Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Attending your first (or any) medical conference can be overwhelming. The schedule can be cumbersome, traveling can be exhausting, and presenting can be terrifying. We, at sheMD, created a new verb "to conference" and we are here to share with you advice about how to get the most out of "conferencing".
I just had a great experience attending my first national conference Council of Emergency Medicine Residency Directors (CORD) in Seattle, Washington. This was a large conference with over 1600 people in attendance. While this experience can be intimidating, I wanted to share a few tips about diving right in to make the most of your time at a local or regional meeting.
Reconnect with friends and alumni
This conference is an opportunity to reconnect with old friends as well as your alumni from your program. Reach out to those you went through medical school or residency with- spend some time reminiscing and catching up! These are valuable relationships and unique connections with people who are not only your friends but now also your professional colleagues. They can provide a network of support and understanding as you move through your career. Don’t forget to reconnect with alumni faculty as well. They are happy to see where you have gone with your career. Keeping those connections can lead to valuable opportunities in the future including mentorship, research, and employment.
Explore the city
Conferences are jammed packed with activities and events, but don’t forget to pencil in some time to explore the city. We work hard and should take some time to sightsee. Indulge in some of the local cuisine, catch a show, and appreciate the landscape. When you are traveling with a large group this may take some preplanning in order to accomplish all the sites you want to see. Booking reservations and buying tickets in advance can make this more feasible. I found that a few restaurants had trouble accommodating our party without advanced noticed. A little bit of preplanning can go along way though to ensure your group can make memories together.
Make sure to review the conference agenda before attending your first sessions. Many conferences have workshop components that are in place to help you develop your ideas and skills. Coming prepared to these sessions with your ideas will more likely yield results and answers you are expecting. Make this conference as productive as possible for your own ideas and interest. Additionally, don't be afraid to attend sessions solo. While it is tempting to go where your colleagues are going, make sure you are getting what you need out of the conference even if that means going alone.
There is so much to learn just by attending the conference, however take your conference experience one step further by becoming an active participant in the meetings. Commit yourself to becoming more than just an attendee, become someone who contributes conference community by presenting your research or initiating discussions in small groups. Have questions prepared for lecturers. Challenge yourself by submitting a lecture to give next year or even getting on board with leadership. This year at CORD I presented an educational poster I had worked on. While I was nervous for the moderator presentation and the potential questions that followed, I found the experience to be exciting and supportive. I was proud to share my research with the emergency medicine community and received feedback and ideas on how to advance my research to the next level.
Conferences are a great way to network and surround yourself with new and innovative ideas. I walked away from my conference inspired with new learning techniques and with encouragement to pursue a novel research project. I am already looking forward to next year's conference in New York where I will catch up with old friends and plan to meet some new ones as well.