How valuable have the last few pharmacy continuing education conferences been to your practice?

Those of us who have been attending such conferences for decades understand that some are interesting. Others are not. A cramped room and uninspiring speaker can make you feel like you wasted your money, not to mention your time.

That said, I have found over the years that I can do things to help make sure I get the most from these events. Here are five tips:

1. Attend

The first piece of advice I have for my fellow pharmacists is to attend such conferences. Go ahead. Don't dodge them.

Sure, webinar technology can get us "live" credits without leaving the comfort of home. There is something to be said for that. Your particular job or life can make attendance difficult. But all things being equal, attending conferences gives a different level of experience.

It is the difference between listening to the radio and attending a concert. Both convey the same lyrics. But no one would say they are the same.

And do not believe the lie that attending live conferences with other pharmacists is for the "Type A" outgoing extroverts among us. I'm an introvert by nature. And although we are quieter and prefer a little isolation, we can still benefit greatly from the social atmosphere of a live pharmacy CE.

2. Make a wise choice

At the moment I'm at the New England Pharmacists Convention. This is one I don't miss. I pick it because the venue is comfortable, the location is accessible (this year at Foxwoods Resort Casino), the price is reasonable and the topics are diverse enough to keep my interest.

There are generally many such conferences going on each year. But pick one based on your interests, the speakers and the value it will have for your career ... not by the price and location.

You may want to focus all your education one year on a specific topic. In that case, you might coordinate your written CE material with some relevant live CE events. Approaching your conferences this way allows you to take charge of your own education.

3. Be curious

You don't need to do hours of research to maximize your learning experience. But reading over the conference sessions, and maybe reading a brief article or two on a recent issue related to the topic can help. Create in your mind some curiosity for the subject matter.

A 2014 study published in Scientific American showed that participants who demonstrated curiosity retained more information, even information unrelated to the topic itself. They observed that "somehow curiosity could prepare the brain for learning and long-term memory more broadly."

4. Network if possible

Bring a business card. See if you can find someone working in a setting of interest to you. Trade email addresses.

I attended a training seminar earlier this year and connected with a fellow pharmacist in a similar management role. Now we have monthly conference calls to share best practices and new ideas and to see how we are actually putting into practice some of the things we learned.

5. Take notes and share

It is generally known that we learn and remember better when we share our insights with others. Also, knowledge sharing improves individual performance and tends toward business success.

How you share your knowledge may depend on your practice setting and personality. I use articles, emails and personal meetings to communicate the things I'm learning at conferences, seminars and books. For others, it may include social media or lunchroom conversations.

Someone put it well: "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Share something.

We often see pharmacy conferences as another necessary hurdle to maintaining a license. I've sat through several that stunk. But with a little planning and preparation, pharmacy continuing education can be an enjoyable experience for yourself and a benefit to your patients and co-workers.