Attending a large CE meeting (and there are so many good ones available these days, spread all across the calendar) is always an exciting break from your clinical routines. They offer almost too many choices on ways to spend your time: sitting through didactic CE sessions, catching up with friends and colleagues, trolling the cavernous trade show floors, relaxing at evening vendor parties and much, much more. There are so many good ways to spend your time, and yet…
Yet many times I hear veterinarians say they could have taken home so more from the meeting!
Conferences represent a major time and financial commitment, so I always recommend that you carefully think through the offerings and be intentional about how you spend your time – whether it’s your own or that of an associate you send. Do you need to sit through one more lecture about the vomiting cat? There’s a reason that conferences send out the schedule far in advance, and why they’ve made it easy to use their app to set up your personal schedule.
So, before you leave home for the conference, review the offerings and set your goals. Here are some specific thoughts:
- CE Classes – are their skills that your practice can add to improve the services you can provide your patients? Too many classes are updates on things you already know (there’s that vomiting cat). Why not plan on attending a dental or surgical wet lab, or burrow down with a series of lectures on a topic that will build new capabilities and will bring the most value to your practice? Think about how CE classes can build specific competencies, expand care and drive revenue.
- Trade show floor – wandering the enormous trade show floor can overwhelm anyone! Swag is part of the fun of attending a major conference, but don’t get sucked in to the marketing vortex. Do you need/want new equipment at your practice? Do you want to learn about new software or value added services that can help you grow your practice? Think about what your practice needs, research the products and vendors that can fill those needs and spending a little time to learn about things you didn’t know existed. Go in with a mission and make the time you spend on the trade show floor purposeful and fulfilling!
- Friends and colleagues – network, network, network! Much of what you take home comes from catching up with classmates and colleagues from outside of your area, hearing about things are going in their personal lives and at their practices. Conferences are great places to connect with friends practicing in other cities or working in other areas of the profession, and some of the best value of attending can come from unscripted conversations with those you like and respect. Everyone will have a busy schedule, so set a ‘date’ for lunch, breakfast or dinner with old friends; it’s the best way to ensure that you get those moments to reconnect.
- Post-conference ‘Lunch and Learn’ – whether it’s you or one of your associates attending the conference, that person should bring home their learning and share it with your team. How else do you incorporate what you’ve learned into the practice? Set the expectation that the attendee will lead a lunch with the staff to share what they learned will help make sure the attendee stays focused on bringing back value. Additionally, sharing new knowledge with your team enhances the hospital’s culture of constant growth, new learning and staying up to date!
First up for the year is VMX in Orlando and for many of us the experience is similar to how Disney World feels for a child – it has the fun and excitement of the Magic Kingdom, but it is also crowded, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. Most of the other conferences can have the same impact but, like a good parent, planning can lead to success.
To make the most of your CE, plan in advance and know what you want to get out of the conference. Be smart, do your homework and get what you need in 2018. Happy New Year!