5 Ways to Help Your Team Make the Most of Veterinary Conferences

A career in the veterinary industry is more of a journey than a destination, and veterinary conferences can be important stops along the way. They can help provide team members with continuous education, skills training, and even personal development—all while having a good time.

That said, making the most of these opportunities to keep your team at the top of their game requires a little bit of planning and preparation. Here are five ideas to help you ensure they get the most out of their time.

1. Recommend Lectures Before They Go

The breadth of topics available at modern veterinary conferences can seem daunting, covering subjects ranging from the newest medical options to legal requirements in managing your team. Help your team members streamline their decisions by reviewing the issues in your practice ahead of time and selecting courses that will help address them.

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With those items locked in, your team can look at their remaining empty slots and pick courses that offer growth opportunities for the practice or that simply sound interesting to them. Making selections early will also ensure they don't miss out on workshops that often have a participant limit.

2. Don't Expect Them to Work While Away

Veterinary teams are resilient, and with a little planning and consideration, they can adapt to working without a team member for a few days. Coordinate with your attendees to get them ahead of their tasks as much as possible and then delegate other responsibilities to available team members and managers.

Unless you actively set boundaries on their availability while at the conference, you risk them missing lectures and not getting the most value from being in person at the event. Consider limiting contact to emails unless it's an absolute emergency that no one else can deal with and routing calls or texts via a manager to help enforce that rule. There's also a great side benefit here: By handing over tasks to different team members, you create the opportunity for cross-training. This can help make your team both more competent and resilient in the face of unexpected turnover or employee illness.

3. Review Their Notes

With so much to see every day, it can be easy for ideas to run together or get forgotten entirely. Encourage your team to review notes between lectures and highlight things to come back to. At the end of each day, ask them to carve out 30 minutes before dinner to record why each idea seemed important and then split it into one of three buckets:

  • Do it now: These ideas are simple to implement and will have an immediate impact on the practice.
  • Do it later: These ideas are a good fit but will require significant planning.
  • Personal interest: These may not be immediately applicable but the team member wants to learn more about them.

The review and categorization process helps solidify learning and creates an easy-to-follow digest of the day's work. At the end of the conference, they'll have a structured list not only of things they learned but also their initial thoughts on how they can use them and a priority list of when to implement them.

4. Encourage Them to Engage With Peers

There's more to conferences than lectures and workshops, and having so many talented veterinary professionals in one place is a great opportunity to expand your network. Whether discussing the day's lectures, helping hone ideas into actionable tasks, or just blowing off steam and laughing at shared experiences, everyone benefits from having open communication.

Encourage your team to give conference evening activities—or even just meeting new people for dinner or drinks—the same priority as any other part of the conference. Being exposed to new ideas and opinions is a great way to challenge the way they think, develop new ideas, and become more empathetic teammates.

5. Plan for When They Return

All the new knowledge your team gained from the conference doesn't start to be valuable until it can be put to use. That said, it's important to give them time to settle back in, contemplate those new ideas, and manage all the catch-up work that inevitably awaits on their return.

It can be easy to lose momentum in those critical first two weeks, so consider booking meetings and setting goals in advance to keep things moving. This can be as simple as booking time with the decision-makers and stakeholders for a week after they get back or taking a slot at your next all-hands meeting to present a topic they learned about.

Whatever your approach, following some of these tips will help prevent missed opportunities and forgotten ideas, empowering your team to come away from a veterinary conference with new perspectives and practical guidance they can't wait to implement.

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Des Whittall
Practice Manager

Des Whittall is an owner and manager of two veterinary clinics and pet resorts in Texas. A software engineer by training, he worked with an investment bank for 13 years in roles ranging from technical support to business divestment, managing large international teams and complex vendor relationships. With his partner, he has grown the clinics and resorts and is focused on developing businesses that can provide high-quality medicine and development opportunities for their teams.

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