Last week for Sorta Random Sunday, I shared my weekend at the annual American Society of Plastic Surgeons meeting in Boston. As I think back to my first medical conferences as a resident, I’m reminded of this piece that Dr. Raj Sawh-Martinez and I wrote as residents about preparing to attend a major medical conference.
I think you’ll enjoy this!
Attending a major medical conference for the first, or the millionth, time can be an exciting but daunting undertaking.
Nearly every resident can recall going to his or her first meeting and feeling both amazed and overwhelmed.
A quick glance at the meeting schedule reveals innumerable simultaneous lectures from the world’s most prominent experts in the field, all seemingly more interesting than the next.
On top of coming up with your educational agenda, you have to find a way to juggle preparing presentations (guide here), meeting with colleagues, old friends and new contacts, as well as, of course, having fun…and all of this to fit in just a few days.
Luckily, we are here to give you some strategies and advice for navigating the exhilarating world of medical meetings!
Start preparing for a medical conference early
Our advice is to start early and try to target attending a few select meetings every year.
Book your travel and hotel arrangements early. Conferences will often have deals with the hotel hosting the meeting (or the one closest to the meeting).
Try to book your room at this hotel (they will fill up early), as it will make traveling to and from the conference much easier. Some conferences will also offer discounted airline rates. Try to arrive as early as you can to attend any meeting receptions or galas.
Plan your time
After booking travel, the next step is deciding how you are going to spend your time. Most conferences will have multiple educational sessions and abstract presentations proceeding simultaneously, meaning you will have to make some tough decisions regarding what you will be able to see.
Get your hands on the educational schedule early, either online, in the meeting book, or even on the meetings App!
This way you can see everything that is offered and develop your personal schedule. Many meeting apps send you alerts and holds your schedule, so be sure to download it if available.
Prioritize what most interests you, as well as what is most applicable to your current training.
Each conference will have special courses offered for a fee. Taught by the field’s absolute experts and usually populated by attending surgeons, getting into one or more of these courses is an unparalleled experience.
National society conferences will hold their business and committee meetings simultaneously at the conference you may be attending. Often, any member is able to audit or sit-in on these meetings.
Exploring this possibility may open up a new understanding of how societies function, possible resident involvement in leadership committees and an expanded network with the leadership in your area of interest.
Advocating for your patients and your profession on the national stage is an important aspect of how you can be involved with shaping our specialty while attending an educational conference!
Every meeting will also offer forums to mingle with other attendees in a more social atmosphere. Meeting receptions and galas are often included in the price of registration and are always well attended.
Many institutions also hold “reunions” at meetings for past and present residents and attendings to reacquaint and catch up. We recommend always making an effort to attend these events.
Spend time with residents and attendings from your home institution but also take advantage of the chance to branch out and meet as many new people as you can.
Medicine is a small world and you will find yourself seeing many of the same individuals at various annual conferences.
Some of the connections that you make at these events will follow you throughout your entire career.
As you meet new friends from around the country, and around the world, be sure to stay in touch! Make sure you get business cards or contact information, and foster these friendships with fellow residents and attendings.
Quick updates, greetings, or well-wishes after conferences help solidify the connections you made when you are all gathered.
National meetings are often where reputations are attained and relationships solidified. You never know when a chance encounter at a national meeting can turn into a job offer or the development of new, unforeseen opportunities.
For senior residents, attending meetings is often regarded as the forum to meet and interview with possible employment opportunities around the country.
These require prior contact and arrangement, but since everyone is in one place, you can explore many options in a short amount of time!
Last, but not least, remember to have fun.
Medicine is an amazing field that requires an impressive breadth of expertise. Conferences are the perfect place for doctors to experience all that the field has to offer and to develop your own personal interests.
All shared with your peers and the field’s experts in an educational and social environment.
Key tips and checklist for preparing for a medical conference:
- Start Exploring Meeting Options Early and Submit your Research
- Book your travel and accommodations EARLY!
- Download The Meeting App and Plan your Schedule
- Attend conference networking events
- Set up meetings/interviews ahead of time
- Follow up with friends and faculty after the meeting
What do you think? Do you regularly attend medical conferences? What’s your advice for going? Do you like them or hate them? Let me know in the comments below!