Getting the Most out of Health Conferences

“Block out those 3 days, I’m going to a conference.” There are so many health conferences, forums and symposiums, it would be easy to fill up your entire clinic schedule and never see a patient again. But you didn’t become a doctor to sit in cavernous conference halls drinking filtered coffee. Here are our 5 top tips for getting the most out of your health conference schedule.

1. The Early Bird gets the Worm

Working out your conference schedule well in advance can save time and money. Because most people wait until the last minute to book their spot at a conference, organisers offer “early bird registration” up to 3 – 6 months in advance where tickets are often steeply discounted. So register early and save.

2. Do your Homework

Programs and speaker profiles are clues to the calibre of the conference and provide an opportunity to do some pre-reading. You’ll get more out of your conference experience if you do a quick speaker search in the lead-up and familiarise yourself with their work. Check if the presenters have a Twitter presence and follow them. You can learn a lot about a specialist’s areas of medicine through social media.

3. Plan your Route

At every conference, there are delegates who know exactly where they’re going – and there are those scratching their heads, wondering which door to choose. Get to know the layout of the conference venue as soon as you get there. At some of the larger international conferences it’s not uncommon to cover many miles a day trekking from one presentation to another.  So find out where your workshop rooms are, the location of bathrooms and, more importantly, the quickest route to the nearest barista. Being organised saves you precious face-to-face learning time.

4. Get the App

Conference apps are a must have for larger events and they’re becoming slicker and more interactive every year. The best apps are free, downloadable from your chosen store and have real-time updates, maps and scheduling capabilities. With a conference app there are no more dog-eared conference programs and there’s no need to pack your highlighter. Just load the app onto your smartphone or tablet and you’re ready to go.

5. Follow the Tweets

Many conferences register a unique social media #hashtag for the event. If you don’t have a Twitter account, get one. Apart from being an excellent networking tool for health professionals, Twitter is another way to follow key points from the sessions you aren’t able to attend. Find out if the conference has a #hashtag and learn how to use it.

Finally, the best approach to conferences is to carefully evaluate the program, speakers and the sponsors before signing up. There are so many health conferences on offer, you could attend them as a full-time job. But while some are a waste of time and money, most are well worth the effort.

Conferences and seminars are a good way to keep up your continuing professional development points— AKA your CPD points— a requirement by professional associations to keep your membership current. It’s important to keep track of your professional development, what courses you’ve done or technical papers you’ve read and maintain your association’s CPD requirements. You can do this in the Education portion of your HealthcareLink profile. Membership of professional associations, such as RACGP and APNA, give your prospective employers an indication that you’re serious about your career and that you’re up to date with the latest developments in your area of expertise.