Before the conferenceAt the conference
After the conference
Making the Most of Your APHA Conference Experience
By Laura Larsson, HAS Newsletter Editor, and Colleagues+
Before The Conference, Part 1
Preregister. Preregistering is really critical since entrance fees go up a lot once registration at the conference opens. The price differential can be as much as $100 dollars or more.
Register online. The easiest method of registering is to use the online registration site located at: https://www.one-stop-registration.com/apha/ .
Fax registration. Fill out the registration form from the information packet and fax it in to the company handling registrations. The fax number is: 514-228-3148.
Set one goal. Because the APHA meeting is so big, try to set at least one goal to accomplish so as not to get exhausted by Tuesday mid-morning! The goal will likely vary from year to year depending on your needs. It may be to get a policy statement through, to learn five new things about the field, make five new contacts, get enough goodies at the exhibit hall to share with your staff, and so on.
While there are many good sites containing good tips about choosing a hotel on the Web, here are a few tips to consider before you pick a place to stay at the Annual Meeting.
Pick your hotel and register early. Try to stay in the hotel, or one close to it, where most of the sessions you want to attend will be held. This helps cut down on the wear and tear on your body! Make hotel reservations based on suggestions (and discounts) indicated in the registration materials. APHA gets a significant discount on meeting rooms if enough APHA members stay in the conference hotels. Staying at the hotel where the Health Administration meeting and sessions are being held might be advisable to reduce body and mind wear and tear.
Room with someone to keep costs down. If you enjoy other people's company, room with someone else to keep the costs down. This is becoming important as more health agencies’ budgets for travel are cut and a greater percentage of the costs are borne out of pocket. If snoring bothers you, check to see if your roommate snores. Be honest. If he/she does, bring earplugs. If you snore, bring extra earplugs to share with your roommate.
Organize with a file folder. Take a file folder or better yet, a plastic file folder with all your travel and conference information in it – especially the confirmation number given to you when you register with a hotel. It’s helpful to put the hotel’s name, address and phone number on the front of the folder and in your PDA on the date you plan to be at the hotel so that when you’re in the taxi reroute to the hotel you can give the name and address to the driver.
Select Your Mode of Transportation
Depending on where you live, there are several travel methods available to the intrepid traveler to San Francisco: driving, train (Amtrak) and airplane.
Driving. Those who live close to the city will likely drive. Those who live further away may elect to take the train or fly. If you are not an AAA member, join, if only to get the maps and discounts offered by this Association.
Bus. Greyhound Lines, Inc. is the most popular bus system. On its site you can order tickets, plan your itinerary, and if you are a student, get reduced fares. Purchase tickets ahead of time to ensure that you get a place on the bus.
Train. Those who want to have a great travel experience aboard a train should consider Amtrak: http://www.amtrak.com/ . Be aware that the closer the date of travel you want, the more expensive the tickets so buy your tickets early. Look for specials on the Amtrak Web site.
Flying. If you prefer to fly, get your airplane tickets at least a month before you intend to travel. Do your Web research and locate cheap fares on the Internet if the money is coming out of your pocket. Several good sites exist to help you track down the best fares at the dates and times you want to travel. Sites like Expedia.com, Cheapfares.com, cheaptrips.com, Orbitz.com can help you find the cheapest fare and pay for it on their sites. Using a system like Expedia or Orbitz is a good idea because, unlike a travel agent, the company will send you safety and security information and reminders about things you need to know before you travel in uncertain times via email.
ETickets. Most airline companies and vendors now only issue you an e-ticket and a confirmation number. Be sure to print out the confirmation number and accompanying travel information for showing when you go through security. These days, no one without a paper or confirmation number will be allowed into the gate area.
Arrival and Departure Dates
When to arrive/depart. To make the most of your conference experience and the exciting city of San Francisco, you might consider going a day early in order to have time to see one or more interesting local sites (and to acclimatize and change your body’s clock closer to local time – especially important if you are traveling from the east coast). Maybe stay a day later for a mini-vacation to recover from the conference.
Leave copies of your itinerary and travel documents with family, friends, or co-workers. This is REALLY important. I once lost my husband in Tucson, AZ because I forgot to tell him which hotel I was staying in. He drove and I flew down. He had to call the University of Arizona and track down the conference organizer to find me. Save emotional wear and tear on your loved ones - let them know where you are.
Sleep – and Lack of It
Sleep deprivation. This may seem a little strange to mention, but plan on getting enough sleep before the conference so that you don’t start out at the conference being sleep deprived. You cannot bank sleep like you can money and arriving tired may mean that you'll be more susceptible to catching colds than you ordinarily would be.
Arrive early. Get to the conference as early as you can to get acquainted with the hotels, conference center, etc., to sit in on the affiliates meeting and the Intersectional Council meeting and to get your program.
Determining sessions. Plan ahead on which sessions you want to attend based on your interest in the topic, knowledge of speaker, and/or the format (workshop, lecture, level of participation). Location of the talk is also a factor. You may be late to sessions because it usually takes longer to get from one place to another than you think because you run into old friends, have trouble catching the shuttle, and so on.
Sessions Web site. The conference schedule with information on sessions and presentations is located at the APHA Schedule of Events site: http://www.apha.org/meetings/schedule.htm. Useful links to various Scientific Sessions of the upcoming meeting can be found at: http://www.apha.org/meetings/sessions.htm. To find details about a specific session, Search the Online Program.
For those with handheld devices use the personal scheduler found at: http://apha.confex.com/apha/131am/scheduler/. Set up a login and password if you are a first time user or give your login if you are a returning user. Schedules can be put on your laptop, as well as on a personal information manager (PIM) like Microsoft Outlook.
Good instructions at the Confex site lead you through the process of grabbing sessions. Create a hypertext-linked reading list of abstracts for sessions that you cannot attend that you would like to follow up on.
Determine the main things that you want to do, organized by day. That way you have a quick list of what hotel you have to go to for your next session, what room, etc, so that you don't have to waste precious time looking that information up at the meeting while you’re moving from point A to point B. Save the list as a shell from year to year and then update it, as the structure of the meeting is essentially the same from year to year.
Use your PDA to schedule yourself. As mentioned above, the APHA Schedule of scientific sessions and meetings is available online. Write, cut and paste. or import the sessions you know you want to attend into your desktop personal information manager and sync it to your PDA.
Section and business meetings. Before you leave for the conference determine which business meetings you need to attend and put them into your planner or PDA. Business meeting are often held early in the morning. Some, but not all meetings are foodless, but smart leadership often takes pity and provides coffee. Business meetings are a good source of information and offer the best opportunity to become involved in APHA--sometimes a daunting task. Be sure to attend them to become informed.
Block out section/business meeting times. You will usually want to attend those meetings for committees of which you are a member, or for projects with which you are involved and for your Section, SPIG or Caucus. Block out those times right away. For APHA HAS members, business meetings will take place during the following times: Sunday, November 16: 7:00 - 8:30am; Monday, November 17: 7:00 - 8:00am; Tuesday, November 18: 7:00 - 8:00am; Wednesday, November 18: 7:00 - 8:00am. HAS business meetings are located in the Marriot.
Awards Receptions. The APHA HAS Section awards reception will be held Tuesday, November 18: 6:30 - 8:00 pm in Marriot B2/B3 - Golden Gate Hall. This is a wonderful opportunity to network with your health administration colleagues.
Interactive sessions vs lectures. Those who like interactive sessions rather than straight lecture should plan on seeking those out. Some learn more through the participatory process. Interactive sessions also help you to get to know the skills and experiences of other participants. Knowing the other participants is helpful for follow up and new resources, and also for networking. Sitting still so long without interaction can lead to information overload. Participatory sessions help counteract that.
Be light on your feet. Be willing to change your plans for attending a session based on information about the quality of the speaker or information that comes to you from other attendees.Make contact with presenters. If there are some presenters that you would like to perhaps meet because you are familiar with their work, contact them by email beforehand and see if you can set up a brief meeting to meet and discuss your shared interest of research/work.
Filling in missing content. If you cannot stay for the entire conference and you are going to miss some presentations that you would have attended, contact the presenter and ask if he/she can email you their PowerPoint presentation or outline notes after the conference is over. Keep the abstract number, speaker and presentation title.
Return to the Confex site about two weeks after the conference and search for the paper using the abstract number to see if presenters have posted their presentations. If they have not, contact them and request their presentations.
Contact speakers that you had no intention of hearing due to time constraints if they have an interesting-sounding presentation and ask them for a copy of their presentation. Contact information for each speaker is available on the Confex site under the abstract number.
Vendors. Hundreds of vendors purchase space at APHA to show you their goods and services. Use the list of vendors available at the APHA Web site [URL] to plan which vendors you want to talk to.
Don’t overdo it. The best advice to consider when planning your time during these big conferences is to just accept that you can't go to every session, and not drive yourself crazy running from one room to the other to hear a little bit of a bunch of different sessions. Plan sitting out a session occasionally and spend it talking to people you find sitting out the session themselves. Schedule down time. In short, be selective in what you try to attend, with a focus of topics - otherwise you get too scattered and your brain gets addled!