This will be the last in our series on attending midwifery conferences. Today I want to share my to-do list for conferences – the things I do before and during the conference to make sure I am ready.
1. Know the dates and plan to spend as much time as possible
I find it works best to accept that the time allotted for a conference is conference time. This means I don’t try to sneak in on the last possible flight and miss the last few sessions to get out early. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but the opportunities at a conference make every minute I spend there valuable. Plan around the dates, have work done early and be ready to focus on the conference when those dates come
2. Know the sessions and agenda
This lets me plan out my time. I know before the conference starts which sessions I don’t want to miss, what days I can plan a long lunch or dinner and what nights I expect to be up late. Nothing is worse than realizing the speaker you really wanted to see had a session this morning, and you missed it because you didn’t look at the day’s agenda until you woke up.
3. Stay at the conference
I have found that the money I can save by staying at a cheaper hotel isn’t always worth it. Think about how far away you will be, and if you will be able to walk back to your room if you forget something. Will you need to pay for parking (or rent a car for transportation). Think about how your choice of location will affect your ability to go out to dinner spontaneously or change plans quickly. How will your choice of location affect the amount of time it takes to get to the first session in the morning. Then look at how much money you will be saving and decide if it is really worth it.
4. Make this work time
I’ve noticed that many conferences choose exciting venues, and the temptation is to combine a family vacation with educational sessions. Usually this doesn’t work. Either the family or the conference gets ignored. Your time at a conference is time you are working – educating yourself, making connections. Evening hours, lunch time and the hours when you skip sessions are all important to making that work successful. Speaking as someone who has been on both sides of the family at a conference, if you combine a family vacation and work, you will most likely find that you have not used the conference to its fullest potential or your family is annoyed they spent so many hours waiting for you. If you must combine family and work, set out the schedule ahead of time. Make sure your family understands which days they are on their own and which times you will join them. Think of it as two separate vacations in one hotel room.
5. Pack a bag
Choose a bag that is easy and comfortable to carry. Now place a few key items in this bag. You will need some paper and a writing utensil. A phone, computer or ipad doesn’t count because you will not use those to write a note for someone else. Small cameras can be handy for capturing moments. A small book to read while waiting for sessions — but don’t let this get in the way of networking opportunities. Keep your schedule with you – with the sessions you don’t want to miss highlighted. A map of the venue and possibly nearby restaurants is handy. A water bottle and a non-messy, non-noisy snack help you make it through long sessions. Be sure there is room enough in this bag to put all the handouts and information packets you will get.
So those are my best tips for being ready to make the most of a midwifery conference. Enjoy the conference season!