Getting More Out Of A Conference Than Free Pens

Kathleen Satterfield DPM FACFAOM

Some folks see attending a medical conference as an opportunity to have fun and catch up with old friends. For others, the medical conference represents an opportunity to get ahead, meet possible mentors and address some business issues. That is a whole different ballgame. For the same amount of money you spend to go to a conference, you can have an entirely different experience.

Some people pack their toothbrush to go to a conference. Other people pack extra business cards, legal pads and letters of introduction. Which person are you?

Before you attend a medical meeting, meet with your colleagues and decide which speakers you should seek out to learn from and possibly speak to after their lecture. Increasing your knowledge is one goal but another goal is seeking out interaction that can benefit you or your institution.

Before you attend a conference, consider the following actions.

Review The Speakers And Their Topics

• Do a PubMed search for each speaker and see what his or her areas of expertise are so you can be prepared to interact with the speaker on his or her specialty.

• See whom the speakers have published with in the past. You may have a colleague in common you can bring up or contact beforehand to make an introduction.

• Speak with your colleagues and ask for their insight about the speakers you wish to meet. Ask them for an introduction prior to the meeting. Making a call placed prior to the meeting may allow you to meet with the speakers(s) privately over coffee or lunch during the meeting. This will yield greater dividends than a rushed conversation after their lecture. This is how research collaborations and lecture invitations are cultivated.

I am as guilty as the next person of thinking of the exhibit hall as a great place to learn about the latest and greatest technology, and to meet up with old friends. However, if you do your homework before you go, you will get a great deal more out of the experience.

Review The Exhibitors

There are five reasons to go and see the exhibitors. Getting a free pen is not one of them. We go see the exhibitors because there are:

* products you require;
* products you desire;
* products you want to know more about;
* products you don’t know anything about; and
* products you think might be able to help you out (via grants, lectures, dinner meetings, etc.)

• Do your homework. Do not walk into a booth not knowing anything about a product. Do not insult the product manager by saying you use Dermagraft all the time and start describing what is clearly Apligraf. This will not fly, especially if you are asking for a favor in return. They can smell a con a mile away! Besides, they know your personal “use” numbers. You cannot fool them so do not try.

• Remember, the exhibitors have a job to do. They need to leave that meeting with solid contacts (business cards and follow-up appointments). What do we want? Good resources for excellent products for our patients at good prices.

We can help them by stopping by their booths and speaking with them. They can help us as well. As my mentor, Larry Harkless, DPM, always said, “Well that is a slam dunk!”

Comments

I just came across this post. It is excellent advice. Much of it applies to exhibitors too. It is essential for exhibitors to plan ahead and to attend presentations on relevant topics. Ultimately, even at a large meeting or conference, there may be 20 or even fewer "ideal" contacts that are important to both parties. Making sure those 20 "ideal" contacts actually happen during the course of a busy conference is the challenge.

John Lampe
Tamarack Habilitation Technologies
"technologies to prevent and treat diabetic foot ulcers"

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