“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” — Seneca
This year will be the tenth consecutive American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting that I have been able to attend. Each year, I have spent time prior to each meeting thinking about how to best optimize my time there, so below is my current approach to prioritizing time at a major medical meeting.
1. Networking. In 2012, I wrote a post titled Optimizing Your Meeting Experiences, suggesting, “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.” As such, networking is far and above my highest priority at ACR.
Because time at the meeting is obviously limited, with only a few exceptions, if a opportunity to talk with someone comes up that results in skipping a lecture, I’ll just catch highlights on Twitter (see my post: Three Steps to Keep Up With Twitter at a Major Medical Meeting) and/or plan on watching the lecture online with ACR Beyond Live.
Where to network, if you’re an introvert (like me):
- If you’re reading this post, you’re likely on social media, so I suggest checking out the #ACR18 Tweet Up on Sunday from 2:30–4:00pm in room W179b.
- The poster hall and the exhibit hall are some of the best places to network.
- Take time after lectures to meet with speakers and/or moderators.
- If someone is on social media and has similar interests, don’t be afraid to reach out to them and offer to grab coffee or lunch with them.
- ACR’s list of Networking opportunities at ACR18.
If needed, schedule time for exercise on your calendar. The number one thing that I look at when booking hotels for the meeting is the fitness center (Google image search is a great way to figure out what equipment the hotel gym will have).
It can be difficult to prioritize sleep during a meeting, which makes it a good time to try a coffee nap.
3. Lectures. The most important principle for attending lectures is having a low threshold to walk out of any session that isn’t benefiting you. Again, time is limited, and you can always catch highlights on Twitter and/or watch the lecture online later. Because of this, I generally plan on going to sessions that I expect to be either high-yield, or that colleagues or friends are presenting.
4. Social media. In spare moments, I keep up with the #ACR18 hashtag on Twitter. As always, I’ll generally tweet out a fairly steady stream of whatever knowledge I’m exposed to.