Conference Preparedness

This past September, I attended my first “real” EMS Conference. Sure, I’ve been to a few small ones out in my side of Massachusetts, but I had never seen anything quite like what I experienced down in Dallas. It was amazing, and I was completely overwhelmed. Now, as I prepare to head off to Baltimore for EMS Today in just a couple of weeks, I think its time to share with you some of the lessons I learned at EMS Expo.

1. Wear comfortable shoes! – You are going to be on your feet and walking around a lot. A large conference isn’t the place for flip flops (I’m looking at you, April) or brand new shoes that haven’t been broken in yet. I was able to find some inserts down there that they were selling on the conference floor that made a huge difference, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for all of the walking that I had to do.

2. Carry a spare wall charger for your phone — I’m a social media addict. There were many times where I was chomping at the bit to get my phone charged, but my charger, of course, was on my desk in my hotel room. It would have been great if I had a wall charger with me that I could have plugged into an outlet somewhere to just get myself a little more juice.

3. Get a business card made up — You never know who you’re going to meet when you go to a conference, and having some way to identify yourself, and making a lasting impression after the fact is great. Conferences aren’t just about education, they’re also terrific networking opportunities. Not only did I make and strengthen some great friendships in Dallas, I met some people who have been valuable resources for helping to improve the place I work in.

4. Pack a couple of resumes — As I said, conferences aren’t just about education. You’re going to find services and recruiters there too. If you see someone you like, tossing a resume their way might not be a bad idea. You never know where it might take you.

5. Leave luggage space for free “Shwag” — Every booth has something, whether its pens, carabineers, free trial products, or brochures and literature. You’re going to find lots of stuff that you’re going to want to take home with you and share. Leave a little extra space in that suitcase so you don’t have to leave anything behind.

6. Keep your schedule flexible — At the bigger conferences, the exhibit halls are something to behold, and you’re going to want to take enough time to wander around them and see everything you can. You’ll find booths that are doing free educational sessions, and even a podcast or two that you’re going to want to sit in and listen to. Make sure you leave enough time in your schedule to see all of that in addition to the great schedule of educational classes that you will be able to sign up for and attend.

7. Enjoy the night life — In my years in this field, I’ve acquired two valuable attributes: I can function without much sleep, and I love beer. That combination works out great for a conference. After the educational day is done, there are tons of people to spend time with, get to know and talk to. At one point during my experience in Dallas, I was in a Karaoke room with the Editor in Chief of JEMS Magazine, the inventor of the KED, the cast and crew of Chronicles of EMS, and many terrific friends. On another night, a friend of mine sat and shared a beer with a nationally known Medical Director talking about the direction EMS is headed in. I had a chance to share time with some people that I had only heard of. It was such a great experience.

Those tips should get you started. If you’ve never been to a major conference like EMS Today, or EMS Expo, I highly recommend that you take the time to attend one of them.

To those of you that were in Dallas with me, thank you again for the great times and experiences that I was able to share with all of you. Is there anything I forgot? Feel free to add it in the Comments of this post.