So from July 24-26th I was fortunate enough to attend my very first Occupational Therapy National Conference in Adelaide. Not only was I attending this conference but I was also honoured to be asked at last years QLD State conference if I would join the Senior Management Team as the conference Social Media Coordinator. I’m told this was due to the work I had done with MH4OT but I know that it came mainly from a lovely recommendation of Anita Hamilton.

On top of all of this, I also had a short oral presentation with Robert Pereira & Matthew Molineux and a large group poster project with Merrolee PenmanAnita HamiltonLeonora CoolhaasTrina Phuah & Allison Sullivan. I’ve learned a multitude of things from all of these various projects that all culminated at OTA2013….then add on top of that the things I learned at the conference!


So I joined the SMT for OTA2013 in about October 2012. We would meet via teleconference monthly and discuss everything to do with putting together the conference. This was an absolutely eye-opening experience for myself, who had never been involved in anything like this, let along to this scale.  Even though I didn’t have a lot to do with the budget side of things it was fascinating to me how much it actually costs to put on an event of this magnitude.

My role within the SMT was to use social media to promote OTA2013 and to also provide and encourage a social media presence during the conference. Secondary to this the tact that I took in organizing the OTAust Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts was aimed at raising the overall social media presence of the association and therefore the number of OT’s that they are able to connect with using these tools. To start with I don’t think I was 100% certain what exactly I was doing or how I was meant to run the social media of an association that represents 1000’s of OT’s around the country and the profession as a whole on the international stage. There wasn’t a lot of guidance around this as to date the association hadn’t had anyone who knew how to use these tools well.

So I did what anyone does when crossing unknown ground….i tiptoed. I tried different things, different posts, using images, asking questions, all the while keeping an eye on the view and engagement stats. Eventually, almost naturally evolving, I found my groove. I have a good idea of the sort of posts that are going to have the biggest impact on the OTAust followers.

This experience has opened doors to many many new opportunities, both nationally and within my state, which I won’t go into right now but I’m extremely excited about what the future holds.


The Presentations
For OTA2013 I had two different abstracts accepted with 2 different groups of people. Both of these groups connected virtually, and both operated very differently.

The first was “Social Media in the contemporary CPD climate: why it is easier than you think to take advantage of these valuable learning opportunities” and was accepted as a poster. I was nominated as the lead author/coordinator for this project.

We were all heavily involved in social media on different platforms and using it as a CPD tool. With the introduction of National Registration last year OT’s in Australia now have a structured CPD requirement that must be recorded and can be audited for the purpose of continued registration to practice. We wanted to show conference delegates how they could tap into this relatively new resource, quickly & easily and how they could utilise them for their own CPD points.

We had the idea right off the bat to do something that was a little different to any posters any of us had ever seen before and that was to use QR codes to link to external content that delegates could look at and take home on their mobiles/tablets all while standing in front of our poster.

I think the beauty of this project was that the tools that we were demonstrated were the exact tools we used to actually work together to piece it all together from our various locations around Australia and across the world. We showed how Evernote could be used to record a CPD record. How Facebook, Twitter, TED,  and Linkedin all contain valuable content that can be utilised for CPD. How WordPress could be used to not only keep a log of your CPD if you wanted to but also provide a place where you could record your reflections on the different CPD opportunities previously mentioned, and then link those blog posts into your CPD record (Evernote). And we also demonstrated how Learnist can be used as a tool for Digital Curation of all of the above resources into one place.

The second was “Occupation-focused practice: From enigma to action” which was accepted as a short oral presentation.

There were three of us who were involved in this presentation. We had met over social media quite a while beforehand and had talked often and discussed the state of OT and occupation, so when the call for papers was sent out we decided to put something together.

This project was much easier and quicker to put together then the Poster but equally as enjoyable. This was partly because the short oral was only 5min long with a couple minutes for questions and partly due to the fact that there were less of us involved then there was with the poster.

The paper was fantastic as it fits right into the personal reading and learning I was doing at the time. Looking at the devolution of the OT role into a “gap filler role” and how I might be able to change that in my own clinical practice. On top of that having more discussions with two of the OT’s I respect the most in the world was a fantastic experience. The work we did also help me to gain a much greater understanding of the history and development of Occupational Therapy and how we have moved through different paradigms.

Unfortunately, Matthew wasn’t able to make it to Adelaide for the conference so Robert and I presented on behalf of the group. We presented in a fairly informal manner and got some good questions and feedback afterward.


The Conference
So the conference as a whole exceeded everything I was expecting it to be. I had been talking about it for months with the SMT and thought I knew every little detail but the atmosphere of being around 750 other keen, motivated, enthusiastic OT’s just can’t be matched!

I met some amazing OT’s who I’ve read about, heard about, talked to online, seen their work in journals and quoted in my own work. I do love to network so OTA2013 felt like a goldmine for the senses. With my Social Media duties during the conference, I felt like I was on my feel, flat out from sun-up to sundown, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

After the first day, I did find myself in a state of sensory overload. So for the next couple days, I did make sure I made the time to take time out from the noise and hustle and do some of my social media work in a quieter area of the conference, e.g. in the exhibition hall while everyone was out watching the sessions. This allowed me to not only get done what I needed to do more efficiently but also to regulate any overload I might feel. As it was the day after the conference I spent mostly in bed absolutely exhausted so can only imagine how I’d be if I hadn’t taken some time out during the days.

Overall the OTA National Conference was an amazing experience to be part of and one that I hope I can be part of for years and years to come.

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