The reason this post comes a week late, but better late than never. I came back home from San Antonio after an unforgettable first experience at Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) and got deathly ill from the flu. I was unable to leave the house for about 4 days and still currently recovering from a nasty dry cough. Enough of the talk about illness. CSM is the biggest domestic PT conference, with this year breaking 14,000 registrants.
I am a new grad PT (10 months post graduation), and never attended CSM as a student even though it was in Indianapolis my second year of PT school and it was only a two-hour drive away! I don’t know why I didn’t go. I think our school didn’t make it as a big deal as it was, and I thought it was just another random small conference. We had National Student Conclave in Louisville, KY (1.5-hour drive away) my first year of PT school as first-year students, but I think we were way too early in our education to know how to take advantage of it.
With many people attending 3-2 hours lectures each day, learning as much as they can, writing as much as they can, and absorbing the newest research to bring back to their clinic or present to their professors the following week, I decided to approach CSM a different route. (SIDE NOTE: why do PTs make each other sit through passive lectures all day, when we are MOVEMENT PROFESSIONALS?) I flew to San Antonio with one of my buddies in PT school and we were interested in a couple lectures for sure but used this week to increase our network and meet some PTs that we looked up to. I don’t know if I felt nerdier to look at some of these therapists as celebrities due to their following on social media, extensive knowledge, and the impact they’ve had on our professional community. Of course, just like celebrities they are just regular people, took the time to talk to anyone that approached them, and really cared about what people had to say to try to further our PT students and new grads. I started following quite a handful of people on social media, and those who had attended CSM, I made an effort to see them all, and eventually introduced myself to all of them to add that face with the person that has been either creepily following them on one of these platforms, or even talking to them behind our phones computer screens.
Although I reached out to many of the big name PTs out in the field, I also met many motivated students/new grads who were already creating a name for themselves by creating podcasts, websites, planning on starting practices, had great aspirations and going well beyond what PT school expects from you. It was great being surrounded by people who wanted to take things to the next level. It made me seem like I wasn’t doing much, but needed to step things up myself. Some of these people I have never met and some of them were my online friends and family from my Smart Success Physical Therapy (SSPT) course that I am taking with my mentor Greg Todd (GT). If you haven’t heard of him, look him up. Trust me, he won’t be hard to find online, nor will be disappointed in his content. I have learned so much from him and my classmates. It was a different kind of energy when we all met up for dinner to just put a face to each of our names and surrounded by positivity and greatness. I will create a separate post or video in the future about this course and how it has severely changed my mindset on our profession and even just life.
I had a great experience and luckily, I did not need CEUs since I just graduated, I was able to take advantage of not going to courses, but to network and meet some pretty awesome people. I don’t think I really met anyone to ask for anything, but just to get to know them and build a relationship for something in the future where one of us can reach out to one another and further ourselves and our career.
I challenge others who only come for the lectures to step out try to increase their network and create meaningful relationships. You never know where they will go.
Coming for you next year NOLA. I am not sure CSM is ready for it to be held in one of my favorite cities the States has to offer.
P.S. I was able to meet my recruiters that have helped me through travel two contracts with travel PT and my “coworker” who works across the country. I don’t think there are cooler recruiters out there that know how to have more fun than anyone else at conferences.
P.P.S.: I guess one did lock up my consulting gig by putting myself out there.
Andrew Tran, PT, DPT