Getting yourself immersed in all things Occupational Therapy with a trip to a full day (or days) at a conference is a pretty reliable way to kick start or reinvigorate your professional mojo! If nothing else you can guarantee to come back to the office with a carrier bag full of pens and ‘post it’ notes which will temporarily make you the most popular kid in town. Although I do have to question the state of our public services when low grade stationary has the potential to be traded like cigarettes (or tuna) in a high security prison. So whilst the COT conference is still generally regarded as the gold standard, go to destination, for OTs the cost can sometimes be barrier to getting your conference fix. As I type this in early December 2016 the prices for the June 2017 event are ranging between £200 – £400. At that price COT seem to have positioned themselves squarely in the same price bracket as a Glastonbury. Unlike Glastonbury I have not seen any evidence of the event being sold out as yet so no need to panic buy! So if you have already committed your spare cash to sleeping in a field with thousands of others, and trying to remember where the chai stall was, what are the options for quenching your thirst for conference experiences without breaking the bank? Well here are our top recommendations for a free Occupational Therapy conference you may not know about.
Get yourself to a free Occupational Therapy Conference
First off don’t rule out getting to the mother-ship of the COT conference for free. It’s a long shot, but competitions regularly pop up offering you opportunities to attend for free. Companies exhibiting often offer tickets as part of their promotion, so check out their websites, or drop them an email to see if you get lucky. Alternately make sure you link up with your local BAOT groups as they may have similar competitions, such as this one from the London BAOT group. Finally, talk to your BAOT union rep in work and see if they have funding that you could apply for to support you attending.
If none of that works, you will need to look at the next set of options.
Barely needing any introduction, for many years NAIDEX was the main alternative to the COT Conference. Whilst not a specifically a free Occupational Therapy conference it has been a cornerstone of the OT calendar for decades. Spread over 3 days, NAIDEX is a trade expo that lets you see the latest in independent living and adaptive technology, along side an education and CPD event. Always popular, the Birmingham based event saw over 9000 visitors last year and you’ll be guaranteed to come away with some great new ideas and network links. If you have never been, get your hustle on and get yourself there in March. Besides the tech expo there are over 150 speakers lined up so there will be something there for you!
The OT Show
As a fixture in the latter end of November ‘The OT show‘ is one of, if not the largest free Occupational Therapy conference focusing on CPD. Hosted in the Birmingham NEC, this years (2016) even boasts 60 hours of available CPD events over two days so there should be something for everyone, along with exhibitors and networking opportunities. The OT show even has it’s own awards ceremony for innovation, best Tech instructor and the like, so can give you a great way to boost the well-being of your team and recognise them for the work they do.
OTAC (the is Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference) is a much smaller affair, that, as the name suggests is more focused towards physical adaptations for clients. For example the 2016 conference is running in early December in Newcastle, and includes
a children specific seminar from Safe Spaces, Hands on Demonstrations, a Moving and Handling Equipment Demo and Seminar … a Telecare Demonstration and Seminar … All seminars will relate to making environments accessible for your clients.
Although relatively new, the conference is proving consistently popular. Perhaps one of the most notable features is the variability in both location and timing. Previous conferences have been held in Cardiff and Reading helping OTs across the country access it easily and future events are scheduled for Ireland and Edinburgh. However unlike most conferences OTAC does not have a set date in the year as yet. The variability in the timings means that you will have to refer to the website for details. But one should be coming to somewhere nearer to you than the usual London or Birmingham hubs that other conferences tend to hog.
Kidz to Adults
Organised by Disabled Living, Kidz to Adults offer five regional conferences per year in Scotland, Wales, North, Middle and South England (sorry Ireland). The event follows the standard set up of CPD events, taking place around exhibitors showcasing their latest products. Refreshingly children are encouraged to attend the event and try the products on show, so it can sometimes be a lively affair. The event is geared towards giving information on access, mobility, transport, seating, beds, funding, communication, education, toys, style, sensory, sports, leisure and so on.
OT4OT is a network of OTs from across the world passionate about the use of social media and communication. It is only natural then that they would look to produce a 24 hour on line conference. The result is the OT24VX (Occupational Therapy 24 hour Virtual eXchange). If you miss out on the actual conference access to the recordings are available for up to a year afterwards. The latest sessions covered topics as wide ranging as telehealth, limb loss, being effective agents of change, wheelchair repair and the role of OT working with refugees and asylum seekers.
The best of the rest
Sponsorship by the companies that bring their products to the expo sections of conferences is what keeps them free. It is a fairly transparent arrangement, but is the reason why the bulk of free conferences are geared towards physical health and adaptations. Other conferences out there do exist but tend to be much smaller in scale and are prone to being more transient and ephemeral. A Google search for ‘free conference mental health 2016’ gave a wide range of possibilities. I’ll leave you to experiment.
Good luck chasing down your own free Occupational Therapy conference.