Navigating AIHce EXP as a First-Timer

Subena Colligan

AIHce EXP 2019 was the first year I attended AIHA's main conference. It changed my life. I had previously chosen to attend smaller conferences in fear of the “big conference,” but last year I had the opportunity to attend – and I’m glad I took it.

AIHce EXP was multiple levels of professional and student posters, committee meetings, professional development courses, education sessions, breakout sessions, vendor expositions, networking, snacking, and even more. It seems like a lot, but there were resources available that I took advantage of for the event. I signed up for the PAL Program or Personal AIHce EXP Liaison. My PAL was amazing! She was patient after I got lost and couldn’t find her; we had coffee, talked all things being early career professionals, and attended a session together. She was an easy text away in case I had questions and made going into the sessions not knowing a lot of people less stressful.

The vendor exposition gives you the opportunity to explore various solutions to problems in the workplace. They will overload you with swag, so be sure to have a goodie bag handy! There was also an early career professional hangout equipped with comfy sofas, where I found many other future leaders within the IH/OH field to network amongst.

Speaking of networking, there were several networking events offered each day after the conference that allowed everyone the opportunity to make new connections, such as the First Timers Meet & Greet, sponsored by DuPont Personal Protection; there's also a First Timers webinar several weeks before the conference itself. The 2020 conference is situated in Atlanta, a cool location with amazing restaurant options to meet up with people you just met after a busy day. Those were some of my favorite times, especially the impromptu lunches with a person you had been talking to for ten minutes.

A few other tips you’ll want to consider, regardless of whether you’re attending for the first time or an experienced conference-goer. These were helpful for me in adjusting quickly to the experience so I could get the most from my time on-site:


When you grab your morning coffee, don't forget to throw a water bottle in your bag too. After you've caffeinated, you'll have water throughout your next sessions. At lunch, go for another bottle of water or orange juice instead of a soft drink, and grab another water bottle to take with you to your next session. That way you'll always have water on hand throughout the day. If you're planning on networking over drinks at happy hour or dinner, be sure to switch between water and your cocktail or at least make sure to have a full glass before bed. Keeping hydrated is really key to staying alert during the day so you don’t miss anything!

Look through the schedule ahead of time.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the conference and being struck by decision paralysis! Having an action plan and creating a personal agenda with the conference app will make life that much easier for you during those three days. If you’re attending with colleagues, consider splitting up the sessions to divide and conquer.

Identify the exhibitors you want to meet.

The AIHce EXP Expo is open for two-and-a-half days, giving you ample opportunity to schedule time to talk with specific companies, universities, and individuals you want to connect with. Take a peek at this year’s list of exhibitors to map your way around the show floor.


Finally, don’t be afraid to approach people, including speakers and instructors. If you want to make connections in your industry, this is the perfect place to do it – which means your networking game needs to be on! The speakers and instructors at AIHce love connecting with participants, so don’t hesitate to say “hello.”

I hope to see you at this year’s conference in Atlanta – so if we cross paths, feel free to reach out and say hi!

Subena Colligan, MS, CSP, CIH, currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Board for Global EHS Credentialing.