Why everyone should go to the AOTA conference

... at least once every five years.

I had the great fortune to be my school's representative to the assembly of student delegates for the 2005 conference (Long Beach) and was then able to have the funds and time available to go to the 2006 conference (Charlotte). As conference registration is now open for this year's conference at Long Beach, I thought I'd share some reasons why everyone should make an effort to attend a few times in their career.

5. Expo: The expo is quite a fun activity... a great opportunity to apply for free drawings, get free goodies, and good for job searches if you're looking for local or national placement. I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time at the expos, but still had time to collect a lot of fun and informational stuff. (I also won $100 from Huntington Rehab in California!)
4. Support: The area conference committee goes through so much time and money to make each conference memorable and awesome to the participants. Attending is a great way to show your support of the national organization, and the local area.
3. Connect: There is no better venue to allow OTs from all across the nation to meet and share common interests. This is a great time to further investigate a specialty of the field, a well known employer, and exchange ideas with some of the best US OT minds. Most of the speakers, book signers, and honored guests are at the conference for the duration- and they all wear nametags, giving you the great opportunity to talk to any of them.
2. Learn: I am learning firsthand that it can be very difficult to find CE that are in your field of interest, affordable, and local. In my 2 years at conference, I was able to easily pick up 15+ contact hours each year in topics that I was truly interested in. This was also very helpful as a student... I held onto abstracts and handouts from the presentations I attended and when I later had a presentation or paper on a topic for school, I would reference that presentation or contact the author for more information. If you are branching into a new practice area, or coming back into the field after a long absence, the immersed learning you can get at conference can really help with the transition.
1. Recharge: When you attend conference, especially the big events such as the welcome or Slagle lecture, there is a pulsing, dynamic energy in the crowd. There is an air of excitement evidenced by dancing in the aisles and grins all around. People drop their guard around fellow OTs and old friends, and create a great environment. The daily drudgery of paperwork and long hours can take its toll, and conference is a great place to remember why you became an OT and where you want your career and profession to go.

So there you have it, my friends, great reasons to attend conference. Since the location varies each year (usually East coast, Midwest, West coast), there's a good chance there will be a conference near you soon. I have some great memories from conference, and each year they are continuing to add extra benefits of attendance. I know the price can be offsetting for some, which is why you should wait for a nearby conference to attend, and/or make it part of your vacation. I will later do an entry on how to get the most out of conference without breaking the bank. Entry title is linked to '08 conference registration.

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