Getting the most out of a psychotherapy conference involves preparation and organization.
It’s time to get your annual CEUs and network with your peers. You’ve booked your train tickets, picked up some light reading and travel-friendly snacks, and you’re on your way to your favorite annual psychotherapy conference. You want to learn, but you also want to enjoy yourself. (You even bought a Hawaiian shirt for the Saturday-night Luau!) You know if you don’t stay organized you’ll leave the conference feeling burned out. So, what do you do? You have clients booked solid those first few days after returning, so burnout simply isn’t an option. The key to getting the most out of your conference experience is preparing and staying organized while you’re there.
Before the conference
You’re going to spend a lot of time at the conference networking, so prepare ahead of time. Order business cards early; they’re one of the most requested pieces of paper at a psychotherapy conference. If the printer messes up your batch of cards, you don’t want to be left empty-handed before you travel. Don’t forget that when you pass out your cards, people will look you up, which means your website needs to be up-to-date, and your social media presence shouldn’t be lacking, either.
Speaking of social media, some events create a conference-specific hashtag (example: #psychconf2017). Check to see if the one you’re attending has this feature. If so, access it before the first day to introduce yourself to other attendees, and follow it throughout the conference to get updates on sessions you may not have been able to attend.
During the sessions
How much information do you think you can retain after a session or two? The answer is: very little. The good news is that you have a few options. Your first choice is to sit near the presenter and absorb the lesson. (I mean, you do make a living off being a good listener, amiright?) If you’re worried you’ll miss something, you can always take notes with a pen and paper. Another option is to record the presentation on your smartphone or another device. Then, when you have time to decompress from the entire psychotherapy conference, you can listen to the recordings again and take detailed notes at that point.
When you’re in the session, your attention needs to be on the person speaking, so turn off your cell phone (unless you’re using it to record) and don’t multitask in any other way. You’re here to learn, so don’t create or allow for any distractions. You wouldn’t want to be distracted by a peer who was playing with their smartphone during the entire session, so don’t be the distraction for anyone else.
At the end of each day
Conferences are busy, to say the least. Your days are jam-packed with educational material and meet and greets, so quickly organize yourself every evening. Take all the business cards you collected and file them in your suitcase. If there are any you’re sure you won’t connect with, toss them. Of the cards you keep, make sure to take detailed notes on the person who gave it to you and what you discussed so you’ll remember where the conversation left off when you follow up later. Similarly, pack away any course material or paper brochures you may have picked up throughout the day and throw out anything you won’t need later.
There’s one more thing you need to do before winding down. Take out the next day’s schedule and read through the sessions and events taking place. Use a highlighter to mark anything you’re especially interested in so you’re prepared for your day ahead in the morning. While this next step may sound silly, pencil in times and places to get your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Staying fueled up will help you concentrate and keep your mind wandering from how hungry you feel.
Did you finish? Great, it’s time to practice some self-care. You know yourself best, so self-care might mean a relaxing bubble bath, a workout in the hotel gym, or a late night drink with colleagues you haven’t seen since last year. Just make sure you get some rest, too!
Following up when you get home
Do you feel like you need another vacation after attending a psychotherapy conference? Well, you might. Conference are overwhelming, and if you haven’t taken the time to destress, consider taking a few down days at home. Then, when you’re relaxed, make contact with anyone you connected with while at the conference. Read through your notes and file away anything you’d like to keep. Make sure to put those CEUs somewhere you can easily access. Oh, and book the dates for next year’s conference in your calendar so you can do it all over again.
Your practice will still be running while you’re at the psychotherapy conference, which means you need systems set up to manage your absence. Need help managing billing, claims, and even your schedule? SimplePractice can help. Try us free for 30 days.
What tips would you add for getting the most from a conference? Share your ideas in the comments below.