Optimizing Your Meeting Experiences

I attended my fourth American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting this past November in Chicago. Each year, prior to attending the biggest yearly meeting of rheumatologists in the world, I spend some time thinking about how to best optimize my limited time there.

The first three years I tried to make it to every lecture that I could, and heard some of the foremost experts in the field speak about many topics. Although I learned a ton of information doing this, I still had to ask if this was really the best use of my time.

My approach to attending large meetings has been much different since reading a post by author Seth Godin, who focuses readers on the important by asking you to think back to a conference a year prior and ask, “What do you remember?

Seth brought up the point that all of these lectures are available online, and that the part of the meeting that we should focus on is the “engaged conversations.” In fact, because of changing part of focus to this at the Chicago meeting, I met a number of other rheumatologists and patients from around the globe, including Dr. Ronan Kavanagh, a rheumatologist from Ireland, who has also written that attending meetings is not just about sitting in lectures and how Twitter can be used to enhance your meeting experience.

With conferences getting bigger each year, and increasing numbers of lectures and other sessions available to attend, it is important to remember the one thing that you can do at a meeting that you can’t do anywhere else: meet with people. After I get home, in the comfort of my home or office, I can catch up on the lectures I missed.

Additional resource: KevinMD.com: How to use Twitter at your next medical conference

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  • Ronan Kavanagh Jan 11, 2012

    Good piece Paul.

    I wonder if part of the problem the sheer volume of papers that are allowed to be presented at big meetings. Clearly the more abstracts, the bigger the income for the meeting. It is impossible for any of us can get round to being exposed to all of the stuff presented (or even to find the stuff we think we need to know) in the mass of abstracts, review lectures, plenary sessions at these meetings. I wonder how many abstracts presented at our big meeting are actually published in peer reviewed journals and the how many of those will influence clinical practice.

    Working in a specialty with as many uncertainties and grey areas which don’t lend themselves well to evidence based medicine, it’s nice to bond and share the burden with others who work at the coal face.

    I’ll be going to DC this year. I might even learn something….

  • Irwin Lim Jan 17, 2012

    The ACR meeting is just too big now. I find that I get much more out of it if I limit the number of sessions I attend to say 4-5 a day. I try to concentrate hard & take notes to fight off the jetlag. I also enjoy the experience much more if I do leave time to act like a tourist & enjoy the host city.

  • Jose Campos Feb 1, 2012

    Great post, Paul! Being Chicago my 2nd ACR meeting, I also tried not to miss a single lecture…like the year before. I even saw you at the rear of one of the “ballrooms”, but could not stop to say hello because we were all walking in a line just like ants searching for food… Hope this year will be different in DC!