Good Morning and happy Friday everyone!
As we approach the physical therapy networking Christmas known as Combined Sections Meeting, I wanted to just talk a little bit about my experiences from my first two conferences and throw in a little advice for those students who are stressing about going this year.
Coming from a very large undergraduate school, my first year of PT school was filled with a yearning to explore what else was happening in the world of physical therapy. By living in the same apartments as 3 other guys in my program, we made the decision that even though it was our first year, we were going to go to the national physical therapy conference. There ended up being 6 of us from my cohort that went that first year in Anaheim and boy did we learn a lot. Not only about physical therapy, but also about what an exhausting experience CSM can be.
First and foremost let’s take some advice from soon to be Dr. Ryan Boyer, “accept you won’t sleep at CSM.” There is so much to do if you want to put yourself out there. The day starts around 630am and doesn’t really end until you decide you’re done for the night.
This leads me the next pro tip is from Dave from PT himself, “Invest in 5 hour energies and Cliff bars.” This is one of my biggest pieces of advice as well. While there is some time between presentations and meetings, it is much cheaper and quicker to just get a 5hr energy from you bag and eat a Cliff bar while walking to your next presentation or meeting. If you’re thinking, “I never am that tired or hungry in the middle of the day” I would ask you to reconsider. Last year on my first day of the conference I had around 20,000 steps and that was about the norm throughout the entire conference. You are moving from place to place and then sitting for 2-3hrs so it can get rather exhausting and mentally fatiguing.
With that being said, let’s look at pro-tip number 3 from soon to be Dr. Darlene Martinez, “Check your location compared to the other presentations you want to see and plan accordingly and make sure to wear good walking shoes because you will be walking for miles.”
The conference set up is typically between a couple of buildings so it is important to have a map and a drawstring bag for the day because you are likely not going to be running back to your hotel room all that often if you are trying to see each scheduled presentation and explore the exhibit hall. Which brings me to my next point, explore the exhibit hall! There are hundreds of vendors who are just begging for your time. Talk to them because most are explaining new topics and have a lot of free information (and stuff to give you). Some of the booths are actually a secret gem that will offer you a free happy hour or dinner as well so if you’re ballin on a budget, it pays to be social with the vendors.
Another little trick that we learned last year is that after the presentations are done for the day, go back to the exhibit hall because it is likely that some of the vendors will be demoing their products and that in these demos, you’re likely to get some free food and drinks.
Once you actually do get settled into your first presentation, realize that you are not locked into staying in one spot. The biggest difference between first and second year was our cohort’s approach to the educational sessions. If you have friends, branch out to different sessions within the same hotel or conference center and see which presentation is the best. It is so difficult to pick the “life changing” presentations from a list of titles, so if you just aren’t feeling the presentation you are in—leave and try another one. You paid for this conference so make the most of it. If you aren’t excited about any of the topics in a given time slot, branch out and try something new or something you may not give a chance. In my opinion, as a student you are probably here to learn and interact with others—one of the best ways to do that is to branch out and see a broad array of topics instead of just focusing on sports physical therapy because you think you want to go into outpatient ortho.
The last thing that really benefited me last year from having one CSM under my belt was my knowledge of the platform presentations. If the 2-3 hour talks are not holding your attention, give the platforms a chance. The ones that I went to last year were 15-20minute presentations about varying topics with a specific general focus. Last year I went to the federal section and sports section platforms and was able to pick up a lot of good information in a shorter amount of time so it could be a good way to break up your day.
My biggest piece of advice going into CSM is just to have fun and don’t waste anytime up in your hotel room because you’re tired on the second day. Some of the best presentations I have seen at the national conferences were the ones where other members of our group were back at the hotel sleeping. It is a very short time span and you don’t want to leave any questions on the table. Talk with professors beforehand that attend because they may be able to tell you the best presenters to go to or which talks they are looking forward to. Finally, contact people through social media and set a time to get coffee or a drink because CSM gives you the rare opportunity to be in the same place as all of the big names in physical therapy!
Next week as I am finalizing my schedule for the conference, I am going to post about some of the presentations that excite me the most. Also, I will be sharing some of the meet and greets/other tips specific to the conference (such as the best free breakfast to attend). As always feel free to message me with any questions or concerns you have! I would love to help ease your mind or get you more hyped about attending.
Happy Friday my friends—until next week!
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.