How To Make Connections and Network at Your Next Professional Conference
7 minute read
My cheeks stung and each breath condensed into water vapor in the cold Albuquerque morning air.
A stream of negative thoughts flew through my mind as I waited to cross the street to get to the conference center. I questioned my own abilities and leadership as a first-year physical therapy student in the presence of the ambitious and successful attendees at the 2019 APTA National Student Conclave.
When the crosswalk light turned green, my forward motion quieted the negative thoughts and put them in the back of my mind. The fears were quickly replaced with excitement as I made my way forward. Instead of fear, I felt confidence. Confidence in my ability to travel to new places, build a network of friends and professional connections, and create opportunities for myself from these connections.
You may be asking yourself, why should I network?
You are a hard-working physical therapy student who has earned knowledge and skills through challenging days and nights spent learning in your doctorate programs. I'm here to tell you, unfortunately, that's often not enough to build the career you want. In order for your knowledge and skills to translate into opportunities outside of the walls of your program, you must expand your network.
Professional conferences are a great place to begin growing your network of PTs, PTAs, and students.
Here are my tips for students looking to expand their network.
Do your research.
Have you ever attended something because you knew that you should, but not because you necessarily wanted to? Maybe your professors or mentors are pushing you to attend a professional event. My advice is to go into it with less of an attitude screaming I have to be here, but instead come with more of an open mind.
Find out who will be attending, speaking, or presenting. Learn about people who you genuinely admire and understand their achievements, interests, and impact. This way, when you arrive you're excited to meet them and have something to talk about.
In fact, you can even take this a step further and begin engaging with individuals prior to the event. For those who are active on social media, applaud an accomplishment, ask a question about work that's engaging to them, and introduce yourself and let them know that you'd like to meet at the upcoming conference.
Preparation can go a long way in making networking at your event much smoother.
Make yourself at home.
I remember the first day of physical therapy school. I didn't know anybody, and it showed in how I spoke and presented myself. It was harder to open up and be myself, which made meeting people more difficult than it needed to be.
Fast forward to today. Chatting with my classmates, faculty, and others on campus feels as comfortable as hosting friends in my own living room. This level of comfort makes connecting with others easy.
Traveling to a new city to mingle with thousands of professionals in your field doesn't have to feel intimidating. Instead of trying to impress the people you meet, focus on being comfortable and getting the most out of your experience.
How do you get comfortable? Well, first, you need to actually be comfortable. By that I mean dress professionally, but also comfortably.
Second, I'd recommend making the first move. That's right, say hi first. I doubt that you'll encounter one person who won't say it in return. That's the great thing about our profession. We're pretty friendly by nature, so when attending a physical therapy conference don't hesitate to start a conversation and, who knows, you may meet a new friend, colleague, or mentor.
Offer value before you try to take value.
I think that we can all remember times when someone has tried to take from us without seeming to offer anything in return, including thanks and gratitude; someone who only appears in your life to ask for a favor.
Although they may have good intentions, this is a big-time social faux pas that shows a lack of awareness on the taker's part. Therefore, it's something to avoid in the context of building meaningful professional connections as well. Asking for a job, introductions, or other favors without first offering value is a big mistake.
So how can we offer value to people who we've just met? Here are three simple ways to do just that:
- Have fun.
- Offer your undivided attention.
- Create connections and introductions.
When you first meet somebody, before you've even had an opportunity to get to know them, what value can you offer? Having fun is something that even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would value. With an abundance of business opportunities, talent, and connections at his disposal he may value a fun, positive social interaction above all else. Again, feeling comfortable is a big factor because most people would feel too nervous around the wealthiest man on the planet to be able to relax and just have fun.
As the conversation continues, another simple way to offer value is to listen and to give your undivided attention. Unfortunately, in a world of cell phone notifications and distractions, it's rare to receive undivided attention. Try giving the person you are speaking with your ears, eye contact, and a friendly smile, and watch their enthusiasm about what they're passionate about increase.
Finally, at events where networking is a large component of it, it's mutually understood that everyone is interested in connecting with other professionals. Why not freely offer up your own connections? You can start by introducing them to the people who are with you at the conference. As you get to know them and more clearly understand their goals, the more specific you can get with the introductions you offer.
There are many ways to offer value, but this is a great starting point.
Create opportunities to meet and reconnect in the future.
After you've made some new connections, you'll want to create both short- and long-term opportunities to continue getting to know each other.
In the short-term while attending a conference, you can take advantage of the fact that people from both near and far are all in the same city. You can seize the opportunity for more face time at the conference social events like PT Pub Night and the PT PAC party, or by asking if the person wants to grab coffee.
For a more long-term strategy, you can't beat social media. I recommend Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn in that order.
Instagram offers a more personal connection. You can see and congratulate your connections on personal accomplishments like backpacking the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, or winning that intramural sports championship game. It also offers you another way to share some moments in your life and to be remembered.
Twitter is a wonderful way to get plugged into what your connections are thinking about and most interested in professionally. It's a more professional way of connecting with your colleagues, which has its own pros and cons.
Finally, LinkedIn. Many folks who don't keep up on Instagram or Facebook still maintain a LinkedIn account for job hunting and keeping a professional online presence. So if someone doesn't have Instagram or Facebook, you can check in on LinkedIn every few months or so.
After you've met and engaged with people at the conference and traded social media to keep in touch, the last step is to leave.
It's obvious, but leaving gracefully is a mark of social intelligence. You should be polite, direct, and excuse yourself. Something along the lines of, "It was really nice chatting with you, I'm going to mingle. Hopefully, I'll see you around."
Even if you're really enjoying talking with each other, you don't want to take up all of the other person's time. You can trade contacts and offer an invitation to dinner, and excuse yourself.
A final note is that you may have noticed these tips aren't very goal oriented. And that's the whole point. You're not trying to make a sale or get a reference for a job. The idea is to enjoy meeting others for the sake of it. When you do need something, it will be much easier than to simply jump in and ask right off the bat without making that initial connection.
Now it's my chance to connect with all of you. Follow me on social media; I'd love to talk further and expand my professional network.
David Ung, SPT, is a student at Northern Arizona University. You can connect with him on Instagram @iamdavidung and Twitter @DavidUng17.
Welcome to the Mile High City!
As a student in the great state of Colorado, I'm very excited to host our profession for Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) 2020.
I know I'm a little biased, but Colorado has some of the best climbing and bouldering, outdoor adventures, and breweries.
Here's a list of just some of the things that you can do in Denver and the surrounding areas during your time at CSM.
- Climbing gyms ‒ the true Denver experience. Movement RiNo gym in the River North Art District is the bigger version for bouldering enthusiasts near downtown. RiNo only has bouldering climbing. There is also a location in Baker just south of downtown.
- Avalanche NHL hockey games are a blast. They will be home for games at the Pepsi Center downtown on Feb. 11, 13, 15, and 17.
- Run around Denver City Park or along the Cherry Creek trail in downtown.
- Walk around beautiful Larimer Square in the heart of downtown.
- Denver Zoo in City Park.
- Catch a show at the Denver center for performing arts or a comedy show at the Comedy Spot.
- Denver Art Museum.
- Visit the Denver downtown REI ‒ it's massive.
- Go to Union Station and have a drink. It has a bar and is a nice place to people watch.
- Whatever you do, visit breweries!
- Climbing gyms. Movement gym is the main one my friends use when in Boulder. It has has both rope and boulder climbing.
- Explore Pearl Street Mall for shopping.
- Hiking and trail running. Hike the Flatirons. Flatirons Vista trailhead is less popular, but still cool. Mount Sanitas trailhead is a very popular hike with a view. Great for sunsets or sunrises, and not too long.
- Hiking and trail running. Table Mountain in Golden is a lovely place for a trail run or hike, with a view perfect for a sunset or sunrise if you're feeling it.
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a famous concert venue in Morrison, about 30 minutes from downtown. Although there isn't much going on in winter this place is a must see, and if the weather is good, it makes a great spot for a stair workout. There are also nice trails nearby for hiking, walking, and running.
- Rocky Mountain National Park.
- Climbing (bouldering) outside – it may be pretty cold, so I say stick with climbing gyms. Mount Sanitas area. Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder. Carter Lake.
- Echo Mountain, Eldora, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Aspen, Copper Mountain
- Rent snowshoes in downtown at REI or other shops, and take them to any nearby hiking trail where there is snow.
- Voodoo Doughnut: A must, it's known for being in Portland, Oregon, but I've been to both and I think they taste better here.
- Uncle Ramen in Lower Highlands.
- Little Man Ice Cream is a classic place to visit in Lower Highlands and Denver. It's amazing even in winter.
- Linger in LoHi.
- AshKara in LoHi, amazing happy hour.
- Avanti Food and Beverage in LoHi: This is an open market setting that has great food options for all. My favorite is the Venezuelan Arepas joint. Major rec!
- The Source in RiNo: Another market style but in RiNo.
- Snooze AM is all around Denver and Colorado. Although it's a franchise chain with other spots in the U.S., it started here and is really very good.
- Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey.
- Denver Biscuit Company for brunch.
- Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder: The coolest spot in Boulder, it's a gorgeous, old Tibetan teahouse with lovely food and tea.
Vegetarian and vegan
- Watercourse Foods.
- City O' City.
- Make Believe Bakery.
- Blue Sushi and Sake Grill in Lower Downtown.
- Root Down in LoHi.
There are so many breweries all around town (it's what Denver is known for!), so you can't go wrong with a quick search. Here are some of favorites of mine and my classmates:
- Visit Coors Brewing Company not too far away in Golden for a free tour.
- 10 Barrel Brewing.
- Stem Ciders.
- Epic Brewing.
- Ratio Beerworks.
- O'Dell Brewery.
- Improper City: Huge recommendation; it has drinks with a large outdoor area with games and food trucks.
- Little Machine Beer.
- Great Divide Brewing Company.
- Cerebral Brewing.
- Acreage by Stem Ciders in Lafayette. They have drinks and food, and I swear, one of the best views in Denver for a sunset and a drink.
How to get around
- Light Rail. I use the light rail a lot to avoid parking downtown, since it's tough, and you have to pay anyway.
- Bus. Catch the bus at 16th Street Mall Ride. This area is in the heart of downtown near the convention center as well. It's a long street, so sometimes it's nice to take the bus. Its free, and you can just hop on and off.
- If you're downtown, walking isn't bad at all. Much of downtown is very flat and accessible.
- RiNo (River North). Artsy area that is very trendy lately, with all the breweries that you could need in one spot.
- LoDo (Lower Downtown). Downtown area in general with spots like Union Station and Coors Field.
- Capitol Hill. Upscale area that is pretty to walk around.
- Cherry Creek. Has a lot of shopping.
- Wash Park. Home to ‒ you guessed it ‒ Washington Park! A great place to walk or run around if you stay south of Denver.
- LoHi (Lower Highlands). The trendiest spot just a walk across a pedestrian bridge from downtown. Amazing restaurants.
- Highlands. Just north of LoHi and a cute area to stay and walk around with restaurants, but more residential than LoHi.
Things to know about Denver
- Check the weather immediately before traveling to Denver. The weather truly changes day to day here. One day it might snow, another day it's warm and sunny, and that could all be in the same trip!
- Don't forget that you're in high altitude! Stay hydrated and pace yourself. If you're going out for a hike or a run, be mindful to ease into your exercise at this high altitude. Learn more about how to navigate the high altitude during your travel.
Join us February 12-15, 2020 in Denver, CO for APTA's Combined Sections Meeting. Learn more and register.
Haley Anderson, SPT, is a student at Regis University and is the Core Ambassador for Colorado.
Why you should keep a close eye on telehealth
5 minute read
Want to know a stunning fact?
According to a new Pew Research study, 81% of Americans now own a smartphone.
That comes out to more than 260 million Americans, most of whom probably depend on that device to communicate, pay bills, connect to social media, check the weather, shop for things, listen to music, take pictures, access the internet, watch shows, follow the news, and the list goes on.
Our phones clearly play a huge role in our lives, so much so that they've almost become extensions of our own bodies, rarely leaving our pockets or hands.
Don't worry, this isn't leading to an existential question.
The point here is that the smartphone has ushered in a new era, not just because of the device itself, but due to the services on the phone. Most of the valuable services in our lives are accessed through that minicomputer.
But have you ever noticed that health care services on smartphones are seemingly absent? Why hasn't health care reached our pockets yet? If 81% of Americans use smartphones to access their most important service providers, why aren't health care services included?
This is a difficult question to answer for many reasons, in large part due to the imagination requirements when considering the near future. It's easy to get carried away in a potential future that might not be anchored by current reality. So let's stay in reality for a moment and look toward the largest tech companies today, despite their dissociation from health care services, and analyze how and why they rose to prominence.
For most of these huge organizations, their visions were rooted in a simple realization that they could reach potential customers through a handheld device that never left the user's side. Their thinking was simple: If we can reach more people, we can spread more value.
Facebook, Spotify, Instagram, and Uber all realized early on that the smartphone enabled an entirely new opportunity, but also posed a unique challenge. They had to reinvent an existing service so that it could more efficiently connect with us, the consumers. Think about this for a second. Facebook didn't invent social networking, they just reinvented it. Spotify didn't create music collection or curation, they just reinvented it. Instagram didn't develop high-quality photography production, they just reinvented it. And Uber definitely didn't start the taxi service, they just reinvented it.
All of these companies were able to see the forest beyond the trees because their minds were open and opportunistic. They saw opportunities to reach out to their customers instead of customers reaching out to them, and they capitalized on them.
Can you see where this is headed?
You should keep a close eye on telehealth because there is an interesting opportunity looming to reinvent how physical therapist services can be delivered and accessed.
From a conceptual perspective, telehealth could add another avenue that makes our services more accessible and valuable. And with continued cuts to physical therapist services in the near future, access will be become increasingly important.
There are some interesting pieces of data that might foreshadow the potential impact of digital health care services. The increasing presence of digital natives, the influx of outside interest in digital therapeutics, and creation of the Frontiers in Rehabilitation, Science, and Technology (FiRST) council established by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) all lend to the potential rise of telehealth.
Digital natives consist of more than 150 million Americans.
Around half of all Americans are now considered digital natives, who consist of Millennial (~74 million) and Generation Z (~80 million) populations. A digital native is defined as someone who was born during the digital era or someone who grew up with technology, and who doesn't find the complexity of technology to be problematic. It wouldn't be a far out guess to assume that digital natives will, at some point, expect a certain aspect of their health care experience to be digital.
One survey found that 74% of Millennials expressed interest in digital health care services, and another large report identified that, "Millennials are adapting how they access health care and are open to different health care options." I view this ancillary data not as validation, but as an interesting trend that is most likely going to continue.
The influx of outside interest in digital therapeutics is skyrocketing.
Within the past several years, there has been a remarkable influx of outsiders or non-physical therapists entering the growing digital physical therapy space.
Have you ever heard of Reflexion Health, Hinge Health, Sword Health, Physera (disclaimer: I'm an employee), XR Health, Kaia Health, or Joint Academy?
These are all start-ups that have dedicated missions to address the musculoskeletal and pain relief needs within our society. With the information available online, it's estimated that these companies have collectively secured well over $100 million in the past few years alone, which is a clear indication that the digital physical therapy landscape is highly valued and growing fast. The question now is will more physical therapists jump into digital health? The jury is still out on that one.
APTA is strongly supporting the growing interest in telehealth.
Created in 2016, FiRST council is an entire suborganization to advance technological innovations into professional practice, education, and research. Telehealth is one of its five focus areas, and APTA is beginning to roll out more valuable information about why telehealth is rising in importance, guidelines for navigating telehealth ethics and regulation, and additional resources including research and media surrounding the topic. The takeaway from APTA's efforts is clear: Telehealth is here to stay, and PT's should have the resources available to learn more.
So what's your biggest takeaway?
My objective is not to convince you to try telehealth, because it is certainly a different type of practice that requires more experience and research to validate its efficacy. However, my hope is to convince you that telehealth is worth looking into because it is a tool that is here to stay. Just like hammers changed how our ancestors built shelters and communities, modern technologies, such as smartphones, have changed how we interact with the world.
Telehealth is a tool that might offer a unique path to provide care that is congruent with our increasingly technological society.
We are living in the digital age, and some aspects of our practice, education, and research should reflect this. If you're interested in learning more, check out APTA's growing telehealth resources or look into the current evidence supporting its potential efficacy.
Ben Gordon, SPT, is a second-year physical therapy student at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and is a core member of the Telehealth council (APTA FiRST council). Connect with him on twitter @BgordonSpt or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fry R. Millennials projected to overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/millennials-overtake-baby-boomers/
Mankin S. The emerging world of digital therapeutics. Nature. 2019;573:S106-S109.
Boodman S.G. For millennials, a regular visit to the doctor’s office is not a primary concern. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/for-millennials-a-regular-visit-to-the-doctors-office-is-not-a-primary-concern/2018/10/05/6b17c71a-aef3-11e8-9a6a-565d92a3585d_story.html
Gherini A. Gen-Z is about to outnumber millennials. Here’s how that will affect the business world. https://www.inc.com/anne-gherini/gen-z-is-about-to-outnumber-millennials-heres-how-that-will-affect-business-world.html
The University of Illinois at Chicago. 5 ways millennials view healthcare differently. https://healthinformatics.uic.edu/blog/5-ways-millennials-view-healthcare-differently/
Transamerica Center for Health Studies. Millennial healthcare preferences are a departure from the status quo. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/millennial-healthcare-preferences-are-a-departure-from-the-status-quo-300849369.html
CareSpot. 3 reasons millennials avoid going to the doctor. https://www.carespot.com/blog/3-reasons-millennials-avoid-going-doctor/
Sanborn B.J. Millennials demand telehealth in a move away from traditional primary care model. https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/millennials-demand-telehealth-move-away-traditional-primary-care-model
Dingli A., Seychell D. “Who Are the Digital Natives?” The New Digital Natives: Cutting the Chord. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg; 2018:9-10.
Podcast: Passion X Purpose
Listening Time — 29:13
For the physical therapy profession to thrive, it needs clinicians with grit.
That's the argument Fred Gilbert, PT, DPT, made at the 2019 Private Practice Section's (PPS) Graham Sessions in a provocative lecture he called, "I Believe Physical Therapy Will Die."
His lecture was less a prediction than a challenge. Fred thinks it's time for the next generation of physical therapists to think outside of the box and outside of the clinic walls. And that’s going to take grit.
Fred wants today's students and new grads to hold onto their why, know their true north, and take bold steps forward.
To kick off a new year of new possibilities, here's our thought-provoking conversation with Fred.
Visit PPS' website to read the transcript of Fred’s Graham Sessions talk.
APTA Podcasts like this one are available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify, or by visiting APTA.org/Podcasts.
APTA Is My Second Home
1 minute read
As a first year physical therapy student, I had the opportunity to present my research from my undergraduate work at the American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA's) 2019 Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) in Washington DC.
When the opportunity presented itself, I knew that I couldn't pass up the chance. I traveled to CSM 2019 as the only first-year student from my program and put myself and my research out there.
It was my first national conference, my first national research presentation, and my first experience with APTA, and wow, I was blown away!
I couldn't believe how many professionals and students came together to discuss current practice and research and share ways to advance the profession. After such a large and inspiring conference, I knew that I had to attend another.
So in fall 2019, I attended the National Student Conclave (NSC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Because my experience at CSM was focused on research and meeting other professionals in the field, I had no idea about the opportunities to get involved in APTA as a student. NSC was my first chance to interact with students who were equally as passionate about the physical therapy profession as I am, and to learn about leadership positions for students interested in representing and advancing the profession.
APTA is so much more than conferences, access to clinical practice guidelines, and opportunities to meet other professionals. APTA is a community, a family, a group of students and professionals who come together to grow and learn from one another; they inspire you to become the best version of yourself.
APTA has become my second home and allowed me to find my purpose outside of the classroom and lab. APTA has given me new friends, mentors, and inspiration to continue to pursue the opportunities that I am passionate about. To me APTA is a movement, and as PTs, PTAs, and students it's on us to get behind it, be engaged, and be a part of the APTA community.
Want to share your APTA love story? Submit it here! Haven't had such an experience or moment? We encourage you to contact William James, SPT, Director of Membership, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors to discover APTA value and opportunities.
Lindsay Durand, SPT, is a student at
You can connect with Lindsay on Twitter at @durand_lindsay.
1 minute read
I feel like the best version of myself when I'm part of a team.
My time in high school sports and being an active member of Chi Omega sorority during my undergraduate career were key to the development of my personal and professional character. So getting to the graduate school chapter of my life without a team made me feel like I'd lost a part of who I was.
Although I had a strong support system in my loving family, incredible friends, and wonderful faculty in my physical therapy program who consistently go above for me and my peers, I felt like I was still missing the team aspect that I require to be my best self.
And that's when I found the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)—or better yet, APTA found me.
During the fall semester of my second year of physical therapy school, I was asked by a then third-year student who was serving on the Connecticut (CT) Chapter's Student Special Interest Group (SSIG) board if I would be interested in serving a leadership position for the following term. Upon being elected president of CT SSIG and diving head first into the pool that is APTA, I knew that I had found my team.
While serving my term for CT SSIG, I attended various APTA national conferences including CSM 2018, NEXT 2019, and NSC 2019, that further solidified the passion, motivation, and inspiration that comes along with being on team APTA. I had finally found the team that I needed to be a part of for the rest of my graduate studies and future career.
Since my time serving at the state level and now having the honor to serve at the national level as Nominating Committee member for the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, I know that I have found a team that I will lean on for the entirety of my career. I am forever grateful to have been found by APTA and will continue to grow from the passion and authenticity it provides to its members.
Want to share your APTA love story? Submit it here! Haven't had such an experience or moment? We encourage you to contact William James, SPT, Director of Membership, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors to discover APTA value and opportunities.
Kaitlyn Mital, SPT, is a student at Sacred Heart University and serves as Nominating Committee member for the APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. You can connect with Kaitlyn on Twitter at @KaitlynMitalSPT.
Best of 2019: APTA Pulse Blog and Podcast
In 2019, the APTA Pulse blog and Pulse podcast covered an array of topics including seeking more education, the value of grades, diversity and inclusion, student debt and finances, tips to ace your clinicals, caring for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, and so much more.
Below is our top 9 most popular Pulse blog posts and podcast episodes in 2019. Enjoy!
Top 9 Pulse blog posts:
Top 9 Pulse podcast episodes:
Get the latest from the Pulse blog and Pulse podcast by following APTA's Student Assembly on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Interested in contributing to the Pulse blog? Sign up through APTA Engage volunteer platform. Have questions? Email us at email@example.com.