Part of being a dental professional is attending dental conferences in order to expand your knowledge base, keep up with industry trends and obtain continuing education (CE) credits. Here's how to help maximize the time you spend at these conferences and get the most from your participation.
1. Plan Ahead for the Conference
Choose a conference that fits your needs and budget. If you don't want to travel far from your office or lack the budget for extended travel, you can opt for a local conference. Or, you can go for a long weekend or even travel internationally if you have the time and resources. Register as far in advance as possible to get "early bird" discounted pricing.
2. Sign Up for the Most Relevant Classes for Your Dental Specialty
CE credits are one of the primary reasons dental professionals go to conferences across the nation. Continuing education helps professionals maintain their credentials while staying up-to-date on the latest dental technology, procedures, and techniques. Look for classes that are as closely related to your areas of interest. For example, a general dentist is unlikely to benefit as much from a class on the newest materials used for braces as an orthodontist would.
3. Schedule Time for Networking
It may be tempting to fill your time with class after class, but dental conferences aren't only about CE. Networking is another primary goal for dental professionals attending conferences, and it's important to make sure you have enough time for networking opportunities. Avoid telling yourself that you'll network in your "free" time. Instead, schedule a block of time dedicated specifically to networking, like you would a class. Make a commitment to spend the entire block facilitating professional connections.
4. Visit the Vendors
Vendor booths are a great place to learn about emerging technology, services and other ways the industry is growing. (They’re also a great place to score some free swag, although you may be overrun with logo pens and branded sticky notes by the end of it.)
Seeing what the conference's vendors actually have to offer is particularly important at large dental conferences where big brands debut new technology. If you want your dental practice to be at the forefront of emerging dental technology, vendor booths at popular conferences are where you'll find the latest.
5. Take Good Notes
Make sure you pack several pads of paper and plenty of writing utensils (or a well-charged device) so you can take copious notes. Not only do you want to be taking adequate notes during your continuing education classes to help you better retain the information, but you should also be jotting down new ideas, techniques, and technology that you want to implement in your practice.
For example, say you run into the vendor booth of the company that makes your dental practice management software. During their demo, you notice them using one of the available tools differently, making the task much more efficient. Use your notepad to jot down a quick how-to and a reminder to train your staff to use the new technique.
Should Your Staff Attend Too?
When budget is a concern, many dentists wonder if they should absorb the cost of their employees also attending conferences. In most cases, it's highly beneficial to your practice to facilitate your staff members' continuing education. Dental assistants, hygienists, and other staff are likely more effective on the job and a greater asset to your practice when they regularly attend dental conferences and enroll in CE classes.
Make sure the investment is a worthwhile one by only allowing eligible employees to attend. Eligibility requirements are decided by you or your office manager and can include a minimum employment period (such as one year), no warnings or tardies within a certain time period, or whatever guidelines fit your practice. You can also control costs by imposing a spending limit for employee meals per day or letting employees pay for their own alcoholic drinks should they choose to imbibe. Have your staff save the receipts for their purchases and have your financial department review them before submitting reimbursement.
Make the Most Out of Your Next Conference
The more you bring home from a dental conference, the better, and that doesn't mean pens and pencils. Make sure you and any staff who attend the conference bring back as much information as possible and then have the opportunity to share it with your whole team. It's difficult to absorb everything from every class you attend in such a short period of time, but if you take copious notes and collect as many handouts and brochures as you can, you'll be able to review the information later when you have more time to absorb it and figure out how it might benefit your dental practice.
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