Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Conferences#SolvePT’s Tuesday night Twitter chat on January 8, 2013, focused on the topic of trade shows and conferences—specifically how to get the most out of them. With CSM 2013 next week in sunny San Diego, it was definitely a timely discussion. So, how do you get the most out of conferences? Here are five tips:

    1. Be selective. There are local, regional, national, and even international conferences and events, spanning a plethora of topics from specific private practice physical therapy to general health care. While trade show after parties can be pretty rockin’, and a change of scenery is always nice, you and your practice don’t need to attend everything. Conferences aren’t Pokemon, after all, so be selective.

      Choose the shows that are most relevant and will prove most educational. Additionally, not everyone from one practice can all drop everything and attend the same shows. Consider researching local and regional shows that may provide similar education and training as national events and then enacting a rotation plan for large-scale shows.

 

    1. Have a plan.One tip that came up repeatedly during the #SolvePT discussion was to plan your program in advance. Review seminars, sessions, and discussions before the show, map out which you’d like to attend, and make a schedule. Additionally, pinpoint who’s exhibiting that you’d like to meet with during unopposed exhibition times or during free slots in your schedule. For the evenings, determine which parties and meet-ups you just have to attend. Note that many require reservation in advance, but don’t be afraid to double book yourself; there’s nothing wrong with party hopping, especially for networking or reconnecting opportunities.

      Planning doesn’t always mean strictly business. Throw a few hints out to your social media networks and find out who (be it friends or former classmates and colleagues) will be at the event as well. Conferences fly by quickly, so be sure to add friendly rendezvouses into your schedule.

 

    1. Be prepared. Now that you have a plan, it’s time to get prepared:
      1. First and foremost, don’t lose your attendance badge. Add it to your luggage as soon as you receive it.
      2. Pack comfy shoes. You’re a rehab therapist, so you know the importance of happy feet. Plus, think of how much time you’ll save if you can speedwalk everywhere. (I know that came in handy when I was sprinting through the monumentally huge Wynn Las Vegas during PPS 2012.)
      3. Submit time off requests early and make sure you’ve checked for reimbursement opportunities with your employer.
      4. Don’t forget all your tech hardware. From Ethernet cables to cell chargers, make sure you’ve got everything you need to stay powered up and connected. Investigate wi-fi connectivity throughout the conference center and obtain how-to-connect instructions. Additionally, carry chargers with you as wi-fi (and constant Tweeting and Facebooking) drains battery life.
      5. Pack an extra bag or leave space in your luggage for all the schwag and free goodies, which brings us to tip four…

 

    1. Maximize time with vendors. Another major talking point in the #SolvePT chat? Maximizing your experience on the exhibitor floor. Unopposed times are normally pretty busy, so if you have any other time in your schedule to visit the exhibitor hall, go for it, especially if there are particular vendors you’d like to spend more time with. Additionally, carry a bag (some events actually give attendees reusable shopping bags) and fill it with all the free goodies—even samples—vendors pass out.

      Carry a notebook or tablet device with you to take notes, collect contacts, or write down Q&A. As you hop from booth to booth, make sure that you’re selective in who you let scan your badge. These vendors will most likely contact you, so make sure those scanning your badge are companies you actually want to receive information from.

 

  1. Enjoy yourself. No matter the event destination, slate time to spend it like the locals do. Go for a stroll outside the conference center, ask for restaurant recommendations, and reconnect with colleagues and friends. Try something new, too, be it an out-of-your-wheelhouse seminar; a vendor after-party; a local, yet odd culinary delight; or one of the product demonstrations on the exhibitor floor. You’re there to learn and grow, but ultimately you should be having fun while doing so. Don’t ever sacrifice fun.

How do you make the most out of events? Share your advice in the comments section below. And don’t forget to stop by our booth (#2109) and say “hi!” at CSM 2013.