Two Perspectives: One Convention
The post below is the perspectives of two SLPs attending the ASHA 2011 convention.
ASHA convention 2011 was a beyond a fantastic experience ( minus a few technological glitches along the way).
This was my first ever ASHA convention and I went into it with having high hopes. Convention veterans gave me some nice advice, some I took and some I did not. The advice I did take was to take a Short Course. It was advised that it would minimize your time running around like a chicken with its head cut off, which was pretty much on par. The next advice I did take was to block some time for the exhibit hall. I tried to envision what to expect and the reality kinda was surreal. I did block about 3 hours to walk through the hall and see the exhibits but this really wasn’t enough time. I did make some nice connections though but #ASHA12′s exhibit hall will be seeing a lotmore of me. The advice I did not take was to get the box lunches when initially registering. The advice here was again the same, you didn’t have to worry about what or where to eat. It was helpful that a co-worker of mine decided to share her lunch so the need to wait in lines was greatly diminished.
One of the things that I did not foresee was the huge impact alread ”knowing” quite a few people already going to ASHA. When I saying “knowing” I mean that I knew who they were through Twitter and the #Slpeeps hashtag however I had never met them in real life before. This twittership that developed over the last year made the experience of meeting these Slpeeps that much more fun! and fun it was from the tweetup to the fun dinners we had each night. If it wasn’t for this it would have made ASHA still very stimulating intellectually but not a whole lot of fun. So if you are reading this and do not have a Twitter handle or have found the #Slpeeps please do so!
The one #EpicFail of the convention was the dreaded personal scheduler. It was advertised as “the new and improved Personal Scheduler for the ASHA Convention program. Take advantage of this tool—it is designed to help you get the most from your Convention experience”. So if this was new and improved I am really glad that I was saved from experiencing last year’s scheduler. There was basically nothing easy about the use of this dinosaur of computer programming. It was cumbersome, glitchy, and a strain on the eyes. It took me as I mentioned in a previous post days to get working for me and when I finally did the day before ASHA started it was basically useless because it printed me a schedule without any course titles on it and if you are like me and double booked just in case of a full house, well you were out of luck because you had no idea what you were attending. I noticed everyone writing in the course names on their’s so they knew what to go to. I did the opposite and just wrote in the room number of the course on my pocket schedule that I had from the ASHALeader.
So with that being said, full steam ahead to #ASHA12 in Atlanta!
This year marks my 4th convention. Considering myself no longer a “newbie”, I armed myself with the necessary equipment to survive 3 days in the convention center: comfy shoes, power source for the tech and a good backpack (see my post here). Many things were similar from years past, while other aspects were brand new experiences. Registration was a breeze this year, a delightful new experience for me. Last year I missed my first session I stood in that registration line so long! Three Starbucks’ in one convention center? An absolute requirement from here on out ASHA planners! And an exhibit hall that takes 3 hours to get through? It was like a grown up treasure hunt! But the best part was the role social media played in giving me a “group” within the 12,000 attendees. As soon as I arrived I began running into the friends I’d never met – all my twitter friends, the #slpeeps. And it only got better from there. The more #slpeeps we met, the more we connected as a community. It was as if we’d been friends forever, having meals together, exploring the exhibit hall floor, attending sessions together and even helping a fellow #slpeep tear down her booth in the exhibit hall! This amplified my enjoyment of the convention ten-fold. In previous years I had enjoyed the learning aspect of the convention, but felt very alone in the sea of SLPs and Auds. When you don’t have someone to eat with at lunch, you find yourself awkwardly sitting alone at a table for 4. Or avoiding the awards ceremony, because you don’t want to sit by yourself. And in the evenings you retreat to your room for an early night. When you find your “community”, you are talking about sessions over dinner, planning your day to attend sessions with others and having people to bounce ideas off. All of us #slpeeps work in different settings, and the perspectives from hospital, SNF, schools and private practices gave you more of the “gestalt” of the ASHA experience. Now there were plenty of short comings at this years ASHA (*coughcoughnowificoughcough*), but the pluses out shined the negatives. So a ‘thank you’ to ASHA for the convention, but a gigantic celebration for the #slpeeps who made this year the best ever. See you in Georgia!