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The Top 9 Things NOT To Do…To Have A Great Conference Experience

by Kimberly on November 10, 2010 · 7 comments

As I’m preparing for our national music therapy conference next week, I think back to my evolution as a conference attendee. Over the years I’ve approached every conference a little differently. Some years I’ve attended every session I could. During others I’ve spent most of my time in meetings. I’ve been to conferences where I’ve presented multiple times and those where I haven’t presented at all. I’ve given 60-minute presentations. I’ve given 5-hour presentations. I’ve attended sessions because I’m interested in the speaker. I’ve attended sessions because I’m interested in the topic.

Needless to say…I’ve tried several ways of being a conference attendee and have learned a bit along the way.

So given this background, I’d like to share with you my personal guide for what you shouldn‘t do so you can have a fabulous conference experience:

  1. DON’T forget to get organized beforehand. When you look at the conference program, you’ll have dozens of choices to make on what to attend and when. So many that it’ll help you big time to get organized beforehand so you’re not as stressed out. This used to happen the night before conference, when you saw the program for the first time. Now? You can download it here and get organized before you pack!
  2. DON’T limit yourself to sessions related your clinical/research interest. If I have the choice between attending a session because I know the speaker is good versus attending a session because I work with that particular clinical population…most of the time I will choose the former. Regardless of the topic, I find I get more out of a session if the speaker is good than if the speaker is so-so.
  3. DON’T forget to attend the keynote speaker. I haven’t always attended the keynote address…but I’m always happy when I do.
  4. DON’T go to every session. Conference provides you will the opportunity to be saturated with information, people, and stimulation. Your brain needs a break. It’s okay to skip a session or two.
  5. DON’T forget to network, network, network…and network some more. To me, the single biggest reason to attend conference is because it provides me with the opportunity to meet new people and connect with friends and colleagues. That part is invaluable. (Feeling shy? Read this article on “unnatural networking” from a couple weeks ago.)
  6. DON’T forget the bar. Speaking of networking…some of the best networking experiences happen in the casual, relaxed, fun atmosphere of a bar. No drinking required.
  7. DON’T forget to roam the Exhibit Hall. The Exhibit Hall is full of retailers with books, instruments, supplies, and programs you can browse. It’s a great way to get a feel for what’s happening in the field and to check out what’s new in the field. As a bonus, several retailers will waive certain fees or give discounts to conference attendees. It’s a great way to stock up on supplies!
  8. DON’T forget to go to the business meetings. If you’re spending $300+ on your membership fee, doesn’t it make sense to keep tabs on what your association is doing for you? Yes, sometimes business meetings can be “boring,” but the people facilitating them are working hard to provide you with as many benefits as possible and your feedback is invaluable. Plus, if you’re not involved, then you can’t complain 🙂
  9. DON’T forget to get out of the hotel. You can easily spend 4-5 days at conference and never see the light of day (or the dark of night). Whether you take a morning run outside or try to catch a bite to each outside the hotel, try to get out at least once. Kind of like with #4, your brain needs a break.

Finally, last week I asked you to fill out a simple 2-question survey. Here are the results (drumroll please…):

  • 84% of you thought we SHOULD write our Twitter names on our name badges.
  • 100% of you are in favor of a tweetup

So, I will be putting my Twitter name on my conference badge and we will definitely have a tweetup!

P.S. Several of you commented that you would not have an easy way to know when the tweetup is if we only advertise it on Twitter. Therefore…if you email me your phone number, I will also text you about the Tweetup and when it happens. Hope this helps!

P.P.S. If you have any other DONT’S to add to the list, please leave a comment in the field below!


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela Draper November 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Fabulous tips, Kimberly – thanks! As a first-time attender, this list definitely helped to orient and prepare me. Getting verrrry excited! 🙂 See you in Cleveland!

John Lawrence November 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm

These are definitely some great tips! I especially like the one about “not going to every session that you can”. Sometimes you are so “overwhelmed” by the information that you have received in a great presentation that your mind is in overdrive thinking about how this might affect your own work when you leave “music therapy nirvana”. Getting out, or getting some fresh air can definitely be beneficial in those situations. And definitely, use the conference as an opportunity to network, network, network!

Christian Sinclair, MD November 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Great tips Kimberly,

I made up little 1/4″ stickers with a twitter ‘T’ on it instantly recognizable to those using Twitter, and odd enough to those not familiar that they would ask me about it.

Kimberly December 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm

That’s a great idea, Christian! I didn’t have enough time this year…but maybe next year 🙂 ~Kimberly

Join Clinical Trials August 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Wow. Thanks for sharing these tips. Keep up the good work, Kim!

Kimberly August 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

Thank you! I will 🙂 ~Kimberly

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