FOCUS: A totally subjective evaluation of an educational conference
We’ve come a long ways since the days of CPAP as large as small refrigerators. The educational conference have also evolved over time with each developing its own flavor and style. With so many to pick from if you’ve never attended a particular one getting a sense of the conference can help in deciding to make the financial and time investment in attending.
I’ve just finished the FOCUS conference held in Orlando FL May 14-17, 2014. I started with the Certified Sleep Apnea Educator Course organized by the BRPT held Wednesday before the conference. I’m prejudiced as I was a lunch and learn presenter and I am good friends with two of the other faculty. As a one day program it has been successful in attracting as many attendees as the main conference.
Part of what I enjoyed about FOCUS is the main organizer Bob Miglino’s personal easy going style. In setting up for bringing a working semi-truck to the educational conference to review practical considerations in the treatment of sleep apnea in Commercial Motor Vehicle operators Bob did an e-mail push to his list showing him in his “hay burner” on the way to Orlando. I countered with a LinkedIn update offering to give him a ride in a “real” truck. Any conference organizer willing to dress up in a bunny suit for the Focus Night of Comedy will put on a good conference.
Another positive part of the FOCUS conference experience is the motivated group of FOCUS crew that came to help with everything from registration to room hosting. All were professionals that often had good information. I learned a lot from several of the room moderators between sessions.
Many conferences have a strict ban on vendors or exhibitors making presentations. Done to prevent educational sessions from becoming “infotainment” FOCUS uses a more common sense approach. Exhibitors making presentations are evaluated on the merit of their material. I work with a CPAP that uses a Heat Moisture Exchanger (HME). As HME are not common in sleep I switched tracks to catch a clinical respiratory therapy session on HME basics. It turned out the presenter was a vendor. I couldn’t tell from his presentation. After, we met at his booth with the HME medium the model of CPAP I was interested in used. He was able to show me several things about the properties of the HME medium that will let me improve the quality of care. I learned to teach patients using this HME equipped CPAP to preload the HME with a little sterile saline. These are the tips and tricks of treatment I come to a conference to learn.
FOCUS offers educational tracks in sleep, pediatrics, business, clinical respiratory therapy, and physician level CME. One unique aspect is that many of the presentations are repeated back to back. This allows you to not have to pick and choose between two interesting presentations offered in the same time block. While this puts a burden on presenters it gives you more options to catch topics of interest to you. It also gives you the option to give a presenter the ultimate compliment – sitting through the same presentation twice in case you missed something.
The conference venue was the Coronado Springs Resort at Disney in Orlando, FL. Many attendees I talked to had made the conference a mini-vacation. I would look at the two regional conferences FOCUS has planned and make plans for next year’s conference.