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A Public Relations Apprentice’s Reflection on the SALT NY Conference

Matt Keenan  Follow

On a drizzly Sunday earlier this month, I found myself on Platform 11 in Boston’s South Station boarding an Amtrak to New York City for the first work trip of my career. I was extended an invite to accompany my colleagues to our clients’ annual SALT New York conference, a global thought leadership and networking forum for leaders in finance, technology, and geopolitics held at the Javits Center Extension. I spent a week in Manhattan; three days on the ground at the conference, two working out of Prosek’s office on Madison Ave., and a couple more catching up with college friends who are among the tribe of Syracuse University grads who now call New York City home (I guess I missed the memo).

It was a thrill to finally meet my colleagues on the account and witness the culmination of months’ worth of focused planning and coordination come to life. On the ground at the conference, our days were packed with staffing and coordinating media interviews, tracking event media coverage, and listening to speakers and panelists from around the world. It was a frenetic blend of hard work, laughs, and an abundance of learning opportunities. Here are a few highlights and takeaways from my SALT experience.  

Live events reign supreme

Much of SALT’s pre-event messaging revolved around the reemergence of New York City-based events and the importance of live, in-person conferences and assemblies. Naturally, I was curious to see how it stacked up against the myriad of virtual events throughout the pandemic. The differences were glaring.

The in-person element of SALT made an immense impact on networking. Conversation was active and lasted from the moment the doors opened until the final panel. Spacious hallways and an outdoor plaza made way for seamless communication between allocators, funds, media members, and thought leaders, fostering connections in a way that would have been impossible to replicate in an online format.

Working out of Boston, I had never spent meaningful time with my New York-based colleagues. SALT was the perfect platform to change that. We spent the better part of our nine-hour days huddled together in the conference production room or running around the Javits Center together tending to client interviews and media appearances. After our work concluded, we stuck together for team dinners and cocktail parties in Hudson Yards with other clients and delegates. To cap it all off, Wednesday night featured a private concert headlined by The Chainsmokers. These bonding experiences boosted comfortability with my colleagues and accelerated my assimilation into the team and Prosek. Each of these experiences underscored the value of in-person gatherings in the post-pandemic world and made me appreciate the importance Prosekians place on human connection in the workplace.

Nurturing client and media relationships is key

When client exposure is limited to weekly Zoom meetings, it can be challenging to develop desired levels of chemistry and cohesion. SALT was a great way to break down existing barriers and get to know my client team. Working together in the production room, I spent valuable time with our clients, discussing everything from our conference agenda to the latest sports news. I even had the chance to introduce myself to Anthony Scaramucci, the founder and managing partner of SkyBridge Capital, who greeted me warmly.

Similarly, the conference environment was ideal for forging new relationships with reporters and tending to existing connections. I coordinated on-the-ground interviews for clients with reporters at top-tier publications and accompanied team members as they staffed live media appearances with broadcast outlets. These encounters would not have been possible from an office setting, and provided a new perspective on the innerworkings of business and media relations.

Learning from the best and the brightest is an opportunity

Beyond an abundance of networking opportunities, SALT also offered an opportunity to listen and learn from the foremost experts in verticals like private equity, asset management, crypto and financial technology.

CAIS CEO Matt Brown discussed the new era of access and democratization of alternative investments on a panel hosted by Ted Seides of Capital Allocators, while Thomas Tull (interviewed by my CEO Jen Prosek) recounted his humble beginnings and his path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. We even received a remote visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who updated delegates on the current state of the conflict in Ukraine and urged continued support for his country’s efforts. And to cap off the conference’s third and final day, Rick Doblin, founder and executive chairman of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and one of the most ardent advocates of alternative treatment methods, outlined the future of psychedelic medicine and offered a roadmap for mainstream adoption of its use.

As someone who is still learning the ropes of the financial services space, it was a treat to be privy to many of these discussions, many of which were directly applicable to the industries I work in and that impact me every day.  

Attending the SALT New York conference was an invaluable learning experience and a milestone in my public relations apprenticeship. I am eager to see how the connections I built and lessons I learned translate into my daily routine. Suffice it to say, I am already excited for the next one.

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