7 Tips for Attending #NATA2019
Have you noticed that this week has a touch of that magical, night-before-Christmas-and-you-can’t-fall-asleep feeling to it? We have, too. After all, next week is one of the biggest events in the world of athletic training, as thousands of ATs, technological innovators, and other industry professionals will be descending on Las Vegas, Nevada, for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s 70th Clinical Symposia & AT Expo. If you’re as excited as we are, you’ve probably been X-ing out the days on your calendar ever since the 2018 convention wrapped up.
The gathering promises to be informative, engaging and fun, featuring the world’s largest sports medicine exhibit (over 350 companies will be showcasing their products and offering hands-on demos), as well as a diverse slate of speakers and educational events. Not to mention, #NATA2019 is likely the biggest networking opportunity for those within our industry. As thrilling as that all sounds, you might also feel a little overwhelmed by the importance and potential packed into these four days. Well, fear not! To prep for the 2019 convention, we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your journey to Nevada.
1. Schedule Ahead
We’ll start with the bad news: You won’t be able to experience everything #NATA2019 has to offer. With a schedule this stacked, even the most experienced convention-goer couldn’t check it all off the list. That said, you can optimize your time in Vegas by planning out your schedule before you even step on the plane. Take a look at the convention schedule, analyze the Expo floor plan, research the speakers, and peruse the educational programming in order to decide which events will be your highest priorities. Once you’ve made your list, write out a detailed schedule (including meals, breaks, and downtime) to follow throughout the week. This might seem like overkill, but the last thing you want is to leave your schedule open, lose track of time, and realize you’ve missed out on a speaker or demo you needed to see. If something isn’t on your itinerary, save it for next year.
Pro Tip: Download the NATA Events app before arriving. Not only will help you network and stay up-to-date on convention communications, but its built-in scheduler will help you personalize your agenda.
2. Sit in the Front Row
Gone are the middle school days when all the cool kids congregated in the back of the room. The people getting the most out of a conference are the ones sitting right up front at every speaker event. The benefits of securing a seat in the front row are countless: you’ll see the speaker better (and, not to mention, the font on their presentation); you’ll likely get called on if you have a question at the end; you’ll be engaged and won’t be tempted to check your phone every couple of minutes; and because other speakers and go-getters often sit in the front row as well, you’ll make some great connections. Plus, if you’re typically more reserved, being proactive and sitting in the front row will give you a confidence boost you can carry through the rest of the week. So do your best to get to each event 10 minutes early and snag a spot up front!
3. Pack your Day Bag Strategically
The last thing you want is to realize in the middle of an event that you forgot your business cards or your notebook so you have to waste precious networking time by running back to your hotel room. That’s why it’s essential that you make sure you have everything you need in your day pack before heading out the door in the morning. Here are some suggestions of items you might need throughout the day:
Pens (Bring extra — you’ll probably lose yours at some point, or if someone else forgets theirs, you’ll be able to save the day)
An extra charger or power strip (another surefire way to make friends)
A light jacket or sweater (“But it’s the desert!” you say. Yes, but you never know how chilly those convention centers might get — better to be safe than sorry.)
4. Take Care of Yourself
Like an undergrad during finals week, sometimes convention-goers get so focused on optimizing their schedule that they forget to make time for the essentials. Even though #NATA2019 lasts only four days, pushing yourself too hard might earn you a one-way ticket to burnout. So, make sure that you’re turning in early (save the late-night casino runs for a different Vegas trip), eating healthy and not skipping meals, and making time to go for a run or hit the hotel gym. If you can, maybe carve out some personal time to relax and experience the city as well — some shows are even offering discounted tickets to NATA attendees. By taking care of your physical and mental well-being, you’ll ensure that you’re ready to take on everything the convention has to offer.
5. Practice Your Elevator Pitch
As with any networking event, a convention is a place that will see you having the same conversation over and over again. So, before you get to Las Vegas, you should rehearse your clear and concise answer to that age-old question, “What do you do?” That said, don’t be afraid to be flexible if people don’t seem to be engaging with your pitch. Edit on the fly by testing out new angles or anecdotes and seeing how the other convention-goers respond. Most importantly, however, you should be listening to your peers and asking them follow-up questions about what they do — networking is a two-way street, after all. Make sure that you’re repeating peoples’ names in order to remember them, exchanging business cards or contact info to stay in touch, and following up (either on LinkedIn or, even better, with a handwritten card) after the convention.
6. Use the Convention Hashtag
Conventions are all about making connections, and in 2019, the best vehicle for doing that is social media. By following and using the #NATA2019 hashtag, you can engage with your peers and stay abreast of the latest news and happenings. Feel free to tweet out your thoughts on a speaker’s presentation in real time, to publish a blog post on your favorite demos at the Expo, or to take pictures with your new connections and post them on Instagram. You might even run into Twitter famous athletic trainers like Mike Hopper, MS, ATC from Texas, so make sure to take a picture and make your followers jealous :) Everyone at the convention will be following the hashtag as well, so use it liberally to join the conversation!
7. Enjoy It
As this post has laid out, getting the most out of a convention requires constant engagement and a lot of meticulous planning. But don’t get so caught up in your agenda that you forget to have a good time. After all, this is one of the biggest celebrations of athletic training all year, and you’ll be among some of the most accomplished and intelligent minds in the industry. So take a breath, carve out some downtime where you need it, and go out and make the most of #NATA2019 !
BONUS: Make sure to visit Healthy Roster at Booth 3351 in the AT Expo!
Not only are we launching SAFE Athlete, sports medicine’s first active mental health and screening platform, we’ll also have games, seating, and giveaways! See you in Vegas!