Last week I had the pleasure of attending the National School Public Relations Seminar in Chicago, IL.

It’s a rare chance we have, in any profession, to be able to network and learn from the nation’s best–not just locally, regionally, or even at the state level, but nationally.

I felt much like the “small town girl” from Journey’s infamous song because really, we shouldn’t stop believing. As the Mark Twain quote goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” Applicable because we are Pointers after all. Fitting also because I’d venture to guess I was representing the smallest school district present at the conference.

This is big time because the National School PR Board of Directors recognizes what we are doing here in Mineral Point is vital and of high quality and they were willing to reward it with a scholarship so I could attend, for which I am most grateful.

So, besides being the small fish in a big pond, what did I learn?

Probably the number one takeaway was the reaffirmation of the importance of face-to-face interactions as a key component to relationship building and authentic engagement.

While I’m proud of our awesome social media efforts that truly rank up there with some of the best schools in the nation, I think our area of biggest opportunity lies away from our electronic devices.

Unfortunately for many of us, and I’d be the first to admit you can lump me into this category as well, this area proves the most difficult. That can be for several reasons–it’s not as convenient as sending a quick message on our computer or phone, it’s more time consuming, and it’s harder to have a difficult conversation compared to hiding behind our screens.

For a lot of us, this presses our comfort zones. Strangely enough, being a School PR professional, I’d consider myself an introvert most of the time. It takes me awhile before I warm up to new people enough to really trust them. This is ironic because trust is exactly what I hope to gain from you through my transparency about our school district. So, I get it. This is a challenge for all of us.

With that said, I’m excited about ramping up face-to-face community engagement efforts moving forward. I have ideas running through my head–everything from alumni, to retired staff members, to senior citizens, to business partnerships and beyond. The best part? Engagement shouldn’t be just my ideas. So, please let me hear yours. (Secret? I like coffee. Suggest a meet-up over coffee and I’ll be there with bells on.)

While the conference undoubtedly had its share of intimidation factors, I’m glad I was able to attend and I’ve returned refreshed and revitalized to begin a new year in #PointerNation.