I’ve been an OT for two decades (plus), but I’m embarrassed to admit that I’d never attended the AOTA conference until #AOTA15 in Nashville, Tennessee.

My excuses were:

  • It costs too much
  • I’d have to miss work
  • None of my friends were going/I wouldn’t know anyone

But, my old roommate from college asked me if I was interested in attending #AOTA15 in Nashville.

YES! I’d been dying to go to Nashville, it was a chance to hang out with my former partner-in-crime for a few days, so I was totally in.

That trip totally changed my perspective on the AOTA conference. Truthfully, I had no idea what I’d been missing!

Now, I can honestly say that I’ll make every effort to attend the AOTA conference each year. I decided to write this article to convince the Occupational Therapy practitioners who are thinking “hmm maybe…” to “YES!” for #AOTA every year!

10 reasons YOU should go to #AOTA

1. Explore a new city.

If you LOVE to travel, this is the perfect chance to discover a new city and see all the sights. My favorite book, “1,000 places to see before you die,” and AOTA often hosts their conferences in some of these wonderful cities!

If you’re a foodie, plan to do your research on famous or fabulous restaurants!

History buffs can check out the local historical sites and take a selfie or two!

Also, check to see if the location offers a City Pass package to take advantage of great discounts on all the sights. 

2. Reunite with old friends.

The annual AOTA conference is a great opportunity to meet up with friends from university, colleagues from previous jobs, and professors from the old days. Social media makes it easy to stay in touch afterward, too. Plan to share a hotel room with your roommate from college. It will be just like old times!

3. Connect with other Occupational Therapists.

You are not an island! many OT practitioners work alone or with only a PT. It’s awesome to have another OT to trade ideas with, share activities, and collaborate on meeting goals—together!

Going to #AOTA will put you into “OT shock!” OTs are everywhere—in the elevator, next to you at the restaurant, and most of all, sitting next to you at the conference. It’s AWESOME. And it’s so nice to “talk shop” with other OTs.

These are our people! This is our tribe!

4. Learn new skills and keep up with current events.

AOTA has an app where you can plan out your conference schedule. You can enjoy multiple workshops each day on the topics you’re interested in. You can customize each day to your liking, and there are hundreds of courses to choose from.

AOTA hosts courses to keep you up-to-date with changes in law, best practice guidelines, and the latest research. For OT students, there are sessions about exam preparation and ethics in the workplace. Check out the app here.

5. Get your Continuing Education Units.

In a course of three days, you have the opportunity to get up to 24 Continuing Education Units (CEUs)! For the busy OT practitioner, this can be a life-saver.

6. Discover new products, companies, and job opportunities at the AOTA Expo.

This is one of my favorite parts of the AOTA conference. Hundreds of companies gather to persuade thousands of OTs to try products, buy books, sign up for courses, etc. Plus, there are tons of free giveaways, prizes, and samples. Who doesn’t love free samples?

7. Meet famous OTs!

Everyone has different Occupational Therapists that they admire or look up to. As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I was thrilled to meet Theresa Garland, author of one of my favorite OT books, Self-Regulation Interventions and Strategies.

As a pediatric OT blogger (MissJaimeOT), I was totally psyched to meet two fellow OT bloggers, Christie Kiley (MamaOT) and Katherine Collmer (Handwriting With Katherine). Christie lives in California and Katherine is from Arizona—a long way from my home in New York.

As a result of the AOTA conference, I  had the opportunity to meet them in person! Now, I’m in touch with both of them, and Christie and I actually collaborated with other OTs and PTs to write “The Handwriting Book.”  For me, these are “famous OTs,” but that would depend on what kind of OT YOU are and who YOU’RE excited to meet. Chances are they’ll be at the #AOTA annual conferences!

8. Rediscover why you chose to be an OT practitioner.

Attending the conference will make you excited about OT again. If you’re feeling bored or unmotivated, AOTA Expo will have you on fire with ideas and things you’re looking forward to doing. The enthusiasm is contagious! Connecting with other practitioners is invigorating, and listening to their ideas and success stories can revitalize your role as a practitioner.

Love OT again!

9. The keynote speakers will inspire you!

#AOTA16 keynote speakers were Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes, two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. The couple had the audience laughing, crying, and speechless during their 30-minute presentation outlining their traumatic ordeal, recovery, and experience with their Occupational Therapists, who “helped give our independence back, our lives back, our love back.”

Listening to that speech was one of the highlights of my career as an OT, and it made me very proud of the profession I chose. I highly recommend seeing it for yourself on YouTube.

And every year there’s someone who reignites the fire in me and propels me forward, striving to work smarter and help more people.

10. Use turn-key teaching to bring your new skills and ideas back to your workplace.

Bring your new knowledge back to your organization. Turn-key teach other OTs and professionals. It’s a wonderful way to showcase your new proficiency and expertise. Administrators will admire your eagerness to promote your profession. Plus, it may make them more willing to pay for you to go the following year!

Bonus Ideas 

Bring breakfast food or book at a hotel that has continental breakfast—the lines are always crazy.

Bring water and healthy snacks (or buy when you get there at a local CVS, etc.) that you can carry through the day (granola bars, etc). 

Bring business cards because there is a lot of networking. Make reservations ahead of time at “good” places with your friends because those places get booked up quickly.

Definitely attend the keynote speech—they are unbelievable. Try to book with friends because it is sooo much fun!

See if your college is having any kind of get-together—also great for networking opportunities.

Bring your phone charger to the conference daily because it’ll make your life easier when your battery is low and you can’t access the app, or text your friends for meet-ups.  

Bookmark the sessions you’re interested in and plan out your days.

Take the time to plan now:

  • Find out if your workplace provides reimbursement for conferences and put in early. Check the AOTA.org website frequently to see when the discount hotels are listed.  Then, call your friends to convince them to share a room with you!
  • Explore the discount travel websites for a cheap price on flights.
  • Don’t forget to check Amtrack or Megabus, which has discount seats starting at $1.00!

For more information, go to AOTA.org.

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