The school year is wrapping up and summer is here. That means it’s time to pack your bags, load up the car, and head off for a wonderful… convention?!? If you’ll be attending the AG Bell Convention or any other continuing education opportunities this summer, here are some tips for making the most of your experience.
Make a plan and set your goals. What are your personal goals for the convention? Is there a particular case that has you puzzled and you need to learn more about a specific issue or disorder? Are you studying for the LSLS exam and need to brush up in one (or more) of the practice domains? Do you want to learn to advocacy strategies, either for yourself or your child? Do you have questions about the latest hearing technology or want some help getting the most out of your own devices? Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself, either. Even if a session seems very technical or complicated, give it a shot if you’re interested in the topic. You might surprise yourself and really enjoy it or learn something new. Look over the convention program before the event starts and choose the sessions that will help you meet your goals.
Divide and conquer. While it can be tempting to stick together with your spouse, friends, or colleagues to attend sessions, you’ll cover much more ground — and gain much more information — if you plan ahead to go your own way during the sessions and meet up later to compare and share notes. Often, there are hours during the convention where two really tempting sessions are happening in the same time slot. Don’t miss out, split up!
Don’t be shy. Sit next to someone new. Introduce yourself while waiting in line. Strike up a conversation in the exhibit hall. Everyone is attending the convention because of a shared interest, and people are likely to be friendly. Meeting new people at conventions is a great way to compare your practice with colleagues from across the world, build a support network of other parents, or make friends with deaf adults. Conventions are also a wonderful time to meet and speak with some of the “big names” and leaders in our field. Always wanted to ask an expert audiologist or AVT a question? Now’s your chance!
Enjoy the exhibit hall. Take time to peruse the various booths in the exhibit hall, but do so smartly. Know that there isn’t an “evidence test” for inclusion among the vendors. Some of the things being exhibited are excellent, evidence-based interventions and services for children with hearing loss, and others are… definitely not. Don’t take everything at face value just because the booth made it through the door of the convention hall. The exhibit hall is also a wonderful chance to meet with manufacturers of various hearing devices and other assistive technologies to ask questions and get technical assistance with your/your child’s devices.
Stay connected. Use social media throughout the convention to stay up to date. Download the convention app, if there is one, for notifications about room changes, access to handouts, and more. Connect with your new friends using social media sites. Use the convention’s hashtag to post your observations to twitter, Facebook, or other social media outlets. Using social media during the convention is a terrific way to spread information about what you’re learning to the broader public and to create a record of your learning to look back over later for your own review.
Pack smart. Some recommended but often-forgotten items include:
A sweater! It may be 90+°F outside, but you can count on the convention rooms being over-air conditioned. You may want to save your sandals for the pool, too, so your toes don’t freeze!
Business/ contact cards. You’ll make lots of new friends. Make sure you exchange information so you can stay in touch.
Chargers. The last thing you want is to run out of battery on your phone/tablet/computer, etc. while taking notes on an important presentation. Keep them with you in your bag, don’t leave them behind in your hotel room.
Handouts. Many conventions post presentation slides and handouts online and do not provide them in hard copy form during the actual event. Make sure to download them or print them out ahead of time.
Snacks. You may be too busy to sit down for a long meal, and even though sitting and learning all day isn’t strenuous physical exercise, it is draining, so you might want a snack for a little burst of energy.
Caffeine. If you are a coffee lover, know that the lines at the nearest Starbucks will be loooooooong during breaks in the program. Go get your latte during an off-time or plan ahead by bringing your own instant or prepackaged sources of fuel.
Your hearing gear. Pack it all. First, because of course you don’t want to run out of battery during this multi-day listening and talking marathon. Second, this is the time to ask your device’s manufacturer anything you want, so bring all of your accessories with you to the exhibit hall for troubleshooting support straight from the source.
Don’t let the learning end when the convention is over. Your convention experience shouldn’t end when your plane touches down at your home airport. Reach out to the connections you’ve made and stay in touch! Look back over your notes and make an action plan for how you will implement your new skills during your next therapy session, or IEP meeting, or job interview, or conversation with your child. And most of all, get ready to come back again next time!