For dental office managers: Making the most of your time at the upcoming AADOM Annual Conference

August 6, 2014

Editor's Note: This article was written by Kim McQueen, the executive director of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM). Kim and I have done numerous interviews about the upcoming AADOM conference in San Diego, and you can see those interviews by clicking here.

Here are Kim's thoughts...

This is actually a revamp of an article I wrote a few years ago for the AADOM Observer magazine, but after reviewing it, I believe it’s still very, very relevant … actually now more than ever. So I’ve dusted it off for conference attendees, especially those experiencing their first AADOM conference this year.

This article is for those of you going to the conference, or thinking about it. Think of it as a guide to “making the most of your conference experience.” This event can be overwhelming, especially for first timers, so there are some key tips I think will help you to 1) not be overwhelmed and 2) set some solid implementation goals for things you learn.

Before you head to the conference, I recommend making a list of the top three challenges you deal with every day in your position, then list one personal goal for yourself. This can be as simple as meeting a peer with whom you can stay connected with after the conference.

As you are registering for the conference, sign up for sessions that will help you address those three challenges on your list. Don’t try to sign up for everything. Trust me, there is so much information … you need to stay focused on key pieces for you.

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Once you arrive, DON’T be a wallflower. Make sure to attend the breakfasts each morning as this is a great way to meet peers and talk about not only the challenges you may face in your job, but get insight into solutions from a person who may have been in your shoes. On Friday, September 5, breakfast tables are broken up by specialty, so there is even a better opportunity to talk to individuals dealing with what you face every day. The networking time is key at this conference; you build relationships and gain resources so you’re not alone when you go back to your day to day!

During sessions, take notes and ask questions. I’m a firm believer that the only stupid question is the one you never ask! After sessions, network with your peers and discuss what you learned and get insight into what they learned. It’s a great time to get information about a session you may not have been able to attend.

Go to the social events during the conference, such as the opening day happy hour, the Friday night social event, etc. These are additional opportunities for you to build relationships and get to know your peers in a more casual setting. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with attendees have been at these social events because everyone is more relaxed and they’re not trying to hustle to the next session.

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Make sure to spend time with the exhibitors. There are great companies in attendance and one might just have a solution to one of those top three challenges on your list.

Exchange business cards and contact information with the friends you’ve made. Don’t leave without making sure you have at least one card from a peer that you can use as a resource when you get home. The relationships you build at this conference will last through your career!

Lastly, on your way home, do two things. First, look at those three challenges on your list and put three bullets under each, noting how you are going to tackle that challenge when you return to the office. BE REALISTIC; don’t list a task you know you can’t accomplish. Finally, put together a recap of what you learned and your action plan for the next year. This recap should show how you are going to utilize what you learned to help improve the practice. Sit down with your doctor and your team when you return and share this recap.

This event is one of my favorites in the dental industry. Those of you that attend know just how valuable it is. If you’re attending this year, make sure to grab me and say hi. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone. It’s our 10th anniversary this year and I can’t wait to celebrate with all of you! See you in San Diego!