I attend the ASHA convention most years. I enjoy replenishing supplies and organizing materials at the beginning of the school year, but by the time ASHA convention rolls around, I understand better what my caseload entails, am ready to brush up on new techniques and look forward to absorbing the latest research.
If you don’t regularly attend—or even if you do—deciding what sessions to attend is daunting. Here’s my system.
Check out short courses. For years I ignored the short courses. I foot the bill when I go to ASHA, so the idea of paying more for a short course seemed ludicrous. But I kept hearing other #SLPeeps rave about them and—I admit—the topics often intrigued me. I also like that they’re more in-depth. So I tried it and realize they offer value. They present more advanced information and a lot more of it. Plus, you receive all handouts on a disc. The session feels complete. (Sometimes I leave a 60-minute session with more questions than when I started.) Because short courses last three hours, this dictates much of your plan for that day.
Log in to the online Program Planner. I admit to a love/hate relationship with this thing, but it’s kind of necessary. 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.
Curl up with the Pocket Planner. This I do love. There’s something about paper that feels more complete, like I’m not missing something the way I feel with the online system. I often end up marking several items outside my typical scope of practice or that never occurred to me. I circle the session code and go back to add them in the online planner. This year I stumbled upon a pediatric voice session I never would think to seek out on my own.
Look at what you scheduled. Are there holes you still want or need to fill? If you feel like you exhausted the sessions, start perusing poster sessions available during your free time slots—if you want to receive credit. Each poster counts for 15 minutes, even if you spend more time. You may claim up to six posters in each 90-minute time block.
- Read the full description in the online planner. What you envision as a topic based on the title isn’t always the case.
- Double book! Really, I’m not joking. You might show up at a session filled to capacity—even in the overflow room. Or you might spend five minutes in a session only to realize it will be a complete dud. Make a plan B.
- Leave at least one hour to explore the exhibit hall. Tip: The earlier in the convention you go, typically the more/better giveaways.
- Attend the Opening Session! It’s a great way to kick off the convention and feel the excitement as well as get an update from ASHA on what’s happening in the wider CSD world. This year Kelly McGonigal talks about The Upside of Stress. And we all need to hear it!
I used to experience ASHA’s convention as a crazed, need-as-many-hours-as-possible SLP who took notes all day, ate a sandwich and fell into bed exhausted each night. And I can tell you this approach isn’t the best way to do it. I also 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.
However, my favorite remains the way I plan to tackle 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 other #SLPeeps!