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AAZV Newcomers Conference Guide

General information

The annual AAZV conference is pleased to invite all new attendees! There are many great reasons to join us for this year’s event.  The conference will bring together zoo and wildlife professionals to discuss and present the newest information.

The conference is usually held for seven days, typically from Saturday morning to Friday afternoon, but this can vary from year to year.  Workshops and specialty courses are held on the first two days (typically Saturday and Sunday), with the main conference program starting the third morning (typically Monday) continuing until the seventh day (afternoon, typically Friday).  It is a medium sized conference with between 400-800 registrants in the past few years; approximately 100-200 of whom are students.

Planning Ahead


For the 2020 conference, the hotel reservation site will open 1 July. The hotel hosting the event will be the site for the scientific sessions and meetings. Please book your room in the hotel early to ensure your space. The discounted room rate will often run out.  When ready to reserve your room, it is easiest to use the link on the AAZV website to the conference hotel. This will automatically add the "discount code” to your hotel booking. A list of "Roommate Wanted” ads can be found on the AAZV website (Annual Conference tab) if you would like to share your space and the cost.


The 2020 Conference registration will open on 1 July 2020. Keep an eye on the website for that opening. It’s best to register early as the fee will increase shortly before the conference. Also, workshops are extremely popular and often have limited seating.

What to do when I arrive?

When you arrive at the conference site, there will be a registration booth that will be operated by AAZV staff and volunteers. When you check in you will be given a packet containing a name tag, schedule, and tickets for events.

How do I know the schedule?

In your packet will be a booklet that contains a printed schedule of all activities, list of conference sessions, and committee meetings. Any major changes to the schedule will be announced verbally during the sessions and/or as a printed sign near the registration booth. A conference app with the full schedule will be available two weeks prior to the start of Conference for iOS and Android users.

What do I wear?

Be sure to wear your name tag throughout the conference to tell us who you are. Also, as most of the conference events are closed, this will help us identify all registered attendees. TIP! Your name tag will come with a plastic badge holder which is a great place to store your event tickets and hotel room key so they are with you when you need them.

There is no requirement for style of clothing. Often you will find most people in casual or business casual. Typically speakers will dress in business attire. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress warmly. Even in the warmest cities, the conference rooms can be cool. Dressing in layers is helpful. Workshops may require additional clothing as appropriate for the environment.

Business cards - while not clothing, they are great to have a few in your pocket. When networking you will find these helpful to stay in touch with the new people you meet.

Are the conference proceedings available online?

Yes, the proceedings are online for AAZV members. If you would like a printed copy or a flash drive, please sign up for that in your conference registration.  For non-members who are registered for the AAZV Conference, they will receive a flash drive in the registration packet.

TIP! As the proceedings are not printed, you may want to have a small notebook and pen to take notes during the sessions. Often the hotel provides small paper pads and pens, if you forget. Each conference room varies in the availability of plug-ins for laptop computers.

What are all these ribbons?

You may notice some conference attendees have ribbon(s) or stickers on their name tag. In fact you will be given one too!! These will vary in color and designate our new members, leadership (current and former board members), and speakers. Please wear your ribbon so we can make sure to offer extra care and welcome you to our organization. If you get lost or have a question, a person wearing a ribbon is a good bet for knowing the answer.

New Member Breakfast

Please let us know on your registration that you are a new AAZV member. There will be a question to select in the registration form. AAZV will have a breakfast for all who are new members. This is often the first morning of the scientific sessions, typically Monday. Please check the schedule for final arrangements. Don’t miss out! Free breakfast and chance to connect to members of our organization and membership committee!

AAZV Lunches

Lunch tickets are included for regular full registrants. Student registration does not include lunches. These lunches are catered or buffet style and usually seating is available at tables. Students may obtain lunch tickets in exchange for volunteering to help with other aspects of the conference (see below). Seating is not assigned and these lunches can be a good opportunity to meet new people. 


A continental-style breakfast is typically provided prior to the first session each day of the main conference, though not before the workshops. Coffee, tea, and other drinks are usually provided during the mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks. These breaks are usually held in the exhibit hall and are designed to provide time to visit the exhibitors and view the posters. If you desire a more filling breakfast, please plan to eat before the sessions start.


The banquet is held on the last night of the conference (typically Thursday evening). Though the dress is not specified, most people dress in a "business casual” style. Announcements are made, awards presented, and a preview of the next year’s conference is shared at the end of the reception.

Food preferences or special requests

The conference continental breakfast and session break refreshments are often standard hotel-provided quick beverages and light rolls or muffins.

Meals can be requested to accommodate some food preferences (commonly vegetarian and vegan). Based on the capability of the catering group (hotel or zoo) reasonable efforts will be made. It is very important to KEEP your food preference card (only given to those that request a special preference) that is provided in your registration packet. Simply place this at your place setting to alert the table servers. This card should be reused throughout the conference.

Can I bring my significant other, family or a friend?

Sure!! All attendees can purchase Spouse/Guest Registration(s). It includes the icebreaker, spouse breakfast, breaks, Zoo Day (zoo admission, lunch, and dinner), and banquet. Spouse/Guest Registration does NOT include continental breakfasts, business lunches, or admission to general sessions.  Guest lunch tickets may be purchased under the Additional Meals section of your registration. Spouses wishing to attend general sessions must register for either the Full Conference or Daily Conference options.

Is the Icebreaker for me?

Definitely don’t miss this one! This is a great kickoff social event held the evening before the main conference program (typically Sunday). It consists of appetizers and a cash bar. All conference attendees with student or full registration will receive tickets in their registration packet. 

What about the Student Reception?

Despite the name, this event is NOT limited to veterinary students. Facilities that offer externships, internships, and residencies send a representative to this meeting. The representatives are stationed around the room and are available to answer questions and talk about their program(s). Though this is not a formal interview process, if you are intending to apply to a zoo program this reception is a great opportunity to learn more about the individual programs. It is typically held on the third evening (usually Monday evening) and we highly recommend that students and veterinarians interested in postgraduate training programs attend.

You MUST pre-register on your conference registration; last minute entry is unlikely. This event is capped at 250 attendees to maximize the experience for the students. We must limit institutional representatives to a maximum of two. Tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis. In your registration packet, you will receive a ticket for entry to reception.

Am I allowed to join a committee? What would I have to do?

Absolutely! Come join us for the committees that you are interested in. If you are looking for a way to get involved this is a great start. There’s no pressure to do anything, though we will take all the help we can get. For your first visit to the conference, just come and check it out. Committee meetings are most often held in the evenings. Our committees are open to students and full members. Not sure which one to start with? Check out the Membership Services committee. We love getting feedback so we can improve.

Zoo Day 

This is an event that is a highlight of the week! It is traditionally held on the afternoon of the fourth day (typically Tuesday). Participants are transported to the host zoo after the morning scientific sessions have ended. Lunch and dinner are often included for all registrants (including students) for no extra fee. Often behind the scenes tours are offered and the day culminates in a silent and live auction, the proceeds of which go to support the AAZV and affiliated organizations.  It is recommended to wear comfortable clothes and shoes and prepare for variable weather. If space is available, separate Zoo Day tickets will be sold at the conference registration during conference.  


Workshops are held on first and second days of the conference (typically Saturday and Sunday) prior to the start of the general sessions on the third day. Labs range from master classes to hands-on or live animal labs. A consistently well presented and informative lab is the annual Pathology Workshop. This lab is generally affordable and directly useful for veterinary students.

Student Volunteers 

There are limited opportunities for student volunteers for some workshops and help during the presentation sessions. An announcement to request student help is made 2-3 months before the conference. Volunteers are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. In return for assisting with workshops, students may participate in the lab free of charge. In return for assisting with the presentation sessions, students receive tickets to the business lunches.

How do I submit a presentation or poster?

A "Call for Papers” is usually advertised late in the year after session chairs have been chosen. Presentation submission is online. Once all submissions are received, session chairs will choose speakers for their individual sessions. Speakers are then notified by the session chair. The deadline for submission is usually in March or early April. Abstracts often go through 1-2 editing cycles before being fully accepted for the proceedings. Most presentations are between 10-15 minutes long, though this time may be shortened to 8 minutes in very popular sessions.

This event is so much fun! When can I do it again?

Plan your year for getting the newest knowledge on zoo and wildlife medicine to ensure you stay ahead of the curve in your specialty field by attending a future AAZV conference.

2020:  Nashville, Tennessee, 19-25 September
2021:  Toronto, Ontario (Canada), 23-29 October
2022:  Houston, TX 17 -23 September

Do you want to see where annual conference has been held?

Since 1968 annual conference has been held around the nation. Does your zoo want to host a future conference? For information about hosting, click HERE.

Is your institution interested in hosting a conference?

If so, follow this link.

For reference

See past site locations


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