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Without Further Delay: A Procrastinator’s Guide to the 2013 Annual Meeting
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A career in ophthalmology is not one commonly associated with copious amounts of free time – especially if you’re in residency. Throw in exam cramming, fellowship interviews, research and a healthy personal life, and the Annual Meeting is likely to sneak up on the best of planners. But if you have just decided to attend or have been putting off arrangements, never fear.

This month, YO Info compiles everything that you’ll need to make last-minute preparations: from finalizing travel plans and registering onsite to selecting courses and making the most of your time while in the great city of New Orleans.

First Things First: Getting There and Where to Stay
Your first step should be booking travel. Association Travel Concepts is the Academy’s official travel agency and can assist you with arrangements to and from New Orleans. Book your flight online or email reservations@atcmeetings.com. To expedite your travel day preparation, make sure to review the latest security measures, banned carry-on items and other tips from the Transportation Security Administration.

And if you are saving your meeting prep for the ride, YO Info Editorial Board member Janice C. Law, MD, recommends browsing the Academy’s “Highlights for Young Ophthalmologists” brochure inflight. This 16-page guide covers all of the social events, networking meetings and YO-endorsed sessions and symposia. “It’s a great start to checking out some sessions if you really haven’t done anything to prepare,” Dr. Law said. “The recommendations have already been made for you!”

Next, you’ll need to find a place to stay. To cut down on time spent getting to and fro while in New Orleans, YO Info Editorial Board Chair Natasha L. Herz, MD, suggests getting a hotel as close to the convention center as possible. Regardless of your preferences though, be sure to book your accommodations online through Expovision, the official housing company of the Academy’s Annual Meeting, for the quickest reservation.

And remember, due to high demand, there is extremely limited hotel availability. If you don’t have any luck with your first few hotel choices online, give Expovision a call at 866.774.0487 or 703.770.3908, as there might be last-minute cancellations.

Because of this high demand for housing during the Annual Meeting, the Academy recently added the Crowne Plaza New Orleans Airport, the Doubletree New Orleans Airport and the Four Points Sheraton New Orleans Airport to their list of official hotels. Note, however, that unlike other official hotels, these will not provide free shuttle service to and from the Convention Center.

For information on taxis, pedicabs and mass transport, be sure to check out the Academy’s guide to ground transportation.

Registration
Once you’ve secured hotel and travel arrangements, you’ll need to register. Although the deadline has passed to have your badge mailed to you before the meeting, you can still preregister online for the Annual Meeting and Subspecialty Day through Oct. 23. You’ll just need to remember to make time to pick up your materials onsite. Be sure to also take your voucher to the ribbon booth in Hall C to pick up your YO ribbon, required for access to the YO lounge.

While you can also register in Hall C of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center once you are in New Orleans, Subspecialty Day registration fees do increase onsite.

Keep in mind, too, that onsite registration can be hectic; if you do decide to register at the convention center, consider popping in a day early on Thursday, Nov. 14, and taking advantage of early registration, which opens at 4 p.m. Otherwise, plan to come back Friday afternoon; mornings tend to be the busiest time of the day at the registration desk.

Courses and Sessions
Now you are ready to decide which courses and sessions to attend. For a comprehensive look at the YO Program and the Annual Meeting in general, be sure to refer to previous YO Info stories on what the meeting has for both residents and practicing YOs.

Academy Plus course pass. Be aware that individual tickets for the YO Program and most courses are no longer sold. Instead, the Academy offers the Academy Plus course pass, which includes unlimited access to more than 350 Academy and American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives instruction courses.

Thanks to the convenience and flexibility of this course pass, there is no need to purchase event tickets in advance. “My advice for the last-minute attendee,” said Dr. Herz, “is to get the pass and then look at the meeting schedule during your plane ride to find out which courses you want to attend.” Keep in mind, however, that although fewer events will sell out in advance, all seating is available on a first-come basis.

Academy members in training pay only $100 for the course pass — a significant savings compared with individual course fees from previous years — and you can purchase it online and onsite in Hall C.

Free sessions. And be sure to take advantage of the many free sessions in New Orleans that are already covered by your Annual Meeting registration. These include:

For more detailed information about all Annual Meeting courses and sessions and to purchase individual tickets for Breakfast With the Experts and Skills Transfer labs, use the Academy’s Online Program search.

Keeping It Simple
“Planning — regardless of when — is key if you're going to get the most out the meeting,” said Dr. Law. “It is a large and daunting event if you don't know how it is organized.”

So, given the overwhelming nature of the Annual Meeting, how should you use your remaining time to plan your meeting schedule? The best approach is a simplified one.

YO Committee chair Robert F. Melendez, MD, MBA, urges the last-minute attendee to have a concise and realistic battle plan readied prior to the meeting: “Ask, ‘What three topics do I want to learn the most about?’ and search out specific courses and sessions to help achieve this plan.”

An indispensable tool for helping you achieve this goal is the Mobile Meeting Guide. This Web app for smartphones and tablets allows you to search the scientific program, sync your courses and sessions to your personal planner and view courses and sessions taking place at a given moment. Plus, it lets you view posters and watch surgical videos online.

Save Time for Fun!
This is a must: if you’ve never been to New Orleans before, make it a point to try the city’s world-famous cuisine and include some fun in your calendar.

Be sure to download the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau’s MeNetwork app to your smartphone or tablet for discounts and specials at some of the city’s best restaurants and attractions. On The Town New Orleans is another great resource for recommendations and information about can't-miss eateries in New Orleans. When onsite, stop by the their booth in Lobby E to make reservations.

Or, if you want to be more spontaneous, find your next meal as it rolls through the city with the Roaming Hunger food truck locator.

As the clock ticks closer to meeting time, keep in mind all of these tips — the Academy really can make your trip to the “Big Easy” easier. And if procrastination truly is the mother of invention, make the most out of it!

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About the author: Mike Mott is contributing writer for YO Info and a former assistant editor for EyeNet Magazine.

 
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