5 things to know before attending Optometry’s Meeting® 2023

As we lead up to Optometry’s Meeting® taking place in Washington, D.C., June 21-24, it may feel overwhelming, especially if you have never attended before. I remember my first year, I had no idea what was in store for me. To be honest, I also was intimidated by the prospect of a conference that big. So, for anyone who may be nervous during this time leading up to Optometry’s Meeting, here are my top five tips to help prepare you!

  1. Business cards
    Go ahead and order those business cards that come complimentary with your AOSA/AOA membership. There are going to be opportunities to chat with doctors, residency program representatives, state affiliates and legislators, and you may want their contact info. Having your own business card makes it so easy to trade that information. It also could make you more memorable. On that same note, do not be afraid to network with the doctors! From my experience, they are always excited to meet students and are willing to help in any way that they can.
  2. Dress for success
    There is technically not a dress code for Optometry’s Meeting; however, I would recommend dressing business casual. You’ll see attendees in the full spectrum, from jeans and a nice button-down to suits. My advice is to be somewhere in the middle. I would avoid jeans, but you don’t need to run out and buy a new suit. There is potential for you to be meeting big names in optometry, whether that is a member of the AOA Board of Trustees or one of the major industry reps. Regardless, you want to be treated like a professional, so why not dress like one? Oh, and to my friends who wear heels: just know that there’s a decent amount of walking (at least there was for me), so maybe throw some flats and Band-Aids in your bag! One caveat: if you are scheduled for a Hill visit, I would recommend a more business-professional look. We are meeting with legislators and making some big asks, so we want to start with our best foot forward.
  3. Be on the lookout for student-oriented courses
    There are a ton of great CE classes, but honestly, some of the titles were way over my first-year head. No need to fear; there are some AOA+ recommended courses that we believe are going to be great for students. These courses are notated with “AOA+” in the education schedule. Some of them include the effects of virtual school on vision and how to implement specialty care into everyday practice; I learned so much from these classes and they were so enjoyable to sit through. You can also follow the AOA+ Leadership Society track, which will ensure you take in all the best parts of Optometry’s Meeting for students.
  4. Network with students from other schools
    A little insight about me: I like being comfortable, and it takes an internal pep talk to go and meet new people. If it went my way while I was at Optometry’s Meeting, I would have only interacted with the students who were from my school. Don’t do this! Don’t be like me! Yes, it is important to network with doctors, but it also is important to network with your fellow students! These are your future colleagues, and you’re going to be working alongside them for the next 40 years. Start making those connections early! I did talk myself out of my comfort zone, and I now have several contacts and friends from various schools. Let me tell you, it is so nice having those connections. Plus, it gives you another thing to look forward to going to these meetings: catching up with long-distance optometry friends.
  5. It is what you make of it
    I had a fantastic Optometry’s Meeting experience! I met new friends, was able to chat with doctors, learned a ton, and had so much fun at the evening events for students. But I had to get out of my comfort zone and have those conversations and go to those classes. No one is going to force you to do any of this; you could very easily do a fraction of the available opportunities and you may say, “Eh, Optometry’s Meeting was alright.” Or, you can take advantage of all the event has to offer and walk away excited about your profession because you were surrounded by others with that same excitement and learned so much. And if you’re a planner like me, you can download the Optometry’s Meeting app (Google store / Apple store) and get a head start on planning your schedule to ensure you don’t miss an event.

You’re going to be so tired by Saturday night, but the best kind of tired. But do take care of yourself throughout your trip, make sure you stay hydrated and get at least a little rest! And if you still have lingering questions, feel free to ask your school’s AOSA trustee, trustee-elect or another student who has attended in the past.

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