Getting the most out of CSM: Tips to improve your experience

The APTA's annual Combined Sections Meeting is right around the corner and I could not be more excited! CSM, as it is known, brings all 18 specialty sections to a single location and attracts more than 12,000 physical therapy professionals. Needless to say it is a huge conference that brings with it many opportunities for each attendee.


How does one take full advantage of this massive event? With so many options to choose from - attending educational sessions, witnessing poster and platform presentations, connecting with potential employers - it is easy to feel intimidated or even lost when trying to decide what to do. With that said, here are some key tips to consider when attending CSM that will hopefully improve your experience:

Plan Ahead - but choose wisely


Take a look at CSM's Programming page and review the planned schedule of events. Take note of what sessions and meetings interest you and try to make your own personal schedule. Consider topics that you are not very well-versed in and challenge your current level of knowledge. I have some news for you, however. The unfortunate consequence of squeezing such a large conference into roughly four days is that many things tend to overlap and are often even scheduled at the same time. This can be a tough decision for you especially when finding yourself interested in 2 or 3 events running simultaneously. Do not fret though - the APTA makes handouts for each session available here (if provided by the speaker; APTA membership required). Also consider coordinating with colleagues so that each one of you attends sessions of mutual interest. That way you can discuss takeaways later on at happy hour. Which leads to my next VERY important tip...

Make time for networking and socializing


Think of how many people will be at this conference. The estimate is over 12,000! This means that the opportunity to form very valuable and beneficial relationships is well in grasp. It is important to make the time in your schedule to meet and greet your colleagues which will more than likely include many heavy-hitters in the profession - as well as potential employers and employees, mentors and mentees, representatives of residencies and fellowships, and so much more. Even a simple hello and introduction will do. Bring your business cards and/or a résumé, exchange contact and social media information. Create a twitter handle if you haven't already. Embrace your chance to connect!

Most importantly - explore and have fun

CSM's location changes every year and consequently offers the opportunity of so much more than just the conference. At the time of writing this article, CSM is being hosted in New Orleans, a city whose reputation precedes itself. But each location brings its own unique and exciting culture, traditions, cuisine, monuments, and locations - most of which you may not have experienced before. Make some time to go out and explore - have fun with your colleagues old and new! Just remember to maintain a semblance of professionalism. All in moderation of course - or not. 

Also consider the following items to help improve your experience:

  • Phone charger and battery packs
  • APTA's conference app
  • Notebook/note-taking device
  • Business cards/résumé
  • Water bottle/snacks
  • Sweater

Please share this article with all that you think will benefit from it! Hope to see you there!