How to Maximize Your Experience at APTA CSM 2024

The American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) is just around the corner, and let me tell you, it’s going to be a blast! This conference promises to be one of the most exhilarating PT gatherings you will ever attend.

But here’s the thing – it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement and end up feeling a bit overwhelmed. Before you know it, the conference will have come and gone, and you may find that you‚Äôre having trouble recalling all the things you learned or experienced.

So, how can you fully maximize your CSM experience and make every moment count? We’ve got you covered with some essential tips from EmpowerMe Wellness‚Äô leadership that will help you navigate CSM and ensure an unforgettable experience.

Why Should You Attend CSM? 

First things first, let’s talk numbers. The annual CSM is the largest gathering of physical therapists in the world. We’re talking about over 15,000 PTs coming together under one roof. That’s a lot of brainpower in one place! What makes CSM even more special is that it brings together 18 specialty sections and academies that you won’t find anywhere else. This means that you have access to a wide range of experts and resources from different fields within physical therapy. Pretty cool, right?¬†

Plan ahead 

Avoid feeling overwhelmed by the exhibit hall! Instead, take your time and explore a few sections at a time to ensure a relaxed experience. Before attending the conference, review the conference schedule, vendors, employers, and presentations. There are numerous opportunities to seize, and effective planning in advance is crucial.

Stop and explore 

Stop at booths showcasing therapy supplies or equipment, even if you don’t think they apply to your current setting. You might learn new uses for equipment or new treatment techniques that you can apply to your work site. Plus, getting free stuff is fun! Just remember ‚ÄĒ you have to fit everything in your suitcase when it comes time to fly home.

Be proactive in building your network 

By actively engaging with attendees, speakers, peers, vendors, and exhibitors, you have the opportunity to make valuable connections that will benefit you throughout your entire professional career. Whether you are a student or an experienced therapist, this event is the perfect time and place to expand your network and create lasting relationships.

Seek out new opportunities 

Make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to research the employers who will be attending the conference. Not only should you familiarize yourself with their companies, but also take the time to thoroughly review their open positions lists.

Seek out-of-state clinical affiliations 

For student therapists, don’t be afraid to ask vendors about clinical affiliations at their locations. Seek clinicals out of state for personal and professional growth. Ask potential employers about professional growth opportunities, as well as support for licensure and association dues.

Ask questions 

Participate actively in conference sessions to deepen your understanding of the subject matter. Prepare thoughtfully with questions for potential employers. As you plan ahead, identify settings and employers that ignite your interest. You might uncover a fresh passion or environment that propels your career growth. Also, job seekers should plan to bring copies of their resumes since some employers may have recruiters on-site for interviews.

Professionalism is key 

While traveling with friends and colleagues during the conference can be advantageous, it’s important to keep in mind that potential employers might be observing your behavior in social settings. If you feel that your companions are not contributing to your overall experience, consider setting aside some time to engage in one-on-one conversations with the vendors.

Be approachable  

With a warm smile, engaging eye contact, and positive body language, you create an inviting environment that fosters connections, expands networks, unlocks new opportunities, and enhances your overall learning experience.

Harness the power of social media 

Make meaningful connections with fellow attendees before and after the conference. Take advantage of the social media posts shared by APTA, presenters, employers, and vendors to strengthen your network and enhance your planning process.

Follow up  

Once the conference concludes, it’s time to forge connections and nurture those relationships. Make sure to connect with fellow attendees on social media, express gratitude for their time, and engage in meaningful conversations. Don’t forget to keep a record of the business cards, materials, and resources you collect during the event to optimize your post-conference follow-up. Remember, you never know when these connections could prove invaluable and be leveraged to your advantage.

Most importantly...enjoy yourself! 

Although you may feel exhausted by the end, the experience will be truly valuable thanks to all the knowledge gained, connections made, and exploration done. Above all, make sure to have a great time, capture memorable moments through photographs, and never hesitate to step out of your comfort zone!

Special thanks to our column contributors: 

  • Lisa Meyer, Vice President of Operational Excellence
  • Tiara Stingley, Divisional Vice President of Operations
  • Kelly Modaff, Regional Vice President of Operations