Oct 13, 2017
Making the Most of Meetings
Timothy Neal

Athletic trainers attend many different kinds of meetings. If not properly planned, they can easily be time thieves. Studies show that to maximize the production of a meeting, an agenda and goals should be established beforehand.

One type of meeting that athletic trainers should specifically have an agenda and goals for is professional educational meetings. Instead of attending a conference merely to obtain CEUs, an athletic trainer should embrace these opportunities to improve in their knowledge and skills and to network with fellow athletic trainers. There is much to be gained by attending national, district, state, and local athletic training conferences, as well as meetings of allied health professions such as nursing, physical therapy, and mental health to widen your knowledge of health care outside of athletic training.

Go over to speakers to introduce yourself, ask a question, or exchange business cards. When you get home, follow up with an e-mail about what you learned from their presentation.

When determining what type of meeting to attend, the athletic trainer should consider the topics and speakers presenting. Look for information that enhances your practice by selecting presentations that address any shortcomings in your knowledge or skills or talks that advance your knowledge into the mastery level. Also, look at the lineup of presenters. If a speaker has a certain area of expertise or is involved in national scholarly work, it would be worth your time to go to their talk because they are usually going to go in-depth on the subject and discuss future considerations based on research or best practices.

While in a seminar, be focused on gaining as much as you can from the talk. That means refraining from checking your cell phone or speaking at length to fellow attendees. If there is something you wish to ask the speaker, step up and ask a question when the time comes. Many times, there are others in the audience who are thinking of the same question, so don’t be shy in asking.

Some presentations at a conference may have a small audience. This can be to your benefit, as you get the chance to interact with the speaker more closely. Plus, many presenters who have a small audience tend to speak in a more conversational tone and are more open to questions.

Outside of attending seminars, meetings also provide an opportunity to network with athletic trainers, physicians, vendors, and others attending the conference. Go over to speakers to introduce yourself, ask a question, or exchange business cards. When you get home, follow up with an e-mail about what you learned from their presentation and that you would like to stay in touch to ask follow-up questions on the content or tap into the presenter’s expertise. If you see a state, district, or NATA national leader or content matter expert at a conference, introduce yourself to them, as well. Leaders enjoy meeting old and new acquaintances and are usually gracious in engaging others in conversation, answering questions, or listening to concerns. Additionally, meeting vendors may want to talk with you about new products, including samples to try for feedback.

Keep in mind that while there aren’t strict dress codes for most professional meetings, consider dressing in a manner that reflects your respect for the profession, your school or organization, and yourself. Look at what leaders are wearing, and try to dress accordingly. Studies have shown that people garner more confidence and professional attention the better they dress. Better to be over-dressed than casually dressed at meetings, as it demonstrates attention to detail relative to your brand of professionalism.

Upon your return from the meeting, organize the notes and information you obtained and apply that new information into your practice. Follow up on any introductions you may have made at the conference with an e-mail, or, better yet, a hand-written note. Many long-term relationships and friendships have started at professional meetings. You only have to extend yourself to meet others, ask questions, or take back information to enhance your professional practice.

Conferences are great opportunities to enhance your effectiveness as a professional. Growing your knowledge and skills, coupled with meeting colleagues and other health care professionals, should be two key goals on your personal professional meeting agenda.

Timothy Neal, MS, AT, ATC, CCISM, is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Athletic Training Education at Concordia University Ann Arbor. Previously, he spent more than 30 years at Syracuse University, serving in a variety of sports medicine roles. Neal is also a member of the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He can be reached at: [email protected].

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