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The Conference Crasher’s Guide

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Conference season is here. With travel budgets tightening, we suggest a few practical ideas to ease the cost of conference attendance as well as to underwrite the cost of food and drink during the course of the EMS fest you are attending.

First, create a legend. Get a sweatshirt printed for Badiddlyboing Rescue Squad or Fire District. Wear your pink-handled shears in your cargo pants pocket—it really won’t matter to conference goers that you’re 2,000 miles away from your squad and have never cut any clothes off anyone ever.

Grow your mustache down the side of your face “el gringo” style and use the words “mitigate” and “utilize” frequently.

Identify who the movers and shakers are. These people are usually addressed by their initials or are known by a nick name—Skipper, Bip, Tip—or have first names with four letters or less: Jaz, Jeff, Matt. Anyone called Jerry is probably important. Drop their names to anyone else you meet.

Take a selection of colored coat check tickets. One of the colors will be good for a free drink at any reception you may crash.

Find out if industry Blogosphere types are meeting up at the conference. This is usually sponsored by an equipment manufacturer and will include food. Create a medic-tastic handle to call yourself, such as “EMS Pundit” or “Amboman” and use phrases like how “blogging is your great catharsis.” You’ll fit right in and dine for free.

Speaking of new media, attend the session on how social media can get you fired, followed by “How social media in the workplace is an amendment right.” Move on to the lecture on how tweeting on the truck caused the accident, concluding with the public information officer class on how to deal with vehicle contacts and the associated media frenzy because the patient claimed the crew was texting each other.

Find a technology sales person with the words “Vice President” on his nametag. Tell him you just received a six-figure grant and you’re interested in his latest and greatest 6.0 WTF series procto-nano gauge. The next three fillet steak dinners will be on him.

If you’re an established conference crasher, put on an Australian accent, find a group of medics with the letters “NY” on their shirts, introduce yourself as Bruce (or Sheila) from Albury Wadonga Fire Brigade (this place really exists) and ask where the pub is. Not only will they lead you there, they’ll buy all the booze. Be prepared to use words such as “strewth,” “cobber,” “she’ll be right” and “mate.”

Alternatively, if it’s solitude you’re after, talk the Queen’s English, wear a blazer and red pants, complain that the beer is too cold and that when you ordered the fish and chips, the waitress asked if you wanted your potatoes “mashed or baked.”

In the exhibit hall, always get the free bag first—there’s usually one somewhere. It makes the collection of other pens, pencils and rubber stress-ball ambulances easier to carry.

The keynote speaker will always do a personal appearance, for book sale purposes, in the exhibit hall immediately after the bagpipe-fueled opening session. By reversing the iPhone camera and photographing yourself in front of the autograph table, you can juxtapose yourself into the mixer, which will save you 10 bucks and a half-hour line up.

On the way home, wait until you get at least three blocks from the conference center before you dump all the business cards. This is simply not a matter of etiquette but practicality, as every other closer receptacle is full of brochures, non-functional pens and speaker time schedules.

Happy tire kicking. 

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