Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to make the most of the ASET annual conference experience

I have enjoyed attending ASET annual conferences since 1980!  From my very first time, to now, after spending the last 10 years from the perspective of the meeting planner, I have greatly enjoyed  every single conference I have attended. 
When you first walk into the meeting space, and see that many people doing the same kind of work as yourself, it is quite a thrill!  It is so easy to feel isolated in your workplace, facing problems alone.  And it is so enlightening to realize, after listening to others, that we are all facing similar challenges!
It can be overwhelming to read the program and try to decide what to do, and to understand what is going on.  Some people ask: 
“What is the difference between a course lecture and an abstract presentation?”  A course lecture has specific objectives regarding skill building or knowledge of a particular topic.  Course lectures include handouts.  Abstracts are short presentations that explain a research project, new concept or technique and the goal is to share information.  These are often more scientific or academic in nature, and presenters are not required to provide handouts.
I have some hints to help you make the most of the opportunities we offer!
Read the program schedule ASAP after you arrive:  Also, read the lecture descriptions and abstracts in the final program to help clarify what each presentation will be about.  Make a plan ahead of time for where you want to be for session time slot.  View the meeting space map in advance so you won’t get lost and miss the first part of a lecture.  Do a dry run “walk around” to make sure you know where you are going before the meeting begins.
Move Around!  Be prepared to walk back and forth between courses and the platform presentation session to customize your learning to the max!  Don’t sit in a room and listen to a lecture that does not interest you.  If you find that a presentation is not exactly what you anticipated, it is O.K. to move on to another session!
Choose topics that are new to you!  Try something different!  Stretch your wings!  Think about skills that you may not utilize right away, but that you have always been interested in learning!  Don’t overlook a management topic because you are not a manager!  You might be in the future! 
Ask Questions!  Don’t sit in the back of the room wishing you had asked a key question!  All of our speakers are here because they want to share knowledge with you.  Our physician speakers are very supportive of technologists and glad to be here!  Don’t be afraid to approach them!  If you don’t like to speak up in a room full of people, go up to them after they leave the podium and ask questions then.
Be present in the moment!  Try to leave work, home issues, texting and catching up on e-mail behind!  You have paid to be here to learn.  Enjoy the experience and participate as much as you can!  Don’t let distractions spoil the opportunity to enjoy a presentation.
Too Cold?  Too Hot?  Can’t hear a speaker?  Sitting next to someone snapping gum?  Please inform the course director or staff if the room temperature is a problem.  If you can’t hear, raise your hand and tell the speaker or move closer.  Can’t bear your neighbor?  Move away!
Handouts:  While handouts are helpful, concentrate on the live presentation, since much more information is provided by the speaker!  Please do not get caught up on whether every slide the speaker shows exactly matches your handout!  Our speakers often add to slide presentations when they have updates or new case studies to include.  We strive to provide handouts for every course lecture!  All those received by our deadline for submission are included on the handout flash drive in the meeting bag.  We do not print any handouts.  The week of Aug. 11, we will send an e-mail out to all attendees registered for the meeting, to provide a link to a secure website where you may download handouts to print, if you wish to bring printed handouts with you.  I plan to collect the late handouts by then, so those not on the flash drive should be accessible via this link.    If you have a laptop or a tablet with a USB port, you can view handouts during lectures, using the handout flash drive. 
The Exhibit Hall Experience:  Poster abstracts are on display in the exhibit hall, with authors present at specific breaks.  Posters are a great way to gather information about new topics.  Visit as many vendors as you can!  This is your chance to view new products and ask questions of the manufacturers. 
Meet new people!  Introduce yourself to others at your table at lunch!  Listening to an interesting conversation?  Join in!  Participate in all the social events, and network wherever you can!  By the pool, at the bar, in the lobby!  Stop by the Grass Roots Watering Hole!  Browse the silent auction and talk with other bidders!
Enjoy the experience! 

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