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How to Make the Most of a Conference

I just had a great experience attending my first national conference. It was a large conference, with more than 1,600 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 

Conferences are 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 and 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 jam 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 pre-planning 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 advance notice. A little bit of pre-planning can go a long way to ensure your group can make memories together. 

Review the Agenda

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 likely yield better results and answers than 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. 

Give Back

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 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 my medical 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 newfound encouragement to pursue a novel research project. I am already looking forward to my next conference, where I will catch up with old friend and plan to meet some new ones as well. 

Anne Shaughnessy, MD is currently a third year emergency medicine resident at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando, Florida. Anne is a native Floridian and graduated from University of Florida’s College of Medicine in 2017. In 2012, she received her Bachelors of Science from the University of Florida in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a minor in Classical Studies. Her current academic interests include medical education, research and ultrasound. Her current research topics include sepsis and resident education. Outside of medicine Anne enjoys spending time with her husband, traveling, taking their dog to the dog park, and going to Disney! 

Previously published in SheMD.

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