As a student, a big optometry conference can be daunting. There are many people from different areas of the field in attendance at these conferences, along with Continuing Education classes, the exhibit halls, and social events.
This spring, I was able to attend SECO in Atlanta. Through attending, I learned a lot about the field of optometry from a different point of view than what I see in school. I spoke to many individuals, but a few common threads appeared to me. If you’ve never been to a conference, or are nervous about your first time attending, here are the five people you meet at an optometry conference.
There’s a lot of new technology and research in the field of optometry, and the exhibit hall at the conference is the perfect place to learn about it. As a student, you might not know how to use these new tools, or even what they are testing, but have no fear: the Inventors are here. These innovators have worked on their inventions from the idea to the finished product, and are ready and willing to demonstrate their prototypes on you. At SECO, a group was there representing their iPhone-based autorefractor. By demonstrating the device on one of my classmates, then giving me a chance to operate it myself, I had an improved understanding of the device and its application.
Talk to them about: How to use the new technology and its applicability to clinical practice.
Don’t mention: How you can’t buy anything until you graduate.
- The Fashionable Frame Rep
The best-dressed people at an optometry expo are the frame representatives. Wearing designer suits, carrying the latest handbags, and, of course, this season’s eyewear, they certainly have “the look.” Looking at their brand’s posters, you could be convinced that the models in the ads are the actual representatives.There’s so much more than that, though. Frame representatives are highly knowledgeable about practice development, and can answer all of your questions about the number of frames and lines you should carry in your practice if you’re just starting out. The optical side of optometry is significant component of any practice, and any chance to learn or network from these experts in their field can benefit you in the future.
Talk to them about: The latest trends in frame shape, color, and materials.
Don’t mention: Warby Parker.
- Your Past
Optometry conferences have a huge group of optometrists, optical representatives, and other professionals in attendance, and you’re bound to see somebody you know. If you’ve been in the optometry world for awhile, you may run into some old friends! Being in school takes you away from the people you were in contact with before you went to school, and the chance to reconnect is always welcomed. Before I came to optometry school, I worked in a private practice for two years. At SECO, I ran into my old boss and was able to talk from a different perspective after having almost a year of school finished.
Talk to them about: Take a break from optometry and catch up on life!
Don’t mention: That you’re an expert now. You’re still in school, but they have years of experience!
Nobody understands optometry school like optometry students. Luckily for us, there are many students present at the conferences. Many of the schools have a table, and groups like OptometryStudents.com and the AOSA have a presence as well. There are student-only parties, and chances to meet students from other schools. It’s great to see classmates in a non-school setting, and see the future of optometry while you’re working on creating it in school.
Talk to them about: Their different experiences at the conference. You can’t hit all the booths, Continuing Education, and other events, but you can hear about them from your classmates.
Don’t mention: How you have to go back to school as soon as the conference ends.
- Your Future
There are many different ways to network at a conference. You can volunteer as a coordinator, talk with the optometrists in your Continuing Education groups, or strike up a conversation with somebody in the expo booths. What if you are interested in a certain field of optometry? With so many optometrists in one place, chances are, you will find somebody to connect with. Whether you’re interested in low vision, private practice, vision therapy, or contact lenses, there is always somebody knowledgeable to answer any questions you might have. Make sure you’re armed with business cards to get your name out there!
Talk to them about: Anything! As a student, you can learn so much from a practicing optometrist, and this is a chance to connect with somebody who has experience and is an expert in their field. Take the time now to learn more about what you want to do in the future.
Bottom Line: As an optometry student, there are many benefits to attending conferences before graduation. The next big meeting is Optometry’s Meeting in Boston from June 29 to July 3. Our team will be there so be sure to visit our booth!