I’ve been fortunate enough to attend AOTA’s Annual Conference for four years in a row now, and this year’s Centennial (#AOTA17) was my first year attending as an official OT practitioner! There were about 13,000 attendees in Philadelphia this year, and it was truly an amazing experience. I was able to present an AOTA-sponsored session with my Emerging Leaders mentor, deepen friendships with my Emerging Leader cohort, develop skills in my new practice area, and learn about cool things happening in the world of OT. I had a great time and I was sad to finally leave Philly, although I was SO ready to sleep in my own bed again! Still, in the week that I’ve been home, I’ve been making an effort to keep all of the OT energy from Conference going strong!
By this time all the Conference attendees have headed home and everybody has likely settled back into their daily grind. And while you may not be attending any fun educational sessions, dance parties, or networking events in the near future, there are several ways you can continue making the most of your conference experience even after you’ve returned home.
- Keep in touch. Follow up with new contacts, including speakers, vendors, or presenters who you found engaging. Ask for a copy of their presentation slides, more information about a job opportunity, or how you can get involved with their organization. You can also send a quick greeting or word of encouragement to friends you don’t get to see in between conferences via social media, email, or even snail mail! By keeping the lines of communication open, you can continue to build your professional network even with people who are hundreds of miles away.
(Left) Me and my fellow Emerging Leaders at the Philly Museum of Art on the Rocky stairs!
(Center) …this is the future of OT, y’all. Aka two other Emerging Leaders who got a hold of my phone while I wasn’t looking…lol
(Right) I got to meet a friend who follows my blog in person! It was great talking to Jasmine at the Annual COTAD Breakfast this year.
- Apply your knowledge to your practice. Identify at least one strategy, treatment idea, piece of equipment, or intervention you learned about to incorporate into your practice. Which session did you leave saying “Wow! That program would work wonders with my clients!”? Which textbook, therapy tool, or treatment protocol did you purchase at the Expo? What useful treatment tip did you take away from your favorite presenter? After you decide what you would like to do, take concrete actions to integrate the idea or equipment into your daily work – for example, talking to your supervisor about purchasing new equipment or scheduling a time to collaborate with a colleague on a novel treatment.
- Educate others. If you were one of few people in your workplace who were able to attend Conference, make an effort to share what you learned with your colleagues who stayed home. Present an in-service, focus the monthly journal club discussion on a session you attended, or simply send a short email describing a new trend, treatment, or tool you learned about and offering yourself as a resource for those interested in learning more. What you do doesn’t have to be big to make a difference in your workplace!
- Develop a conference proposal. If you benefited from learning about the research, experiences, and products of other attendees and presenters, apply to become a speaker! AOTA will soon be accepting proposals for the 2018 Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, from May 1 to June 8, 2017. And if the idea of presenting at a national conference is a little too daunting, search for local conferences or events where you can get your feet wet with professional presentations.
- Document your continuing education credits. After the whirlwind of activity that is Conference dies down, it can be tempting to simply toss your tote bag in the closet and move on to other things. However, before you throw out that Conference Guide or delete the app, dedicate one or two hours to reviewing your CE transcripts and documenting the credits you earned for your attendance. Find out when you will be required to submit CE information for reimbursement, licensure, or re-accreditation through NBCOT and get organized before the deadline arrives. The weeks post-conference are also a good time to develop an effective system for keeping track of your current and future CE credits, if you don’t already have one!
- Update your résumé or CV. Many conference attendees earn new certifications or credentials after attending specific sessions (i.e. Reiki, CarFit, Fieldwork Educator, AOTA Board or Specialty Certification). If you attended a session and developed your professional knowledge in a particular area, make time to update your LinkedIn profile, university webpage, or physical résumé to reflect your current skills. Not only can keeping your information updated help others identify you as a clinician who is specially trained and better able to meet their needs, but it will also help grow your professional network as you become part of a new communities of practice.
Don’t let your excitement from Conference fade after you’ve made your way back home. By sharing your knowledge with others, trying new treatment ideas, and investing in connections with friends and colleagues, you can keep the Conference momentum going until the next time!