Next week Speech-Language Pathologists (aka SLPs) and Audiologists (aka Auds) will take over the waterfront in San Diego. The streets will resemble an intellectual flash mob, with every Starbucks, lunch café and street corner packed with talks of cochlear implants, developments in hearing sciences, language intervention strategies and those pesky /r/ sounds. SLPs and Auds around the world are already excitedly packing their suitcases, a week before the first day of convention. Many of us would call this one of their favorite weekends of the year – I know I do! But convention “newbies”, and experienced go-ers alike, can benefit from the tips and tricks to make the most of this weekend. Below are my favorite top 10, gathered from personal experience, blogs, peers and twitter conversations with other SLPs (#slpeeps):
- Comfy Shoes: Don’t even let those cute shoes tempt their way out of your closet and into your bag. Yes, I know they look great with the outfit you packed, but trust me – your feet, ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders will ALL thank you if you pick the tennies instead! The convention center is 605, 701 square feet of with cement floor walking – and that’s not even taking into consideration the walk from your hotel or out to lunch!
- Staying Powered Up: long days in the convention center can be tough on the electronics. Especially if you are texting to find friends! With 12,000+ people, that cell phone will be your lifeline! A lot of the companies on the expo floor tweet specials, so you’ll need to stay powered up to get the best experience and deals! Bring your plugs and charge in downtime, or try this little gem to keep that phone/ipod/etc going all day and night.
- Schedule Your Day: There is so much happening at once during the convention. Poster sessions, expo floor, short courses, speakers, meet and greets. Don’t wait till you arrive to set your schedule! Sean Sweeney (SpeechTechie) has written a fantastic post on how to use ASHA’s on-line scheduler – get on that schedule and send it to your mobile device! You’ll be ready to go in no time!
- Walk-Out: Now this one may sound like a tough one, but it has been corroborated by professors, speakers and attendees alike. If you find yourself in a session that is boring/unhelpful/incorrect … walk out! You are taking time away from your clients and paying to LEARN – don’t waste any time in this packed weekend!
- Arrive Early: If you read a description of a session and think “I have GOT to go to that one”, there is a good change a few other professionals have thought the same thing. I have been in many sessions that were closed early with people packing the aisles, walls and doubling up in chairs to hear a good speaker. Arriving early not only assures you a seat, but maybe you can even score one near an outlet (see #2)!
- Exhibit Hall: Fellow #slpeep @mtmmary made a great point in a twitter conversation this week – you can learn in the exhibit hall too! So many people go session to session and don’t schedule in a decent amount of time to explore the exhibit hall. Even if you don’t plan on buying, there are specialists at those tables ready and willing to explain new technology, new research and new therapy techniques. You can learn just as much (and maybe more) on that floor than you can in many sessions. Be sure to schedule time to explore the exhibit hall!
- Hauling the Loot: Every experienced conference attendee knows the first sign that the exhibit hall has opened - bright yellow Super Duper bags. But experienced go-ers will also tell you the havoc they can wreak on your back. Trying to keep it on your shoulder all day can be exhausting. Think about bringing a backpack or a roller bag … trust me, you won’t look THAT dorky, you’re back will thank you and everyone else will think you are a genius while they fight with their yellow bag. And you can still get your yellow bag – just stuff it in the backpack!
- Taking it All Home: Now remember, every free pen, new book and piece of paper has to go home with you. If you are flying in, you have to fly all those goods home! @activitytailor suggests you leave room in your suitcase and keep an eye out for free shipping! Many vendors will mail your purchases home for you, which keeps you under the weight limit and able to avoid those extra bag fees.
- Making Connections: This is your chance to expand your professional circles. Reach out and talk to those around you, we’re all quite the chatty group! Another great way to connect with others is twitter. If you are one of the SLP’s on twitter, be sure to check out the SLP chatter by following the hashtags #slpeeps #asha11 #audpeps. During the convention there will be the “tweet up” where we can meet in person – Friday at 4:30. See you there? [If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go here for a crash course in twitter by @SLPTanya! Feel free to ask me questions as well!]
- Meals: One of the hardest things to accomplish at the convention (other than finding someone in the convention center) is eating. If you are a Starbucks addict, try going a few blocks away from the convention center… you might just miss your first session (or two) waiting in line at the closest one. Dinner reservations are highly suggested, or be ready to wait hours for a seat. Yelp can help you find restaurants a further walk from the convention center, or help you pick those reservations in advance. Another tip is to leave 30 minutes before the end of the mealtime sessions, there can be quite the hold up getting out of the convention center when a mad rush of hungry SLPs and Auds are released onto an unknowing San Diego waterfront.
Do you have some more tips I may have missed? Feel free to leave them in the comments below! Are you going? Let’s meet up! Text, tweet or e-mail!
- Tara, SpeechyKeenSLP