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Top 10 tips for students attending a conference

Posted by Pettit, Sarah - March 13, 2016 - Featured, Sarah P., Students


This past week, I traveled to Wheeling, Illinois, to attend the Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association (GLATA) 48th Annual Meeting and Symposium. This is my third year attending the meeting, and I have loved it each year.

There are six states that are in the GLATA region: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and of course Wisconsin.

sarahb-glata201603bConferences are a great experience for many students. You get to listen to lectures on hot topics in the field you are in and get to network and communicate with professionals who can give you advice, or even be possible employers. You also get to meet students from different universities and talk to them about their programs and what they plan on doing in the future.

This year, eight of the seniors from UW-Stevens Point attended GLATA, where we sat in lectures consisting of manual therapy techniques, effective communication, panel discussions and preparation for our BOC exam. There were also events such as the GLATA Quiz Bowl and the Student Skills Challenge. The lectures were very informative, sometimes it was reiterating what we might already know, or we were learning new techniques and ideas. It is always smart to take notes during presentations so that you can keep them for future reference. I always have a little notebook available at conferences so that I can jot down notes, contact information, and the title of the presentation. The cool thing about most conferences is that they will upload the presentation slides on their event website for you to go back to at a later date!


Curriculum Change Panel

I have always loved going to conferences because there are so many different topics to choose from! Usually you’re at the conference center for a full day, so why not go to lectures about something that is interesting to you? The cool thing that we had was student-geared programs because of the large amounts of students that attend this conference. These talks try to be more engaging or apply more to what we deal with as students. You don’t always have to go to the student-centered programs though if it doesn’t appeal to you.

Conferences are all about professional development so here are a couple tips to help you succeed at your next conference:

  1. Dress professionally – wear clothes that you would wear to your job, not wearing sweats or jeans.
  2. Take notes – if you talk to the speaker after his or her presentation, you can highlight parts that you had questions on or that you thought were interesting.
  3. Eat a good breakfast – sometimes you don’t have a lot of breaks or a long amount of time to eat throughout the day.
  4. Take business cards or copies of your resume – if someone wants to be in touch with you, they have a physical copy of your contact information.
  5. Have a good night’s rest – then you don’t feel like you’re dragging through the day.
  6. Review the schedule – find out which talks you’re going to and what time they are in order to be able to gauge when you can run to the bathroom or find food.
  7. Divide and conquer – if you are going with a group, split up and go to different talks and share the information with each other later on. It will greatly increase your experience.
  8. Get 3 ideas – when someone is giving their presentation, figure out 3 big takeaway ideas that are expressed.
  9. Silence your phone – no one likes it when someone in the audience has their ringtone on high and gets a loud interruption in the middle of the presentation


  1. ACT PROFESSIONALLY – the other attendees of the conference could be co-workers or future supervisors, so be on your best behavior both during the conference, and outside the conference if you are staying overnight.

Good luck at your next conference!


Sarah Pettit is a senior majoring in athletic training at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

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