About a month ago, I attended the largest Physical Therapy conference in America. The APTA’s Combined Sections Meeting (APTA CSM). It was in San Antonio, TX this year (2022) during a cold streak that saw temperatures uncharacteristically in the teens in Texas.
Sounds weird I know, but the lines for coffee were ridiculous. The options for where to get coffee were few and far in between. So next year, I will be bringing my own already ground bag of Death Wish Coffee (my favorite) and a cold brew steeping device like this one.
I drink my coffee black over ice anyway, so I will just steep it the night before and throw my cold brew over ice in my new Ice Shaker Bottle (shout out to Ice Shaker, proud sponsor of The Professors of Profit Vlogcast). I will be fully caffeinated and not having to wait on any lines or find a coffee shop for those early morning starts.
You will always run into people in the hallways or out on the street or running from presentation to presentation. But if you create a list of people you ABSOLUTELY must see, and set scheduled times and places to meet, you make them a priority and you stick to them. Even if it means sacrificing other events or things going on at those times.
You will thank yourself, and your relationships will grow stronger with these people when you prioritize them and they see you have prioritized them. Plus let’s be honest, we need to get back to hugs and high fives!
3. Document Your Journey and Tag People in Real Time on Social Media
This will make it easier for people who are looking for you to find you if you can’t find them. Great for Superfans, old colleagues you didn’t know were going to be at the conference, and stalkers alike!
Plus it keeps a neat social media like journal of where you were at and what you were learning, which may help to jog your memory when you are reflecting on the way home.
4. Make Your List…Then Go With the Flow
You can make a list of every presentation and meeting you would like to attend, but I guarantee you will not be able to get to all of them. Between MUST SEES and seeing your friends and co-workers present, and new and interesting presentations you didn’t know were going to be there, I was double booked almost every hour of the day.
So make your list, highlight the ones you can not miss, then go with the flow. Flip a coin, join friends, see which presentation is near by your current room (some are just too far to get to in a reasonable amount of time sometimes) and don’t beat yourself up over it.
5. Network, Network, Network…
I tell my students this all the time: Your Network = Your Net Worth! It is a cliche for a reason. You never know who you are going to meet at these conferences and who you may be able to help out in some way shape or form, or who may eventually be able to help you out.
So get out of your comfort zone, meet as many people as you can, hand out and collect business cards or social media info, and grow that network at every conference you attend!
This is a good one to help fill the mind, body, and soul. My dissertation was on service based learning so I am all about volunteering. You can volunteer for the conference or out in the community where the conference is being held… (#PTintheCommunity
7. See the Community
Which is a nice transition into number 7, go see the community you are visiting. Go site see, go enjoy the hole in the wall restaurant, see a concert, enjoy the city you are in. Its a great opportunity to travel somewhere outside of your home town (sometimes on the company dollar if you do it right).
8. Must Have Items (Portable Charger and Seat Cushion)
I have already purchased for next year a Portable Battery Charger
and a Portable Seat Cushion
. My phone was dead almost all day every day and my butt was sore from those uncomfortable conference chairs. Pick these up, you will be reaping the benefits.
9. Protein Bars, and Granola Bars, and Nuts…Oh My!
You will get your steps in a professional conference (likely in some uncomfortable dress shoes) and inevitably you will get hungry. Stock up before you travel on Protein Bars
and Granola Bars
and other snacks that are easy to pack like RX Bars
because you can’t always stop for a meal, and going out at all hours of the night to drink and party and let loose with your friends doesn’t go well on an empty stomach.
Keep your energy up and avoid the insane restaurant wait times by having your bars and snacks packed for the day!
10. Learn, Have Fun, Implement
Last but not least…learn, have fun, and implement. After you have taken the conference in, and had some time to reflect, make sure you implement (or at least try to implement) the things you learned at the conference. Many people put a lot of hard work and effort into putting this conference together and presenting research and knowledge at the conference, utilize it to make more impact!
That’s my Top 10 Tips for a Successful Conference. Don’t forget to watch the YouTube video on this topic below. Leave a comment, subscribe to the channel, and hit the bell for notifications of when new videos drop! The links in this blog are affiliate links.