5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Conference

5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of a Conference
By Craig Louer, MD, POSNA Resident Communications Committee
I have always enjoyed the conference experience. While meetings can be exhausting, I usually return to my institution feeling reinvigorated and with new ideas for improving clinical and research programs. Keys to success at conferences certainly varies for each individual, but the following 5 tips should be a good starting point!
  1. Plan ahead
    1. Download the itinerary and preview/plan which sessions you may want to attend
    2. Set some achievable goals for yourself. You can’t do it all! (There is always next year).  Think which sessions will be highest-yield for your needs: content areas, practice management, leadership, career advice vs. finding time to network. Build it in to your schedule or it won’t happen!
  2. Branch out
    1. While meetings often have great content, most of us agree that the interpersonal connections are the most rewarding and valuable. Be open to meeting new people.
    2. Force yourself to introduce yourself to three new people (peers or possible senior mentors). POSNA is an incredibly open/welcoming group, don't be shy
    3. Put away the smartphone. You’re at the conference for the in-person interaction, so be open to interactions at the coffee bar and between sessions.
    4. Just like planning sessions, try to plan who you need to catch up with and carve out time.  A run with an old colleague? Drinks with a classmate? Coffee with future job prospects?
  3. …But still be yourself
    1. We’re not all extroverts who will go to every social event or impromptu happy hour. Set up situations where you’re comfortable.
    2. “Overlap your circles” and see if a colleague wants to join you for a talk/session you really want to see.
    3. If you don’t typically work all day and socialize all night for multiple days in a row, then don’t expect to be at your best if you try that at a meeting! 
    4. Take time off to exercise, rest, relax, and perform self-care.
  4. Remember what you learned!
    1. Collect and record notes in a way that makes them accessible and organized for later reflection. At the end of each session, try to write down your key takeaways.
    2. Force yourself to ask a question at each session. It will keep you engaged and will get your name/face out there.
    3. (When you can’t remember any key takeaways—time to take a break!)
    4. Make notes of people to collaborate with, research ideas, and action items for when you return home.
    5. Report back to your colleagues who stayed home. What did you learn? What were the big-take aways that could potentially change practice for you and your group? Bringing back “tangible information” is a way to make partners happy you skipped town for a conference (while they stayed behind and took call).
  5. Savor the City
    1. Don’t leave your conference city having only seen the convention center! Talk with your local colleagues and figure out the “can’t-miss” experiences. Explore and enjoy the city with your old contacts and new connections!
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