EP Perspectives

Making the Most of Medical Meetings: Maximizing Your Time

Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC

Kevin R. Campbell, MD, FACC

It’s that time of year again when thousands of heart rhythm professionals gather together to reconnect, learn, and share new technologies and innovative science. The Heart Rhythm Society’s 2017 Annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago promise to be jam-packed with nearly 250 educational sessions delivered by almost 900 of the world’s most respected expert faculty. While I expect the sessions to be well attended as always, many who cannot be there will still be able to play a part in the sessions via social media (using the Twitter hashtag #HRS2017), due to an increased interest and engagement by physicians worldwide. 

Navigating a large academic meeting such as Heart Rhythm 2017 can be daunting. However, with a little preparation, you can save time and money, and ensure that you get the most out of the event. Here are a few of my tips that you can use to get the most out of your meeting experience. 

#1: Set Goals

It is important to go into a big meeting with a plan. Make a list of goals — what do YOU want to get out of the event? Some of us may be interested in learning more about new techniques for atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation, others may be interested in basic science, and others may be interested in healthcare policy or advocacy issues. Many go to the meetings to reconnect with colleagues, brainstorm new research ideas, and share new innovations. The key is to decide what is most important to you and how you can best accomplish your goals. 

#2: Prepare and Focus

Just as with any task in medicine, it is important to prepare well. Download the Advance Program for Heart Rhythm 2017, and decide when you need to arrive and depart in order to maximize your time (and save money on hotels). There are online tools that not only allow you to choose the sessions you want to attend, but also create a personal itinerary for your mobile device. This will eliminate the need to look through the program on site and will allow you to be more efficient as you bounce from session to session. Previewing the program will also allow you to prioritize your time and make it easier to navigate the convention center. When you choose a special interest session, you will likely run into other members with similar interests, and this can lead to new contacts and important collaborations.

#3: Schedule Private Meetings in Advance

One of the greatest benefits of a large international meeting such as Heart Rhythm 2017 is that it brings together professionals from all over the world. If there are colleagues that you would like to meet with, be sure to reach out in advance and schedule time. Everyone gets very busy during the sessions, and by having a pre-arranged “dance card” of meetings, you will be sure to connect with those that you wish to meet and collaborate with in Chicago. In addition, if you have down time, be sure to grab a seat in one of the headquarter hotel lobbies, as this is a great way to run into colleagues and friends that you may not have seen for a long while.

#4: Get Social

The ability of social media to impact engagement at a medical meeting is continuing to gain momentum. In particular, Twitter has been a great way for those both on and off site to benefit from the scientific sessions. Using a meeting hashtag such as #HRS2017 allows anyone to follow the latest news from the sessions, and also promotes robust discussion and debate. Twitter and other digital platforms are simple and easy to use, and nearly all physicians own a smartphone or tablet. The engagement seen at recent events such as ACC.17 is astounding, and emphasizes the importance of social media in medicine. In 3 days, there were over 205 million impressions and over 38 thousand tweets. Social media is a powerful tool, and can help improve engagement and the reach of academic medical meetings. While we continue to gain more participants, it is critical that more physicians become actively involved in the digital space — particularly at annual scientific sessions.

#5: Make a List of Action Items, and Follow Up After the Meeting

As you move through the chaos of the meeting week, be sure to keep a list of “action items” that come up during sessions or between meetings. These may range from making calls, working with industry, obtaining new technology at your hospital, to collaborating with colleagues on a new research idea. Be sure to make time to craft follow up emails and connect on social media with your contacts during your flight home. A quick note to remind everyone of the meeting and the next steps is a good way to make sure that things do not fall through the cracks. 

What’s Exciting This Year at Heart Rhythm 2017?

This year’s meeting promises to offer a lot of practical science and opportunities for both professional and personal development. The VT and AF Summits will again be full of exciting focused presentations. In addition, on Thursday, May 11th, a new workshop will take place in the EPicenter Theatre 2 that will provide tips for interacting with television, radio, and print media. This session will feature the Emmy Award-winning Bob Peterson, Executive Creative Director for CBS News. Bob will stage a mock interview workshop with faculty and provide meaningful tips for better on-air engagement. On Friday, May 12th, there will also be a special session devoted to social media in medicine, including a live Twitter chat on atrial fibrillation. Be sure to attend these new and innovative sessions! As always, the meeting will feature late-breaking clinical trials and impactful science throughout the week.

Make it a Great Meeting!

There are many ways to approach academic meetings. As heart rhythm professionals, we are very fortunate to have a society that provides us with such rich learning opportunities. The most important thing to remember about any academic meeting is that it is one way that we can all work to better serve our patients at home through education, personal development, collaboration, and ongoing innovation. It is my hope that each of you will leave Chicago inspired and re-energized, and ready to continue to provide excellent care for your patients. My goal is to try to come away with a few things each year that change my practice for the better. Most importantly, enjoy the time away as well as the buzz and excitement that surrounds Heart Rhythm 2017 every year!