10 Ways to Prepare for the ANCC National Magnet Conference

Educate. Innovate. Celebrate. If you are a Magnet® Conference veteran, you probably get a tingling sensation when you hear those words. For me, it conjures up a magical feeling, quite fitting since this year’s conference will be in Orlando – home of the magical Mickey Mouse.

I attended my first Magnet Conference solo as part of my orientation to the role of Magnet Program Director. Last year, I was joined by 31 nurses who took the stage as we walked together outfitted in glowing accessories, hooted and hollered, and celebrated a second designation.

Whether I was feeling the Magnet energy alone or with a group of friends and colleagues, one thing remains the same – the conference is huge. The conference has grown each year, with planners expecting over 10,000 nurses this year.

As I reflect on my attendance, I wished someone had provided advice on how to leverage my participation to ensure I was getting a good return on my investment. Thus, the idea of this post was born. How exciting!

Whether you are a new conference goer or a conference veteran, here are 10 lessons, hints and highlights for attending the Magnet Conference.

10. Watch your email for conference updates

Download the conference app to your smartphone. If you use social media, this will be a great way to network, share pictures, and have the conference materials available at your fingertips. Once the app is available, you will soon notice those who favor this tradition – there will be an instant flurry of nurses posting pics from past conferences. Check out the leader board to see if you recognize anyone.

9. Pack Comfortably

Even though most clinical nurses have no problem getting in the recommended 10,000 steps a day, you will be walking from one end of the convention center to the other as you move from the general sessions to concurrent sessions, through the exhibitor hall and back.

Be sure to pack your most comfortable shoes to keep your feet happy! The conference is held in Florida during October. Dress in layers.

Convention rooms tend to be on the chilly side – so pack a sweater or a stylish Pashmina, in case you get cold. If you get warm, you can simply put your clothing in your Mag Con bag. The dress code is professional. It is rare for people to wear jeans during the conference – except on the last day, if someone is catching a flight after the closing ceremony. And don’t miss the closing ceremony; it is a tradition worth seeing.

Consider packing glow sticks! When the lights get turned down during the opening session, you will see neon colors glowing.  Magnet celebrations love glow sticks! Consider bringing glow sticks to wear as a necklace or bracelet. Even if you don’t think neon is your color, you may get swept up in the magical Magnet energy. Interestingly, when I was planning my organization’s walk across the stage, my CNO didn’t want to wear anything that glowed; but then she caught the Magnet fever and I ended up giving her all my neon glow. Some vendors will have glow sticks for you.

8. Set a conference goal

The conference agenda is jammed packed with amazing general sessions, inspirational concurrent sessions, poster presentations, and an exhibit hall full of informative vendors and innovative products.

The first year I attended Mag Con was like my first time to Disney World – I wanted to see everything, do everything, and be everything to everyone. I was up early and went to bed late.

Then I got smart and learned how to leverage the conference’s goals with my own. It is prudent to set goals and create a plan before you depart for the conference. I was ready to plan and implement all the ideas I gleaned from the sessions.

7. Have a plan

I have found a few approaches for planning that work:

  • See everything/do everything – This is best to learn as much as you can about everything, especially if you are looking at the big picture:
    • Plan on attending all the sessions.
    • Stop at each booth when walking around the exhibit hall.
    • Take information and literature from all of them; then you can follow up with the exhibitor once you know what to focus on.
    • It will be nearly impossible to spend quality time at every booth if you use this approach.
    • Do participate in the exhibit hall passport activity for your chance to win some great prizes.
  • Have a special focus in mind:
    • Tailor your concurrent sessions around your identified focus.
    • While walking around the exhibit hall, spend more time at booths that are related to your topics of interest.
    • For example, after the 2019 manual was published, I realized I wanted to focus on three sources of evidence (SOE); I therefore set my goal to spend more time with the vendors related to these topics.
    • This approach enabled me to satisfy my conference goal without getting overwhelmed by the size of the exhibit hall.

6. Save room in your luggage for all the Mag Con swag you will collect

Speaking of the exhibit hall, every vendor will have trinkets, swag, and candy to give away!

Some of the exhibits offer experiential learning; take pictures or videos, or capture your animated character – all the vendors are there to support you and your organization on your nursing excellence journey.

At one conference, I amassed so many trinkets that I had to send them home via FedEx. Now, I save room in my suitcase!

Many vendors will have tote bags at their booths, which makes it easy to hold your conference collection.

As a conference goer, I always bring enough swag back so I can share it with nurses or use it as incentives for classroom participation.

Be sure to thank the exhibitors for their sponsorship.

5. Lines, lines, lines – Oh my!

Just like Disney World – expect long lines. There will be long lines for everything: registration, shuttle buses, coffee, lunch, sessions, etc.

Complete your registration process in the registration hall as soon as possible. The lines tend to be shorter at the beginning of the registration. Plus, you may be eligible for an early-bird prize!

I once stood in line at a coffee cart for 55 minutes. Instead of getting frustrated, I made the most of my time and networked with others standing in the same line. Consider grabbing your java at the hotel to save time standing in at least one line.

Exhibitors understand that nurses love their coffee, so there will be coffee stations in the exhibit hall. Keep your eye out for them.

When you registered for the Mag Con, you were asked to pre-select the concurrent sessions you were interested in attending. The planning committee uses that information to select the rooms based on anticipated attendance. This is for planning purposes only. You are not guaranteed a seat in the session you requested. If there is a concurrent session you are passionate about attending, and it is after another session that is not aligned with your conference goals, you may want to consider using your time waiting by the conference room for that session to open. This is one line you may not mind waiting in.

4. Welcome Party is a must!

This is simple. The welcome party is a highlight of the conference.

The Magnet Office rented out one of the theme parks … 10,000 RNs enjoying Disney World together!

Be sure to thank the sponsors when you stop by their booths.

3. Practice self-care

The ANA will be promoting Healthy Nurse initiatives. Be sure to download the app if you don’t have it yet. Last year, I won two Starbucks gift cards for taking part in the initiatives and completing a challenge!

Be sure to take time out for yourself. There will be a lounging space in the registration/exhibit hall for you to unwind and recharge. Quick company promotion – HealthLinx is offering phone chargers for those who schedule a brief consultation at our booth – be sure to schedule yours today!

Bring a refillable water bottle to hydrate and rehydrate. There will be water filling stations strategically placed in the Convention Center.

Pack a few snacks with you.

2. Enjoy the Conference!

Take a deep breath and take it all in.

Participate in all the fun activities in the Registration Hall – take a pic of you in the ANCC Certification Cab, learn your superhero power, and stop by the ANCC store for your conference souvenirs.

1. Network, Network, Network!

This is the single best reason to attend Mag Con. You will be rubbing elbows with some of the nation’s most exemplary nurses.

If you are standing in a long line or sitting in a chair waiting for a session to start, strike up a conversation. I have met so many great nurses this way.

The Mag Con App will have a page that lists all the attendees and their contact information, unless they opt out. If you don’t have a smartphone or are not interested in leveraging this technology, consider bringing a few business cards to exchange with other nurses. If you are a clinical nurse and don’t have business cards, consider printing out Avery labels with your contact information to share.

Everyone at the conference will be super kind and helpful – after all, we’re nurses showcasing the excellent nursing care we provide to those entrusted to us.

There really isn’t a more magical place on Earth (at least for those three days!)

If you have questions about your organization’s Journey to Excellence, stop by the HealthLinx booth to learn how we can help you.

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