I've been a hygienist for 10 years and I never knew what a strong community hygienists have. I never knew of all the incredible things hygienists are doing in and out of the operatory, and how willing they are to teach, share, and listen. I met my people at RDH Evolution, and my career will never be the same. Here are a few things I learned as a first timer at this year's conference.
There is power in vulnerability. I was struck by the stories the speakers shared. It's easy to look at speakers, writers, and influencers doing incredible things and assume their journey has been easy or that their job is all glamour. The presenters shared stories about some of their darkest days, and they did this so we’d know we’re not alone. As they shared, many others did also, and any feelings of tension and fear melted away. We knew we could be vulnerable because we were in a safe space with safe people … our people.
It's OK not to know what you want yet. A common misconception about this conference is that it's only for people who already know what they want. Nothing could be further from the truth. There were new hygienists, CEOs of companies, writers, clinicians, speakers, book authors … everyone. The truth is, no one ever gets to a place of knowing it all, at least visionaries don't. This conference is not about needing the answer to what you want; it's about opening your mind to what's possible and giving yourself permission to dream big.
It's a bonding experience. At the mega session that kicked off RDH Under One Roof, Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, editor in chief of RDH magazine, told the crowd that RDH Evolution had 42 attendees this year, and RDH UOR had 1,700 attendees. Only 42 out of 1,700 attended RDH Evolution! But the 42 people in that room were meant to be there. Speaker Josey Sewell, RDH, said on the first day, "Nothing is a coincidence. You're here because you're meant to be here." After hearing the number Jackie shared, it’s impossible to believe otherwise.
The rest of the conference becomes so much easier. RDH Evolution took place two days before RDH UOR, so attendees bonded before everyone else arrived at the conference. UOR can be a little overwhelming, especially for first timers. The beauty of Evolution was that everywhere you went, you saw a friend and had someone to sit with and talk to. They were a safe space for you, and you were a safe space for them.
You'll be encouraged to attend networking events. If it were not for my new Evolution friends, I probably would have skipped a lot of the networking events. Why? Imposter syndrome, anxiety, and fatigue, all the very real emotions one can experience at a large conference with a lot of impressive professionals. However, I always received a text from a new Evolution friend saying, "Are you going to the networking thing?" "Want to go to the party together?" "Are you here? I don't see you!" If they weren't texting me, I was texting them. We all pushed each other to show up and we all gave each other pep talks, "I know you're tired and I am too, but let's go!" Every single time it was worth it, every single time it was much more fun than expected, and every single time I made new connections.
Professional conferences can be truly life changing. You meet people doing incredible things, and you learn that there is no secret path to success. It begins with investing and believing in yourself. RDH Evolution not only gives you the tools you need to succeed, but it also introduces you to your community who will support you through it all.