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Procrastinator’s Guide to the Annual Meeting
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Perhaps you have been cramming for an exam. Or maybe you’ve been researching fellowship programs. Or possibly you’ve just been so busy with life in general that the Joint Meeting has snuck up on you. And now, it’s here, and you are scrambling to attend.

Never fear. We’ve done the research, talked to those who have been there, and compiled everything you’ll need to know to make last-minute travel preparations, register onsite, select sessions and courses and even manage to enjoy the Chicago scene!

It’s too late to have your badge and meeting materials mailed to you in advance, but you can still register online and secure housing through Wednesday, Sept. 22. You’ll just need to plan time in your schedule to pick up badge and registration materials onsite.

Travel and Housing
Before you can do anything, you have to get to the meeting. If you are not close enough to drive to Chicago, your best bet is to check with Association Travel Concepts, the official travel agent for the meeting.

Shahar Frenkel, MD, PhD, recommends arriving at Midway airport. “It is less prone to weather-related closures, and the train ride into downtown is shorter,” says Dr. Frenkel.

Next, you’ll need a place to stay. You can book your housing through Expovision, the meeting housing company. You can also give them a call at 866.774.0487 or 703.770.3908. While they often fill rooms at “official” meeting hotels early, there can be last-minute cancellations, so give them a try.

If the official meeting hotels are booked, then you’ll need to use, or one of the other travel websites to find a hotel. Note that only official meeting hotels are included on the free shuttle service to and from McCormick, so you may need to use mass transit or take a cab to the convention center.

If this is the case, refer to the Academy’s guide to neighborhoods and mass transit for help getting to the meeting. You can also try to find a hotel near one of the “official” hotels and walk there to jump on the shuttle.

One important note for this year’s meeting: a lot of the hotels are further from the convention center than past locations, so be sure to plan accordingly for your trips.

Once you’ve figured out how you’ll get to the meeting and where you will stay, you need to register. Registration can be hectic under the best conditions, let alone when you are feeling a bit frantic and under the gun. If you miss the Sept. 22 registration deadline, one solution is to come in a day early (Thursday) to take advantage of early registration, which opens at 4 p.m.

If Thursday is a no-go for you, then aim to hit registration Friday afternoon, as mornings tend to be very crazy.

Courses and Sessions
Once you are registered, you’ll want to decide which courses and/or sessions to attend. Your first stop here should be, obviously, the YO Program. For this and other programs, courses or events, buy your tickets in Hall A.

While it may be a bit trickier to get the exact event you are looking for at the last minute, fortunately, tickets for many events are still available. Plus, even if an event is listed as “sold out,” it’s worth checking at onsite ticket sales in Hall A, as a lot of things get traded in at the last minute. You may still be able to attend that course or program after all!

You can also take advantage of the many free sessions at the meeting, which don’t require advance registration. These include:
While there are a number of interesting courses, Anthony Khawaja, MB, MA (Cantab), MRCOphth, suggests you try to not over-pack your schedule with courses. Make sure to also attend some of the excellent free symposia and paper sessions, especially Modern Technologies and Techniques for Young Ophthalmologists to Know, hosted by the Academy, the European Society of Ophthalmology and the Middle East Council Africa Council of Ophthalmology. You will also want time to walk round the exhibits and mingle with colleagues. The best courses return every year.

If all this sounds a little overwhelming, refer to last month’s YO Info for tips on navigating the meeting according to your stage of practice.  No matter where you are, we have some tips for you!

You can even take meeting preparedness to a whole new level, by taking advantage of the new scheduling tool in this year’s registration application.

Finally, Natasha Herz, MD, suggests that you print out a good map of the area you'll be in and plot out where everything is located on it. “Figure out the shuttle schedule and see what is within walking distance and what will require a taxi/shuttle service,” says Dr. Herz.

Meals and Night Life
With all the activity during the meeting, it can be difficult to fit in something as simple as a meal. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to mix a bit of business with sustenance.
  • Some sessions, such as the Breakfasts with the Experts, Networking with the Experts: Knowledge and Tips for the YO and the YO Program include meals in the fee, which is usually discounted 50 percent for residents.
  • The Unofficial Satellite Symposia events hosted by exhibiting companies also provide good opportunities for networking and free food. They always have events planned on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If you haven't received the fliers, talk to your attendings or fellow residents, visit their booths, or check out events online.
  • Take advantage of all the happy hours and receptions, including the OPHTHPAC/Surgical Scope Fund happy hour in the YO Lounge (Oct. 16 at 4 p.m.) and the global YO reception on Oct. 17 at the Hyatt McCormick Place.
Finally, the Academy has introduced a new meal option this year, Bistro AAO, which includes an advance-purchase option that enables you to be seated immediately. The service offers a variety of healthy menu choices each day and is conveniently located in the Exhibit Hall.

More Tips from Your Peers
Because there is just so much to consider when it comes to the meeting, here are a few other thoughts from fellow YOs who have been there:
  • Dr. Herz: Register for all the events you want to attend online, prior to getting there. The lines are too long! And go to as many CME/drug rep-sponsored meals as possible to save money!
  • Dr. Frenkel: Use a Chicago Card if you plan on seeing the city. It’s a great way to get around town on the CTA. You can get a card at the airport before you board the train.
  • If you’re unfamiliar with U.S. tipping practices, Dr. Khawaja says a $2 to $3 tip for taxi rides is customary and usually sufficient. If the driver helps you with your bags or goes out of their way to get you to your destination faster, easier, etc., a couple of extra dollars may be appropriate. For more tips on coming to the meeting from outside the United States, refer to the Academy’s guide for international attendees.
Lastly, if you haven’t been to Chicago before, try to take some time to see the city. As Dr. Frenkel reminds you, Chicago has a wide variety of cuisines. There is something for everyone!

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About the author: Kimberly Day is a freelance health writer and medical editor and a frequent contributor to YO Info. She is the co-author of Hormone Revolution and ghost writer of Eat Papayas Naked.

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