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Get the most out of a veterinary conference
Do: Meet and greet as much as possible. Don't: Wear flip-flops and a sweatshirt; be professional.


Meanwhile, Doris — just yards away — was desperately unfolding a wadded-up map. She wondered if she could find the restaurant Jamie had talked about. She dialed Jamie's cell.

"Jamie, where's that restaurant you talked about?" pleaded Doris.

Jamie looked out the window and could see Doris bent over her phone spinning in circles as she spoke with a half-folded map trailing her movements.

"Right behind you!" Jamie said, laughing till her stomach hurt.

During lunch, Doris explained how she couldn't attend the feline lectures because there weren't any seats left. Her boss wanted her to visit the exhibit hall, too, but she wasn't sure what he wanted her to look for. Doris went on for some time before Jamie chimed in.

"You know, Doris, you should be able to attend any of the lectures if you arrive in time — 15 minutes before the lecture. I check the locations ahead of time online before I even leave home. The owner of our practice sits down with me before I leave, and we look at the exhibitor list together. She tells me which vendors to visit, and sometimes she lets me buy equipment. It really helps me to focus on the needs of our practice."

Doris looked bewildered.

Nobody said anything for what seemed an eternity.

Finally, Doris broke the ice.

"Do you want to go to a museum this afternoon?"

How to fight conference chaos

If you're anything like Doris, you may find yourself overwhelmed at a veterinary conference. You may wonder why anybody even attends them. After all, the same information is available online and in books and journals.

The main reasons for attending professional conferences are to acquire continuing education hours and to maintain your professional network, including your friends.

A conference also takes you out of the distracted environment we call "daily practice" and lets you focus on refreshing your knowledge. No book or online substitute can ever replace that.

Here are some sure-fire strategies for making sure you get all you can out of your next industry conference.

Prepare before you go

There is more to preparing for a conference than making hotel and airline reservations. Meetings (especially big meetings) are brutal without some organizing ahead of time. Spend time with the preconvention package you receive — don't just stuff it in your luggage the night before. Go to the conference website, look at maps and orient yourself with respect to your hotel.

Next, map out each day with sessions you want to attend and their times. Keep this information in a PDA or on a small notecard. Remember not to "over-promise" yourself; scheduling conflicts will keep you from attending every session that sounds good.

Take business casual clothing with you. Online hiring powerhouse defines business casual as "dressing professionally, looking relaxed yet neat and pulled together." You represent your practice when you're away, so use good judgment. No flip-flops or sweatshirts in the convention center.

Finally, keep copies of the hotel phone number and address with you for ready reference when you arrive.

Play it smart, get an early start

An industry meeting is not a vacation. You need to get up on time, and this usually means early. If you don't, you will suffer the indignity of standing in long lines for expensive coffee and playing catch-up all day long. If you arrive at 9 a.m. for a 9 a.m. session, you'll invariably be stumbling over people's feet in a darkened room while your cell phone rings in your backpack — in other words, generally "disturbing the peace" for everyone else.

Arriving "on time" means arriving at least 10 minutes before a session starts. This not only lets you find your seat, but also the bathrooms and the free food and drink.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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