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Ultimate Guide to Attending ASHA Convention

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ASHA Convention is right around the corner. Whether you are a conference newbie or seasoned attendee, planning for ASHA can be stressful. There is so much to do in such a short time. You want to get as many CEUs as possible, visit the Exhibit Hall, enjoy your time in a new city, and catch up with old friends from graduate school. 

As a traveling SLP, I primarily attend ASHA when it comes to a city that I’m interested in exploring. The traveler in me also pushes me to do a lot in a little time and make the most of my time at ASHA convention. I hope that my experiences can help you and guide you to have an enjoyable, educational, and prosperous time at ASHA. Here are my top tips and pieces of advice to maximize your time and thrive at ASHA.

Plan Your ASHA Convention Schedule In Advance

There is an overwhelming amount of sessions, events, and activities happening during the ASHA convention. Try to plan out as much as possible in advance by looking at the ASHA Planner and schedule in advance. Before you leave for the conference, you can determine which seminars and courses are most important to attend. Highlight and rank the sessions that you want to attend. Personally, I recommend not going to sessions all day. It can be tempting, but split up your time between the other activities happening. 

Seminars:

Personally, I select between 3-5 seminars that look the most interesting and beneficial to me. I make it my priority to attend those courses. After that, I am more flexible with my time and have a list of other seminars that I want to fit in. I have found it very helpful to go through the schedule ahead of time and know my priorities before I arrive. That way, when I get there, I don’t need to make difficult decisions. I can execute my plan and enjoy my time.

Exhibit Hall:

The Exhibit Hall can be like a black hole of time that sucks you in. It is very easy to walk into that room and lose all sense of time. I recommend blocking out a section of time that you commit to being in the Exhibit Hall. If you allow your time there to be endless, you could very well spend your entire day in the Exhibit Hall. 

Lunch is generally a good time to go to the Exhibit Hall since there are not any sessions running during lunch time. While you do have to grab some food during that time, you could also make a stop into the Exhibit Hall.

Sightseeing:

It is exciting to go to a new city for a conference! If possible, I recommend arriving early or extending your time to explore. By giving yourself an extra day, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on seeing the city or have to sacrifice time away from the conference. If that is not possible, block an amount of time that you want to dedicate to exploring the city. Pick a time slot that will not conflict with other priorities during the conference. 

Make sure to book any tours or activities outside of the conference in advance. If you’re a foodie and want to experience some nicer culinary experiences during ASHA, I recommend getting reservations in advance as well. 

Dress Comfortably

The convention center is HUGE! You can easily walk for miles in a day. Sessions also get full and you may find yourself sitting on the floor. For these reasons, I recommend dressing comfortably, especially with your choice of footwear. ASHA is not the time to break out the stilettos. Also, remember to wear layers and bring a sweater for changes in temperature!

Don’t forget to pack these items for ASHA Convention:

  • Comfortable shoes
  • A sweater or jacket as an extra layer for the blasting AC
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Business casual clothes for the conference

Download The Mobile App

There is an app for the convention that has helpful features including the entire program, access to handouts, a scheduler, notepad, presentation slides, maps, and a location finder. There is also a social media tab where you can link to live feeds from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube!

Download Here:

Bring Extra Hydration and Nutrition

There are thousands of people attending this convention. Expect that any coffee shop or cafe in or around the conference center is going to have a line. You may not want to use your time standing in line for a drink or lunch.

I recommend coming prepared with a reusable water bottle, coffee/tea to go from your hotel (if you are a coffee drinker), and protein-dense snacks to nibble on during the day. Food at and around the convention center will not be cheap. Coming prepared with lunch and snacks will save you not only time but money as well. 

Pro tip: Bring packets of Liquid IV, which are easy to store in your bag and add to water. They offer a great boost of electrolytes and hydration.

Arrive at Sessions Early

Seminars at ASHA Convention can get full quickly. To ensure you get a seat at all, or in a specific spot, I recommend getting to sessions early. Do not wait until the last minute to stroll into a session and find a seat because the only space left might be the floor. The convention center is large so give yourself extra time to get from point A to point B to arrive early.

Again, don’t forget to wear those comfy shoes! You will be happy to have them when you’re making fast strides from one seminar to the next.

Leave Room For Swag

The exhibit hall is full of exhibitors who are trying to recruit or sell products, then come bearing TONS of free swag. Pens, bags, photo booths, tee shirts, etc. If you know you will be spending time in the exhibit hall and stocking up on swag, then don’t forget to leave room to bring it home with you. While you can bring your own bag to collect swag, you don’t have to. Many of the vendors gift shopping bags and even book bags as part of their swag hauls. 

Personally, I always pack a large bag for the ASHA conference even though it’s mostly empty when I take it to the conference. I leave lots of room to fill it full of swag that I pick up at the conference. Because I travel a lot, I sign up for credit card rewards programs and have status with different airlines that allows me to check at least 1 bag for free. If you’re flying Southwest, anybody can check up to 2 bags for free.

However, do be careful about giving out your contact info. Exhibitors will entice you with fancy swag and big ticket drawings by asking for your phone number, or to scan your badge and get your contact information. This can land you on call lists for years, so be careful with whom you share your info with. 

Remember Self-Care

It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of having to do it all at ASHA. Don’t forget to take time for yourself and to relax. The convention days can be long and there can be events going on at night. Remember to get enough sleep to recharge yourself and be rested for the next day. 

Also, as SLPs we often tell our patients to practice good vocal hygiene, but don’t forget to perform it yourself. Especially at a convention like ASHA where you talk frequently and over a lot of noise, you can be prone to losing your voice. Remember to drink lots of water, especially before you start talking, and to give your vocal folds rest during the day. 

Have a Positive Attitude & Fun

You may have a lot that you are trying to accomplish at ASHA. The conference is big and a bit overwhelming. Keep a positive attitude and remember that everything happens for a reason. If you miss a seminar because the room is full, take it as an opportunity to attend a different seminar – perhaps a topic that you would not have otherwise selected. Who knows, you may find a new passion! 

Remember to take time for yourself to relax and enjoy the moment. ASHA could be the start of a new passion, new job, or new friendship. Make sure you take time for yourself to have fun. Schedule times to catch up with friends from grad school or from a previous job. Explore the city. Do something fun for you and enjoy your time.

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