield and friendships begin to form. Whether it be at a group dinner or sitting next to one on the plane, one can’t not communicate. They start to relate to one another and share beyond the icebreakers. No matter the state or hometown you all differ from, you all find commonality. Your goals, values, interests, and experiences are somewhat similar or shared. Getting out of the shell to those closer is the first step on the long road to communicating with absolute strangers.

The conclusion of the event can’t help but feel bittersweet. Walking past the connections you’ve made with a small wave or smile. Remembering the path to the next session from your room felt like a second home, but with the creeping realization that it’s all coming to an end. You may not ever see these people again, but you will remember their faces, have their LinkedIn and socials. Every individual left with many meaningful connections.

Our professor told everyone that “you will meet life-long friends at ICON.” No one quite believed him, and now, having left, I realize that it was the people I came with.

Two friends looking into the camera, smiling.

PRSSA Sammie Lynn Puett Chapter President Mazie Dee (Right) and PRSA Volunteer Chapter social media intern Aaron Stone (Left) together at ICON2022 Awards Brunch.

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