By Chauniqua Major and Jenna Box Sarkissian
In our fast-paced world of PR, finding time for professional self-love and play is nearly impossible. But with the help of our fellow Sachs Media Group Rhinos holding down the fort, we were able to carve out a few days for frank 2018 — a three-day-long gathering in Gainesville hosted by the University of Florida.
One thing’s for sure: We didn’t know exactly what to expect from frank when we first signed up for the self-described gathering of “movement builders and change makers.” The agenda featured a list of speakers and unusual terms like “recess” and “play” scattered throughout. And the emcee? Lizz Winstead, co-creator of and former writer for The Daily Show. This was not your ordinary conference.
For the love of anyone interested in exploring frank for the first time next year, we’ve compiled a list of what you should know before you go:
1. Approach frank with an open mind.
The format of frank may appear to be similar to a conference — but you should be open to the idea that it will not be what you think. If you’re looking for a conference that’s going to equip you with action items and how-to’s for public relations, this is not the place for you. But if you come in with an open mind, you will find a series of captivating speakers and breakaway conversations that will touch your heart and exercise your mind.
With finger rockets and paper boxes, we explored how play — yes, that’s right — can take us back to a childlike mindset where we aren’t worried about being judged. We learned that having fun and letting loose together can lead to bonds that form strong foundations for real conversations that can lead to social change.
All in all, frank is a quirky gathering for communicators who are progressive thinkers, advocates, and social change seekers. frank will inspire you to do more and do better.
2. Expect to meet people from all over the world.
We didn’t expect to meet many people who didn’t live within the state of Florida. No offense to the city of Gainesville, but to outsiders it probably doesn’t appear to the be the best setting for a conference.
However, we semi-locals quickly learned we were outnumbered by those who flew in from all over the world. At one point during the gathering, franksters were asked to stand up if they flew in or were from another country — more than half of the guests stood up.
During our interactions with other franksters we learned that the conference is known and appreciated around the globe. It was refreshing to learn that progressive and kind people exist have impactful careers in communities all over the world.
3. Anticipate jam-packed days — from morning to night.
Pack your sneakers, grab your back-up chargers, and prepare to caffeinate. The days are long and the sessions are packed with information, which doesn’t leave much opportunity to go far from the Hippodrome for personal time. There’s no shortage of speakers, so you’ll need a reliable way to take copious notes.
We recommend that you pack a few snacks and prepare yourself for long days away from your hotel. Thankfully, the lunch breaks were rather long, and frank provided a variety of food options. If you have specific dietary preferences, you’ll have plenty of options within walking distance.
Speaking of walking, there’s a lot of that. Many of the breakout sessions will require you to walk, so be mindful of your apparel selection.
4. Prepare yourself for information overload.
Information overload can be good or bad — it really depends on your mental bandwidth. If you like to hear multiple perspectives and case studies presented by influencers from varying fields of work, this is the conference is for you. The 2018 theme was play, and everything revolved around how people can incorporate play into their everyday lives and workplaces to be more creative, open to change, and successful.
This year’s conference featured more than 20 speakers. Many of them were memorable, and we took down pages and pages of notes from their talks. Following the day sessions, we had more time to connect with our fellow franksters with puzzle hunts, comedy shows, and more.
Expect to be very excited and very tired at the same time. You might not catch everything your favorite speaker had to say, and you might not like anything another had to say. Take each talk, each session, as it comes. And if all else fails, there are four coffee shops within a one-mile radius. (You’re welcome!)
5. Expect the unexpected.
It seemed like each day brought a new surprise: A booty-bump partner? Check.
A DIY catapult that sent at least 30 paper airplanes into the audience all at once? Check. An emotional, intimate account of standing against violence in Egypt? Yes, even that.
One continuous thread woven throughout the course of the three-day gathering was a reminder that a $10,000 prize was on the table for one of three finalists who had completed substantial research in public interest communications. At the end of the week, franksters voted to award the $10,000 prize to a single recipient, after all three had the chance to share their work and answer questions.
All in all, frank is a place for anyone looking for inspiration in the field of communications for positive change in the world. Click here for a short frank 2018 highlight reel and check out frank.jou.ufl.edu for more information.