RCOT 2018 Blog 15 Lessons learnt by an occupational therapy graduate at conference

This year was my third experience of the buzz and pure magic of an RCOT conference. But unlike the last two visits, this year I wasn’t a student.
Before arriving I didn’t think my new non-student status would make any difference to running around the exhibition hall collecting as many free pens as would fit in my bag or rushing from session to session desperate to experience everything. But, things couldn’t have been more different and this year was the year I really felt I made the most of the experience.
So from one new graduate to all of those thinking of attending in the future, here are 5 lessons I’ve learnt.
1. You don’t need to see everything!
For the last two years I’ve run around conference attending back to back sessions.
This year, however, I marked off sessions I wanted to see and decided not to fills the gaps just because I could.  Going for the calmer approach meant I didn’t leave each day feeling burnt out, sessions hadn’t all merged into one and overall I enjoyed it more. So my advice, don’t feel pressured into attending every session, give yourself breaks and you’ll find it a lot less stressful.
2. Have a peek at the posters!
Previously I ran past the posters trying to take them all in. This year I took time, looked at  each of them and read those of interest. I loved the placement journey described as a trip on the a75, considering all the bumps in the road. And Kirstie’s CPD on the sofa. Taking time to really read them was worth it.
3. Talk, talk and talk some more!
As an inherently shy person I’ve often avoided talking to others. I’m that person that awkwardly joins a conversation or doesn’t know if I should join in so I don’t. This year, partly because of my role with RCOT, I embraced my awkward nature and started talking.
Yes, there were a few moments where I stood on the outside figuring out when best to join in but it didn’t matter. Speaking to people, I found out about sessions I didn’t attend, got into interesting debates and networked like I hadn’t before. As much as talking can be awkward at times, I’ve definatley met people that I will stay in touch with.
4. Restore your occupational balance!
The conference bubble is intense and at times overwhelming. It’s important to make time for yourself. It’s ok to walk out the door and go for a coffee and come back later. It’s good to shut your hotel door and turn off your twitter notifications for the night. Those moments, however brief, to restore your occupational balance and get you ready for what you’ve planned next are precious, use them and don’t feel guilty about it.
5. Less is more… with freebies!
I always joke about going to a previous conference and competing over the number of pens I could collect. This year, I didn’t end up going home with more free pens and tape measures in my suitcase then clothes. I swapped 200 pens for less than 20, I picked up leaflets of interest and an occupational therapy car sticker (because why not?). Not only did going home with less avoid an having to find a place to store it all, it meant that I picked up items of value and can remember why i picked them up.
Finally, conference is what you make of it as Julia Scott hinted at in the closing address it’s is a great opportunity for occupational therapists and students to share their work and learn from one another.
Written by @Amie_OT
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