Updated: Nov 8
I know what you're thinking. It's too expensive to travel for a conference, find affordable accommodation and pay for the conference registration itself, especially as a student or new grad. Although attending occupational therapy conferences can leave a hole in your wallet, you most definitely won't come back empty-handed. What I mean is that there are many benefits to attending OT conferences and here are five reasons why you should consider attending an OT conference near you (or far if you're feeling adventurous!)
Yes, networking can seem like a daunting task, but conferences are a great way to meet both like-minded individuals and also those who can offer a perspective you hadn't thought of before. Are you interested in a pediatric specialty area? Mental health? Technology? Well, there will be many others there who share the same interests as you. It is a good idea to connect with others at a conference who are interested in the same specialty areas as yourself so that you can learn what other professionals are using in practice or are researching. Perhaps you are seeking a mentor or a supervisor, networking at a conference is a great way to do this. Networking at conferences is a great way to also meet people who you can call friends. You can make connections with people all around the globe and have a new reason to attend the next conference so that you can meet up with all of your new professional friends!
2) Endless learning opportunities
Conferences are a great way to increase your knowledge on all of the up-and-coming research in our profession. From poster presentations to short courses and keynote speeches, there is something for everyone. Have you been wanting to learn about the role of occupational therapy in oncology or learning disabilities? Go to a poster presentation about a topic you didn't have the opportunity to learn about yet. Sit down at a short course and ask other attendees what they think about the topic. Conferences allow attendees to learn so much in just a few days and there is nothing more valuable than knowledge!
3) Get mOTivated and inspired
Sometimes our daily routines can become a little too "routine". Attending a conference can allow you to remember why you became a part of the profession in the first place. From being around so many positive people ready to move the profession forward, you too will feel motivated and refreshed. Many conferences include a keynote speaker, sometimes this individual is someone who belongs to the profession or someone who has had personal experiences as a client who was positively impacted by occupational therapy. Hearing stories from others are a great way to get inspired and gives us an opportunity to see how much we are helping people across the lifespan with being able to function in their daily lives. It is always a good idea to step back and think about why we chose occupational therapy so that we can go back to the classroom or the clinic refreshed and ready to help those who need it most.
4) A mini vacation
Conferences are a great way to get away for a little. Whether you attend a conference in your town or you fly out of the country, it provides for an awesome getaway. Conferences allow an opportunity to explore a new city with fresh faces and a chance to sleep in a cozy hotel or get to spend time at a friends home who lives in the area you are visiting. It is always refreshing to get away for a bit and attending a conference allows for that. We all need a break (hello occupational balance!) and this is a great way to learn and relax all in one trip.
5) Share ideas and research
Have you been working on a research project that you want others to know about? Have you been thinking of an idea you have been wanting to try in practice, but want to know if there are others out there already trying what you want to do? A conference is a great way to showcase the hard work you have been doing throughout the year. Students and practitioners are all trying to contribute to the body of knowledge related to our profession, you can as well! You can visit a poster session related to a topic you have been thinking about researching. Ask the presenter if they have any advice for you or if they are willing to work with you on something in the future. The opportunities are endless when it comes to sharing ideas. Another perk is that for some conferences, registration fees can be lower if you are presenting!
I do hope these reasons may have convinced you to consider attending a conference soon. The benefits are endless and there is nothing more refreshing and motivating than increasing your knowledge on something you are passionate about. I do recommend to at least try it out once when the opportunity arises, as conferences can be a great deal of fun. Hope to see some of you soon!