8 Common Mistakes to Avoid at VMX

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Shuttle buses decorated with kittens lined up 10 deep along the curb. A person in a dog suit giving fist bumps and product samples in the hall. Inside the packed rooms, attendees queued to take Instagram selfies with a popular speaker. Passersby would be forgiven for assuming the annual January event in Orlando is Comic-Con, but veterinary professionals know better: this is VMX. 

Joining 17,000 of your closest friends and colleagues for the first time and feeling intimidated? Don’t be! Just avoid these common mistakes and it will be a fantastic experience.

Failing to plan
The Orange County Convention Center sprawls over seven million square feet divided into two concourses. Some events take place off-site in partner hotels. There’s nothing worse than realizing that talk you really wanted to attend starting in five minutes is a 15-minute walk away! Pick one or two must-sees a day and plan the rest around that. And be sure to plan for travel time. There are shuttles to get you from point A to B, but they run every 15 minutes!

Leaving snacks to chance
It’s not hard to find food in the convention center, but it can be inconvenient, expensive, and not always healthy. A piece of fruit and a granola bar stashed in your backpack can do wonders in eliminating the afternoon hangries without having to give up your prime seat.

VMX is a five-day conference. That’s a lot of lecture time! One of the biggest mistakes first-time attendees make is feeling that they have to spend every waking moment in lecture. Don’t feel as though you must spend eight hours in lectures every day. The brain needs a break. If you find yourself struggling to pay attention or nodding off by mid-afternoon, it’s ok to take some time to recharge, exercise, or network with colleagues.  

Not bringing the proper attire
Average Orlando temperatures in January are a perfect mid-70s. Lecture halls, on the other hand, can feel like the Arctic. Be prepared to go from a frigid conference room to a sunny outdoor shuttle line and back again. Easily stashed layers are your friend. Also, save the cute peep toes for the cocktail hour—with such a large conference, you’ll want to be sure you’re donning comfortable shoes as you walk around!

Arriving to lectures last minute
Popular speakers can fill rooms to overflow capacity. If there is a lecture you really need to see, it’s worth it to get to the room earlier in the day and plan on staying through those other lectures to ensure you have a seat. The organizers usually keep related topics in the same room, so it’s unlikely you’ll be sitting through a poultry talk before your marketing one.

Skipping the evening events
Every year VMX hosts one big blow-out concert that’s free for attendees. Last year, Rob Thomas rocked the house; this year, it’s country stars Little Big Town. It’s fully sanctioned conference fun! These evening events are a great opportunity for bonding and networking.

Ignoring cold and flu season
January is high season for colds and flu. Get your flu shot at least 10 days before you leave, and remember this: frequent handwashing is still the gold-standard recommendation to reduce your chance of getting sick. That being said, no one’s going to complain if you have some hand sanitizer on hand, too. 

Neglecting the exhibit hall
With 700 booths, some attendees plan an entire day just for the hall. Don’t think of it as a freebie grab—it’s an opportunity to test drive the new apps from IDEXX Telemedicine Consultants, learn about the latest diets, or take a break at the IDEXX lounge. Missing your pets? Check out the Cat Nap Café and Pilates with Puppies. 

Most important, try not to stress too much. With a conference this big, plans are bound to change and new opportunities will pop up while you’re there. With a little flexibility and a good pair of shoes, it’s impossible not to have fun at VMX!