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By Krista Meckelborg

Our world has undoubtedly become a digital world.  If you look around, you will likely spot at least a few people on their phones or laptops.  You might be reading this in print, but you likely find most of your news online.

With the impact of the digital revolution all around us, it’s becoming both easier and harder to deal with relationships.  Communication is so easy; to send someone a message from across the world only takes a few seconds.  At the same time, online communication can be impersonal and easily misinterpreted.  This goes for both the personal and professional.

The truth is that the online world has completely changed communication as we once knew it.  But with all of the challenges also come opportunities, particularly for us as students. Opportunities to stay in touch with family and friends who live elsewhere; opportunities to build an online reputation and make yourself known to employers who otherwise would have no way to trust you; opportunities within our coming careers to connect and communicate with consumers.

This year’s MarkItUp Marketing Conference at Vancouver Island University will give students the opportunity to learn more about professional communication and marketing in our digital world.  The conference will take place from February 6 – 9 at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus, and is open to all students.

Speakers and workshop leaders from across Western Canada will be sharing their wisdom with students throughout the week. Included in the lineup is Karen Hounjet, a sales and marketing expert and President of FIO Connect, from Calgary, Alberta.  Hounjet will kick off the conference with a keynote titled, “Staying Sober Under the Digital Influence.”

Additionally, a number of VIU Alumni will be back to share their own experiences of life after university.  These will include Paris Gaudet, Executive Director of Innovation Island and current BC Liberal Candidate for Nanaimo; Lisa Michaud, a career success coach; and Sahara Shaik, marketing and design strategy consultant for Panago Pizza.

The conference will feature an International Etiquette event where students from around the world will present appropriate business etiquette from their own cultures, and Lightning Talks presented by the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, where several local professionals will each give short talks on a variety of business topics.

On top of these events open to all students, select students will be presented with an actual case from a local business at the beginning of the week, and have the chance to prepare a strategic marketing plan and pitch it to the local business on the final day.  All students are invited to watch these real-life pitches take place and see how the businesses respond.

“I’m really excited about the case competition,” said Samantha McLean, Co-Chair of MarkItUp.  “This year we are opening it up to the public to watch which will be a really unique experience.”

Even more so than the structured aspects of the conference, the opportunities to network provided in this conference alone provide great value for those who attend.  MarkItUp gives students the chance to directly interact with local community members and like-minded individuals.  Opportunities like this can lead to life-time careers and the beginnings of long-lasting professional relationships.

“I never understood the value behind networking until I actually experienced it for myself,” said McLean.

Although created by marketing students, the MarkItUp Marketing Conference is for everyone.  Foundational marketing skills such as communication, research, and creativity are universally helpful.  Even more marketing-specific skills such as branding, promotion, and targeting can be applied to any professional career.

“MarkItUp isn’t just for marketing students,” said McLean.  “It’s a conference that can benefit anyone.  When we all finish school and go into the working world, we all need to know how to self-brand and sell ourselves to land that dream career.  This event will help you achieve that.”

Our world is constantly changing and evolving; it can be hard to keep up with current trends and stay relevant in today’s world.  However, it is in actively searching for and participating in self-growth opportunities such as this conference that allows you to gain an edge over every other person entering the working world. Allow yourself these opportunities.

“We are really living in a digital age,” said McLean, “and learning skills and information regarding digital marketing is important in staying relevant in the business environment.”

Registration is free, but required for all conference events. To learn more about the MarkItUp Marketing Conference or to register, please visit miuc.ca.