As the liaison between Patterson and AADOM (American Association of Dental Office Managers), I am so fortunate to attend their annual conference each year (this year in Scottsdale, Arizona). I’ve been privileged to attend the last five and am always amazed at the incredible amount of information available to office managers at this event. More amazing to me are the people – in my opinion the best office managers in the business!
My post today is for those who are going to the conference, or at least thinking about it. Think of this as a guide to “making the most out of your conference experience.” This event can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers, so here are some key tips that I think will help you to 1) not be overwhelmed and 2) set some solid implementation goals for things you will learn.
Before you head to the conference, I recommend making a list of the top three challenges you deal with every day in your position. Then, list one personal goal for yourself (this can be as simple as connecting with a peer and maintaining that relationship after the conference).
As you are registering for the conference, sign up for sessions that will help you address those three challenges on your list. Don’t try to sign up for everything; trust me, there is so much information and you need to stay focused on key pieces for you.
Once you arrive, DON’T be a wallflower – make sure to attend the breakfasts each morning as this is a great way to meet peers and not only talk about the challenges you may face in your job, but get insight into solutions from people who may have been in your shoes. The networking time is a key element of this conference; you build relationships and gain resources so that you’re not alone when you go back to your day to day!
During sessions, take notes and ask questions – I’m a firm believer that the only stupid question is the one you never ask! After sessions, network with your peers and discuss what you’ve learned, also gleaning from what they’ve learned. This is also a good time to get information about a session you may not have been able to attend.
Attend the social events during the conference – the opening day happy hour, the Friday night social event, etc. These are additional opportunities for you to build relationships and get to know your peers in a more casual setting. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with attendees have been at these social events because everyone is more relaxed and not hurrying to their next session.
Make sure to spend time with the exhibitors – there are knowledgeable people representing some great organizations in attendance and one might just have a solution to one of those top three challenges on your list.
Exchange business cards and contact information with the friends you’ve made – don’t leave without making sure you have at least one card from a peer that you can use as a resource when you get home. The relationships you build at this conference can last throughout your career!
Lastly, on your way home do two things: First, look at those three challenges on your list and put three bullet points under each with how you are going to begin to tackle that challenge when you return to the office. BE REALISTIC! Don’t put down a task that you know you can’t accomplish. Finally, put together a recap of what you learned and your action plan for the next year. This recap should show how you are going to utilize what you’ve learned to help improve the practice. Sit down with your doctor and your team when you return and share this recap.
This event is one of my favorites in the dental industry. Those of you who have attended in the past know just how valuable it is. If you’re attending this year, make sure to grab me and say hi; I’m looking forward to meeting everyone. And … of course … make sure to stop by our Patterson booths – we’ve got some GREAT things to share this year! See you in Scottsdale!