My #WCPT2017 experience…

The drum beats of the opening ceremony have long since faded away but my memories of Cape Town and the fabulous experience that was #WCPT2017 remain. I (Janet) was very lucky to have the opportunity to attend and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and highlights with you. Whilst I could share my pictures of Table Mountain (stunning), Robben Island (thought provoking and inspirational), Elephants (a wonderful sight close up in nature) or even Park Run Cape Town, I’ll stick to congress!

My journey to Cape Town has its background in two areas of my work – firstly, we were undertaking our Physiotalk research and were keen to present this at congress if possible. Secondly I am the UK representative to IPTOP (The WCPT subgroup for Physiotherapists working with Older People) and the IPTOP general meeting was to be held at WCPT2017 alongside other IPTOP activities. So for quite some time I have been planning to attend and it also meant that I had some financial support to attend – thank you AGILE! I was then extremely fortunate to win my conference registration when I attended ER-WCPT in Liverpool – totally unexpected and a real boost! 

I was determined to experience congress to the full and because of this only 3 hours after arriving in Cape Town after a rather long flight (and whilst my husband ‘snoozed’ in our hotel room) I was taking part in the first congress activity – the fun run / walk (I walked!) from the conference centre. This was hosted by local physiotherapists and we were a small and select group. I am not sure why, as it was a great way to acclimatise to Cape Town (not needed for the weather though – Cape Town in Winter is quite similar to a good Scottish Summer!) and of course a first opportunity to chat to other physios. That evening I also went along to the PT Pub night – an informal gathering where new friendships were forged over a beer or a wine and the conversations that took place normally over Twitter could actually be face to face. I’m a little undecided as to whether it’s best to cement a friendship over Twitter first then meet face to face – or the other way around – but as that’s how Physiotalk started, then I think I’ll stick with Twitter first!

The PT Pub night was the first occurrence of what I eventually coined the ‘Twitter squint’ – that moment when you look at someone and try to decide if you know them from Twitter. During the #WCPT2017 tweetchat I’d said one key thing was to make sure your Twitter picture was up to date – and this is why! This brings me to the biggest win for me from attending a World Congress – networking! Its like a great big Tweet chat in real life! From formal networking events to chance conversations during presentations, conversations during my poster presentations and of course the meeting of too many Twitter friends to start to mention, there is nothing as good as meeting fellow like minded physiotherapists. There was always a ‘buzz’ in the venue from the excitement of the opening ceremony, through to the exhibition and the parallel sessions – the low hum of 2000+ physiotherapists having conversations.

There was of course much formal learning from symposia, platform presentations, panel discussions and (my favourite) Rapid 5 sessions – plenty to be captured for my CPD and to take back and put into practice. I’ll not go into details, but direct you instead to the #WCPT2017 twitter feed – lots of learning from those there in easily digestible 140 character snippets! If you want more details then I would suggest you download the WCPT2017 app – fantastic to plan during congress but also the place to go to read all the abstracts from the platform and poster presentations.

A great innovation in Cape Town was the ‘Indaba’ zone – a comfortable relaxed area for informal presentations. I had my presentation ‘Twitter – from what’s that to Tweetchat’ in this zone and it was a great space. No powerpoint, a lectern that no-one used, floor cushions or kitchen tables and the openness that comes with that sort of space. It allowed for interactions with your ‘audience’ in a way that no parallel session ever could. I don’t think I ever saw a quiet session in the Indaba zone!

So – I hope you can see that attending the World Congress is for anyone. Whether a student, new graduate or if you have been qualified over 30 years (like me!) you will gain new insights and knowledge. Going to your local or national conference is fantastic but I can honestly say that drawing from the experiences of physiotherapists from all over the world is incomparable! This was my first World Congress and I certainly hope it won’t be my last! I’m planning for Geneva 2019 and I hope that lots of you will also consider this – unlike my journey halfway around the world, for many of us Geneva is a quick EasyJet flight away

I want to now add to this and say – presenting at WCPT is for anyone as well! It was a fantastic experience (but all too short!) to present two posters. One was our Physiotalk research that we had always hoped to present in Cape Town and the other was service development monitoring work we had undertaken in my NHS role. I’m sure you all have a work based project that you too could present at a conference – so why not at WCPT? It was fantastic to have conversations with people at the posters who were genuinely interested in the work you had done. I lost count of the times people said to me ‘Twitter – I never thought about using that for CPD’ or ‘We could do that at work – what a great idea!’ Of course I too had many conversations with presenters at their posters and the poster walks ensured great discussions as well.

So – what am I taking away from Cape Town?

Fantastic memories of course – the opening ceremony was a real highlight for me as over 2000 physios packed into the conference hall to drum, dance and sing. It was a real African welcome which continued wherever we went both during the congress and afterwards! I don’t think I’ll ever go to a conference again where I had my face painted not once but twice…

Friendships – both those started over Twitter and those that developed over the 3 days of congress.

A fresh perspective –my thoughts have been challenged by those working both at the cutting edge of research as well as being humbled by the physiotherapists working in areas where access to healthcare is limited and basic. The range of views during the debates was fascinating as people brought their experiences and perspectives to the table. It certainly made me realise how much I have seen physiotherapy through a UK or Western viewpoint and I need to think wider than this. We are a truly global profession.


So, thank you Cape Town and see you all in May 2019 in Geneva!

And for those who have read this far – here’s my favourite moment from outside of congress in the fabulous country of South Africa!

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