How to Get the Most out of Attending a Conference Part 2 – During and After the Conference

You’ve arrived at the conference, and it’s time to learn and have fun!  You still want to make the experience worth the time, effort, and money, and that does require some planning.  Fortunately, you’ve done most of the necessary preparation already, so you should now have the opportunity to enjoy yourself.  If you haven’t already read part 1 of this series, I encourage you to go ahead and read that first so you know what preparation is needed to set you up for success.

During the Conference

Here are a few tips to increase your productivity and enjoyment at the conference.  

1. Register ahead of time.  

This is especially important if you didn’t get your registration materials (like name badge) in the mail beforehand.  On the morning of the conference, thousands of people may be lining up to register, and that can really hamper your ability to get to your presentations and activities on time.  

Many conferences open their doors for registration the day before the main program starts, or they may just open early on the first day.  Get there as soon as you can and get registration out of the way.  That’ll give you more time to get to your first activity on time, meet up with friends, grab some food or coffee, or start meeting people.  

2. See the vendors.

This is not an absolute necessity, but this can be an excellent opportunity to try out new equipment first-hand, see some demonstrations, and get to talk to industry representatives about their products.  Beware of the pushy salesmen you will absolutely meet.  Not all of the reps are like that, but some companies actually train their salespeople to be pushy and overbearing.  It’ll be obvious and annoying, so be willing to turn and walk away if they get like that.  Still, you should think about carving some time out to go check out a few products that could help you make your practice more efficient or serve your patients better.

3. Meet new people!

You will meet people from literally all over the world.  This is an amazing opportunity to meet people who share your interests and find ways to help each other.  Make it a point to introduce yourself to at least one person at each presentation you attend.  You can have some fun with this.  Set a goal of how many business cards you want to give out, or play a game of how many states or countries are represented by the people you meet.  Use your imagination and have fun!  

Pro tip: bring a USB charger with multiple ports.  Plugs at the conference will be in high demand, and you’ll make fast friends if you can offer someone a chance to charge your phone and their phone at the same time. 

4.  Don’t be afraid to change your plan.

You may have planned this conference meticulously, perhaps down to the minute, but don’t be afraid to make changes if you hear great reviews about a presentation that you really want to attend or if there’s a can’t-miss activity you hadn’t previously heard about.  

5. Enjoy the conference!

Don’t miss out on the great fun you can have at these conferences.  You’ll get great information and make wonderful contacts, but this should be an enjoyable experience for you.  Find activities that are fun and interesting.  If you know people at the conference, try to coordinate schedules so you can go to a couple of presentations with someone you know. 

After the Conference

1. Fill out the surveys

The societies that put on these conferences really do use your feedback to make future conferences more valuable to the attendees.  Fill out the comments section and be specific about the things that really worked and the things you’d like to see changed.  

2. Submit paperwork for your CME

Many conferences will have computer stations set up where you can apply for CME.  Others will have ways to do it online or through a standard paper form you can drop off.  Don’t forget to do this before you leave the conference.  Once you get on your plane, you’ll forget about this and the CME submission may get lost in the shuffle when you get back home.   

3.  Turn in your receipts for reimbursement.

If your company is paying for the travel, be sure to follow the procedures for getting your expenses reimbursed as soon as you return home.  Save all receipts including airfare, cab/transportation fare, individual (not group) meal receipts (with tax/tip), itemized hotel receipts, and conference registration fees.  Save the originals in a safe place until the reimbursement check is deposited into your account.  Don’t get rid of the paperwork until you get paid.

4. Follow up with your new contacts.

You went to a lot of effort to meet new people and establish new contacts.  Take a few minutes to reach out to each one and solidify that connection.  It could be as simple as a quick email letting them know that you are excited to have met them and that you look forward to working together in the future.  

Conclusion

Conferences are an important part of your clinical practice.   They offer opportunities for expanding clinical knowledge, networking with colleagues, and enjoying some travel.  If you spend a little time planning your trip, you’ll maximize your experience and use it to propel your career forward.  You’ll probably have more fun along the way too.  

Leave a comment below and share your top tips for getting the most out of your conference. 

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