The life of the Public Relations I of the Conference Executive Board

The life of the Public Relations I of the Conference Executive Board - an Interview with Azra Balic

Could you introduce yourself and describe your role within the conference board organisation?

Hello, my name is Azra. I am 23 years old and I fulfilled the function of PR and Promotion within the EBF Conference Board. This year I have started a Master's in Finance after finishing my Bachelors in Economic & Business Economics here. In my free time, I like to workout, play football, read and travel. I was born in Groningen where I lived until I was 9 years old, and then I lived in Bosnia for 10 years where my family still lives. I returned to the Netherlands to go to university.

Can you describe a typical day in your life coming up to the conference?

September was the busiest month for my function. Everyday, we would go to the office starting at 10am. On Mondays, a board meeting was held which roughly lasted two hours. Then, we would quickly eat lunch together and begin with our own tasks. As PR & Promotion, I would usually be working on making posts for Instagram and updating the website. In September, I was also responsible for preparing the promotion stunt. As the EBF Conference Board, we were allowed to promote with food so we had poffertjes. Every Monday, we would also have a board evening. This usually consisted of dinner and drinks. Afterwards, we would attend socials of EBF or the other study associations. This was super fun because we are all at the interim together. It was really nice to make friends with other students who are doing a board year.

Do you need to have prior experience at the EBF to apply?

Not really. Three people on my board had no prior committee experience. It's nice to have experience but not necessary. I had previously been part of two committees, the Marketing committee and of ESR Fall - Barcelona as PR. I then decided to apply for the Conference Board. There was a bit of overlap, as I was recruited for the executive board at the start of November and we went to Barcelona with ESR at the end of November. But this didn't cause any problems. So don't worry about this small overlap.

Is this board open to non-Dutch speaking students?

Yes, the functions - Vice-Chairman and my role PR & Promotion are open. The others are not because of contact with companies and external parties - such as the venue, catering, technical etc - tend to be fully in Dutch.

Can you do studies alongside this board ?

Yes, but it can be tough, during the beginning of this board, it is part-time so around 3 days will be spent in the office. However, from February onwards, this is a full time board so 5 days of the week will be spent in the office. It is also dependent on your function. During the summer we did still have to work, we decided on three weeks of vacation, which you could plan in whenever you wanted. For me, I was busiest during September but each role has a different period in which they are at peak with their workload. The day is full so if you are taking courses you have to work on them in the evening. During the second semester, I took two courses which were doable but this was not the peak period for my position. Now, I have begun my masters but didn't take any courses in the first semester as I knew I would have a very high workload with board tasks. Someone in my board also managed to complete their thesis while being part of this board

What do you gain by doing an executive board year?

I gained many hard and soft skills during this year. The hard skills include experience in InDesign, Photoshop and video editing programmes. The main soft skill was interpersonal. You are interacting with many people - 6 board members and 4 committee members so it is vital to find a style of working that suits everyone. There is also lots of contact with companies and external parties too. I learnt to speak honestly and really say what you think, otherwise a plan you don't like could go ahead.

What was your motivation behind applying?

I started my studies in 2019 so they were really impacted by COVID-19. I really missed being on campus and the opportunity to meet people. I also wanted to gain some experience and develop new skills. This board fit in perfectly with my schedule, so I didn't mind taking an extra year for bachelors due to lost time and opportunities because of COVID-19.

What is the difference between conference board and conference day organisation committee?

For the board, the conference is our focus for the whole year. The projects have a much longer time frame which we are working continuously on and the workload is not comparable. The committee can be taken alongside studies which tends to be their main focus. They are given more responsibility on College Day (Thursday) whereas the board put more emphasis on the Conference Day (Friday). Each committee member has a board member to whom they are assigned to help. I worked closely with the PR II of the committee and it was super helpful to have someone I could delegate smaller tasks to.

What is the biggest challenge you faced in planning and how did you overcome it?

As PR, I was responsible for everything you see on the screens throughout the whole Conference. I spent the day backstage to ensure everything was running smoothly behind the scenes. I worked closely with technicals and lighting. I was worried about something going wrong with these aspects but thankfully in the end nothing went wrong. For the board, at the beginning of the year we faced the challenge of increased catering prices. We held a lot of meetings trying to find a solution to this but luckily acquisition was high this year so it worked out well in the end.

How has this board helped your personal and professional development?

On a personal level, my main learning was how to work with many different types of people. Also, being responsible for such a large event, changed my mindset and I became more motivated. I really enjoyed working closely with the EBF board and other groups too. I really enjoyed the work environment with my board. It was really encouraging to have people completing individual tasks but all working towards the same goal. In the office, we were very task-oriented but were able to have lots of fun together once outside. Last week, we went on a trip together to Bologna to close out our board year and relax after the stressful weeks leading up to the Conference. Next to that, we also went to Ameland at the beginning of the year.

What was your favourite part about being on an executive board?

I really enjoy how it's not “actual” work but you are gaining really good professional experience. Everyday is expected to be at the office. I especially loved the feeling of responsibility. There are going to be over 600 people at the event we planned so seeing the day be a success is super rewarding. You feel valued on the day, and proud of all the work you put into it. It was a really well documented event with all the photos and the aftermovie which is so nice to look back on.

What were your main tasks as PR and Promotion?

At the beginning, I wrote a promotion plan and followed this the whole of the year. I had the chance to be so creative and come up with so many ideas. I decided what I would like to change up from last year. Next, the website is a big responsibility and I was always updating everything on this. I was responsible for planning the promotion stunt. Some less obvious things I was responsible for was the book of abstracts - this contains all the information for the participants. Lastly, you can get as creative as you want to with the posters and banners.

What is something unique about your position?

The PR function is the only one sitting backstage on the day. This meant I got to talk with all the speakers and the backstage crew whilst the other members welcomed companies. With this role, you get the chance to really focus on the details. Our logo this year was a chameleon so we changed its colour for each speaker which was a really nice touch. I really enjoyed working with Logistics I to decide on the screens, setup and lighting. It was also super nice meeting with the technical company. They helped with the brainstorming and would find ways to bring our ideas to life and let us know whether things were possible or not.

Summarise in one sentence why others should apply.

You get the opportunity to organise a highly regarded conference while still having time to have so much fun with your board during the whole year.