One of my favorite parts of the conference last year was the sheer amount of information available on for conference attendees to consume. There were hundreds of presentations, posters, and booths that covered a dizzying array of topics, and it was amazing – but also kind of stressful! Trying to choose which ones to view and attend can definitely be overwhelming, and trying to go through the conference guide each day to decide is a daunting task. So what is a poor conference-goer to do?
If you’re not a planner, feel free to disregard all that I am about to say. However, if you are possibly feeling a little overwhelmed and wondering how you can possibly see and do all there is to see and do (Hint: You can’t!), read the following tips and take heart – if I can plan it, you can too!
Top 10 Reasons to Plan Your AOTA Conference Itinerary In Advance
- Nothing is set in stone. If you change your mind about attending a particular session, that’s fine! But for me, going in with a basic plan or outline of the things I’d like to do is calming and still provides the flexibility that is so crucial at large events like Conference.
- You can derive the most educational and professional benefits while in Nashville. By having a good idea of the topics and sessions that are most relevant to you well in advance, you can spend your time learning material that is going to be the most important to your current and future practice and professional goals.
- You can save yourself time, energy, and stress at the conference hall and in your hotel room trying to figure your schedule out. You won’t need to worry about lugging a laptop, conference guide, or anything else around with you if you already have a document (paper or virtual) outlining your conference plans. Additionally, by listing or ranking the sessions you are most interested in attending in advance, you can avoid stressful scheduling conflicts and spare yourself the agony of having to make a split second decision between two really awesome sessions or events the day of!
- You can download or access session handouts in advance. No need to take notes in some beat-up spiral notebook you found in your car on the way to Tennessee OR on the back of your Starbucks kiosk receipt – you’ll be prepared with handouts from the presentations you plan to attend that you found HERE! (Although notebooks and receipts are still welcome).
- You can more easily keep track of CE credits. By organizing your sessions in advance using your own worksheet or the Conference Itinerary App, you can easily keep track of the sessions you attend and have a hassle-free conference experience without worrying about logging credits after each session.
- You won’t miss the most important events. Conference can get pretty hectic! But if you print a document, write a Sticky Note, or make a Google calendar with the dates, locations, and times of the events that you most want to attend before going, even on a crazy day you can easily remember where you wanted to be, when, and why.
- You can get to rooms and events before they fill up. Although generally only talks by very popular or well-known presenters, talks about hot-button issues, or limited-seating roundtable discussions fill rooms to capacity, it does happen. By planning your schedule in advance, you can be sure to arrive early to sessions that are likely to “runneth over.”
- You’re less likely to end up on your own. By having a common schedule with a group of classmates or fellow attendees, you can be sure that you will have people to sit beside during the presentation and compare notes with afterward. Of course, you don’t have to take it to the extreme and plan to attend all of the same events with your classmates or coworkers, but planning to meet up with a few friends throughout the day can make a very large conference seem a little smaller.
- You can more easily plan the day’s meals, activities, and breaks (or, in more OT terms, you can better modulate your sensory and cognitive functioning throughout the day!). For example, if you know in advance that you want to attend a session at 12 PM that is likely to fill up fast, you will also know to plan to bring a snack or eat an early lunch so you aren’t starving (and distracting neighbors with your stomach’s nonstop growling). Similarly, if you know that you’re going to be attending several morning sessions and hours of socialization tend to drain you, you can plan to have a free afternoon to relax and re-energize.
- You can pack more efficiently. If you know in advance that you plan to attend events like the AOTF Gala or morning Pilates class that require a particular type of clothing, or that you only plan to attend informal events, you can pack smarter and not waste time and suitcase space including items that are unlikely to be worn or forgetting to pack items that you’ll need to wear.
With all of that said, some people prefer to enjoy conference on the fly, and that’s great too! I just believe in planning now to avoid what I know would be a stressful experience for me later. (How very OT of me, right? :D)
Best of luck planning your conference experience, and remember to leave lots of room for hanging out, relaxing, and exploring the city in whatever itinerary you do decide to make!