As a health professions educator, have you found yourself feeling stuck when it comes to seeking professional development opportunities? If so, you are not alone! Trade show attendance saw a 20% decrease in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels. While the 'post-pandemic’ world is a much smaller place, thanks to the increase in the use of Zoom and other virtual videoconferencing platforms, it also can sometimes feel a bit lonely. Even though in person attendance can be a daunting task in terms of travel, time, and resources, there is value to connections outside of our day-to-day work. Some conferences are now including hybrid options that may make it easier for those who might not be able to readily travel to attend. If you find yourself reaching out to the ‘register now’ button for a conference, consider the tips below to set you up for success.

Before the conference, prepare yourself by reflecting on the following:

  • Why are you attending this conference? What is your goal? Some of my own goals have included gaining content expertise, finding collaborators, networking, disseminating scholarship.
  • How will you accomplish these goals? Will a virtual meeting suffice? Do you have the resources to support your attendance?

Organize logistics as or before you register. Download the conference app and make a note of other attendees you would like to meet. Review the agenda in advance so that you can strategize which sessions to attend. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and attend at least one session that you would not normally attend. Block off time on your calendar and add your out-of-office reply. If possible, delegate urgent issues to a colleague.

While you are at the conference, consider mindfulness techniques to be fully present. Meaningful connections with speakers, attendees, and exhibitors can help spark new ideas and form collaborative relationships. What is your elevator pitch describing who you are when you are meeting someone new? If you choose to connect with social media, identify increments of time when you will promote yourself, colleagues or mentees, and remember to practice sponsorship and allyship! If you can, take some time to immerse yourself in the local culture.

After the conference, take time to reflect on your professional and personal wins through gained from the conference. Did you achieve your goals? Follow up with connections, whether on social media or setting some time to foster relationships. Complete any additional logistics such as requesting reimbursement, completing evaluations, and obtaining continuing education credit. Consolidate and file your notes and add ideas to your treasure trove of potential future projects. Make a note of topics that you might be interested in presenting in the future. Share pictures and presentation slides for dissemination within your institution. Celebrate the completion of a professional development milestone!

What tools, tips, or guidance do you have for those attending academic conferences? Share this on the #MedEdPearls Twitter discussion!

Lonika Sood, MBBS, MHPE, is a Medical Educator and Internal Medicine physician. Lonika is currently the interim Vice Dean for Educational Affairs at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. Her areas of professional interest include curriculum design and organizational leadership. Lonika can be followed on Twitter or LinkedIn.


HMI Staff