When a researcher who is receiving the highest honor bestowed by the United States government asks if you’d like to join her in Washington, D.C. – you go.
Kelly Wrighton, an assistant professor in Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University, is leading the way in microbiome research. Her research earned her a prestigious spot as one of the 314 awardees (from thousands of nominees) for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).
The awards ceremonies landed on a Thursday, and I booked my flight the Friday before. I had two business days to create a content plan and prepare for being out of the office.
Thankfully, the researcher and her grad student were super organized and already had the itinerary ready to go, plus maps and security details for the two ceremonies.
✈️ I learned a lot in those three days in D.C., including these five travel tips:
- Make a checklist: Back-up batteries, chargers, extra memory cards, mics, lens, business cards, name tag – every detail matters.
- Prepare names, titles, award and organization names, and any other details in your phone notes. This saves SO much time when trying to post to your stories quickly and correctly.
- Be prepared for terrible lighting and/or being set up in weird settings. Bring different lens (maybe even a flash kit), and think about ways to spruce up or hide the surroundings of your focus.
- TSA is going to take longer than usual with all the cords, batteries, etc. so give yourself enough time (and dedicate one bag for all of your equipment), plus, there’s extra security in D.C., so be prepared to be checked at multiple places.
- Portable batteries save lives. You never know when you’re going to have an outlet.
There were two separate ceremonies, one for the White House and one with the nominees from the Department of Energy. TBH, I was pretty intimidated at first, but quickly realized there was no time for fear. The first ceremony was held in DAR Constitution Hall. I hopped up on the platform next to the photographer for the large group photo and meandered my way around during the ceremony to get different shots of our researcher.
As for the DOE ceremony – we were in a cafeteria. Fortunately, they put curtains up on two sides shortly after we arrived, so it was easier to hide the fact that people were eating their lunch watching us wait.
I needed to be creative in the way the room was displayed. There was bullet-proof glass, an outdated building, cafeteria, and high security – but Instagram Stories work wonders. Between GIFs, colors, different text options, and stickers, there’s always something you can add to make your story more engaging.
💡Instagram Story Pro Tip
If your background isn’t super visual, you can change the entire screen to any color you’d like.
- Select a color with the highlighter (or any other utensil)
- Hold down on the screen for a few seconds
- Once the screen turns the color you want, feel free to use the eraser to feature certain aspects
Example and how-to video:
As for increasing engagement – tag, tag, tag! This might seem like a simple, no-brainer type of thing, but it makes a difference. On Twitter, I made sure to include the various stakeholders like the DOE, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), researchers, and labs. The OSTP even retweeted the CSUAgSci account:
“Think big, dream big, take intellectual risks” – Kelvin Droegemeier, director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) pic.twitter.com/pOfBJdiOtF
— CSU College of Agricultural Sciences (@CSUAgSci) July 25, 2019
🐏 Remember Your Alumni
This was not on my radar until an alum reached out and was interested in meeting Kelly. She was a student in the College of Ag and is now a member of the CSU Alumni Ram Network in D.C. and working as a government relations advisor. We were able to meet her for a happy hour after the DOE event, and it never would have happened without Instagram Stories and the alum’s interest. Thanks to this interaction, the college is going to start highlighting alumni as part of the content strategy more frequently and invite students to intern with alumni across the country.
Being flexible is the number one thing you can be on trips like this. I’m so grateful for this experience and for the time to get to know our researchers on a deeper level.