I attend the ASHA convention most years. While the beginning of the school year is a great time to replenish supplies and organize materials, by the time ASHA rolls around, and I’ve got a better idea of what my caseload is like, I’m ready to brush up on some new techniques and absorb the latest research.
If you don’t regularly attend, and even if you do, deciding what sessions to attend can be daunting. Here’s my system.
Check out the short courses. For years I ignored the short courses. I foot the bill when I go to ASHA so the idea of paying an additional charge for a short course seemed ludicrous. But I kept hearing other #SLPeeps rave about them and, I had to admit, the topics were often intriguing and I liked that they were more in depth. So I tried it and grudgingly admit there’s value there. The information is typically more advanced and there’s a lot more of it. You receive all the handouts on CD. The session feels complete. (Sometimes I leave a 60 minute course with more questions than when I started.) Because short courses are three hours long, this will dictate much of your plan for that day.
Login to the online Program Planner. I’ll admit to a love/hate relationship with this thing, but you kind of have to do it. I typically start by choosing a topic area and then the session format, filtering first by two hour then one hour sessions. I save anything that looks interesting to me. Note: You will need to login to save your selections. There are now mobile versions of the Planner available too which include exhibit hall info and maps.
Curl up with the Pocket Planner. This I do love. There is something about paper that feels more complete, like I’m not missing something the way I feel I do with the online system. I often end up marking several items that are outside of my typical scope of practice or that I just hadn’t thought about it. I circle the session code and then go back and add them to the on-line planner. This year I stumbled upon a pediatric voice session that I never would have thought to seek out.
Look at what you’ve scheduled. Without fail, you will have some days/times packed with sessions you don’t feel you can miss. You need to start deleting the “kinda interesting” ones, so you don’t have more than 2-3 options/time slot. Are there holes you still want or need to fill? If you feel like you’ve exhausted the sessions themselves, start checking out poster sessions that are manned during those time slots if you want to receive credit. You may claim 15 minutes of credit for a poster session (meaning if you visit four posters during a 30 min window, even if they’re manned, you can only claim 30 min. of credit).
Download or print your schedule. There are options to download into Excel or straight to a Google calendar. Or you can print it out in table or program layout. I usually print a copy.
Download the handouts. The days of neatly stacked handouts ready in each room are long gone. If you want a handout to refer to during the session you need to print your own or, even better, download to Dropbox or save on your computer.
- READ the full description in the online planner. What you envision as a topic based on the title isn’t always the case. (Don’t get me started.)
- Double book! Really, I’m not joking. You will show up at a session that is filled to capacity and the overflow room is ridiculous too. Or you will spend five minutes in a session only to realize it will be a complete dud. Have a Plan B.
- Consider some polite, appropriate stalking. If you dearly admire one of the SLP gurus, scan the author index and see if they are presenting. Everyone I’ve ever introduced myself to, to ask a question, get a book signed or take a photo with has been outwardly gracious. So far no restraining orders. If you’re curious to meet in person the online personalities you follow or interact with regularly, find out where they’ll be. Some will be presenting, some will be in the exhibit hall, many will be at the ASHA Tweetup (Friday 5:30-6:30 at Pizza Republic).
- Push yourself to attend at least one Business, Mangement, Ethical and Professional Issues session. I believe in the importance of developing yourself outside of your clinical work. (Billing sessions don’t count!)
- Leave at least one hour to check out the exhibit hall. You’ll leave with speech therapy ideas you’ll use Monday. You’ll leave with a wish list of speech language activities you can draw on later and a bag of literature and goodies. Tip: The earlier in the convention you go, typically the more/better giveaways. You can’t receive CEU credit (can you imagine if you could?!), but it will save you lots of time in the future since seeing/touching is much quicker than doing loads of online research.
- Attend the Welcome Session! This is a great way to kick off the convention and feel the excitement as well as get an update from ASHA as to what’s going on in the greater SLP world despite the fact that you can’t claim it for CEU credit. This year Dr. McGonigal is talking about The Upside of Stress. This is something you need to hear!
- Keep track of the sessions you attend! You will need the four digit session number to input your attendance and receive credit. There are typically stations that you can log your hours at (and I assume receive technical support if needed), but I usually do it online the day after I return. You MUST report your session attendance by December 1, 2015 to receive credits!
I have experienced ASHA as a crazed, need-as-many-hours-as-possible therapist that took notes all day, ate a sandwich and fell into bed exhausted each night and I can tell you it isn’t the best way to do it (although sometime life insists—aka the baby years).
I’ve experienced it as an exhibitor, loving the interaction at the booth, but yearning for at least a glimpse or two (or four) inside a session room.
My favorite has been the way I’ll do it again this year, lots of juicy sessions on my schedule. Decent chunks of time working the exhibit hall and enough energy at the end of the day to mingle with the #SLPeeps! I’d love to meet you if you’re heading to Denver! I’ll be sharing where you can find me next Tuesday.