Why is it necessary to attend (and get the most of) medical conferences and academic meetings? For one, it’s an important part of our continuing professional development. These meetings also offer an opportunity to present your work and gain genuine feedback. As a medic we now have a choice of conferences to attend, based on our specialty, our research interests, education, leadership placement, innovation and quality improvement and patient safety are some of the myriad of conferences available to us.
It’s important to book early and save money and to stay within walking distance (or easy public transportation area) to both the venue and the city center so you can get the most out of each experience.
Plan sessions you want to attend and target people you want to speak to before you arrive…and do your homework carefully. It’s essential to network with people you don’t already know as this gives room for new ideas and collaboration. Conferences are also a fantastic opportunity to mentor medical students and junior doctors, to present supervised work, and spend time as a team which I find rewarding for all concerned.
5 tips to get the most out of a medical conference or academic meeting
1) Action steps
After a conference review your notes and transfer every starred item into a task management tool. Whatever your system, recognize that conferences are liable to overwhelm you with notations. You must enter and leave with a bias-towards-action to capture the gems for post-conference execution. Try and distill a few takeaway points from every speaker and decide how you can use the knowledge.
2) Choose the sessions that best serve your goals now
Commit to the sessions that best advance your personal and business and research goals. By just being in those sessions, you will meet other people who are there with similar goals. Go to sessions that can advance your learning, expertise and networking with the ‘right’ people.
3) Plan private meetings
Conferences are more than just the programming. They are an assembly of like-minded folks with great intention. Don’t leave these benefits up to chance. Reach out to your contacts beforehand and propose grabbing an early breakfast together, lunch, or drinks during the conference.
4) Have specific goals in mind
Why do you want to meet certain people? Do you see possibilities for collaboration? Do you share complimentary niches? With limited time, having specific reasons and goals in mind can yield very effective results.
5) Follow up after the event
Make sure you follow up with everyone you met after the event — even if it’s just a “good to have met.” LinkedIn is an easy way to follow up after meeting someone at a conference or use the business card email address.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself: What do you want to get out of the conference?
You need to rationalize the time and expense of going to an event, and more importantly have goals to guide you. We knew we wanted not only to meet as many people as possible but also to strengthen our ties to the national body organizing the event and strengthen ties with participants with whom we already had a relationship.
Lastly, enjoy yourself – you made time to attend and prepared…so have fun too!
Do you have any additional tips for getting the most out of a medical conference?