The fourth dimension of conference attendance

3 09 2011

So, I’ve just got back from two conferences – the NOVICE Summerschool in Budapest, and AMEE in Vienna. I always feel like I don’t make the most of conferences. I love AMEE – 3000 medical educators in one huge conference centre and multiple streams of symposia/workshops/posters/short comms….its absolutely manic! But as I sorted out some bits to take with me this year, I found last years conference bag, unpacked, still holding my notes and abstract booklet. Now I’m not saying I haven’t used what I learnt last year, because I definitely have (and made some new connections by sharing our business skills curriculum for vets in a poster), but it occurred to me that my physical output from it was rather static.

It struck me that there must be a better way….and then I heard all these people talking about Twitter during a previous conference…and I had a bit of a rebirth moment. To me, as I gain in experience as an educator, networking is one of the most important elements of conferences. Its a bit like the lowest level of the EBM triangle, but the (often beer driven) conversations with new contacts are a brilliant way of learning and getting new ideas. However, face to face networking is such a small part of a conference (even a brilliant one with lots of interactive sessions) and so this is where Twitter comes in.

Once I’d got the hang of the whole hash tag thing (#amee2011 and #budvet11) I started Tweeting in a couple of ways

– I took notes into Evernote and Tweeted them from the various sessions I went to (also with photos of slides etc)

– I tweeted questions/thoughts during sessions – and one of them even got asked live to the presenters at the time!

As my notes are in Evernote they are a bit more permanent and so it’ll be interesting to see if I go back to them over the next few weeks. I’ve already sent the link to certain sessions to colleagues who I thought might be interested.

So my conclusion is that CPD and conferences needn’t be as static as they sometimes appear….I guess I am completing that reflective learning cycle with a little help from some Twitter friends, and discovering that there is a fourth, social networking dimension to conference attendance!




6 responses

3 09 2011
Ken Locke

Very nice blog post. To me the social connections are the most important part of the conferences I attend, in that I get so many ideas and such rich information from them. However, there is a rapid decay in this as time goes by after conferences end. I think you’ve hit on this brilliantly with a new solution. It can also broaden the audience for a conference to those who were never there, or came along later… A great way to add the 4th dimension of time, ie longevity to the conference.

I wonder if we can get AMEE to help direct people to our post conference sites?

Well done.

4 09 2011

Hi Ken
Thanks for your kind remarks. I think your comment about broadening the audience is particularly true – in fact I was communicating via Twitter with a colleague who couldn’t get the funding to attend who was watching on line. I guess as belts get tightened this will become a more common way to take part. AMEE is great, but the expense is massive…..
Couple more things:
I was quite worried that by permanently having my nose in my laptop or iPhone I would miss the actual social connections sat around me. I had to make a deliberate attempt to avoid this. I wasn’t aware of people thinking I was rude by looking at my phone (if I was a teenager maybe this would be different!) but I guess this is one issue as we try and include the fourth dimension in the classroom/lecture hall.
AMEE had definitely moved on in their approach this year by having the Twitter feed running (bigger screen next year guys, and lets have a wall not just the stream…) but there was still an element of “What’s this all about” from delegates around me, which was good, as it gives an opportunity to explain (and I carried out a couple of “conversions”!) But I do think that if AMEE are serious about this aspect then they should be promoting post conference blogs and outputs through the MedEdWorld site etc….
Would be interested in others thoughts about this

5 09 2011

Hello Liz,
Great to read this. I’m off to #altc2011 this week and the approach is much different- as you might expect, The programme is much more workable. There’s a crowdvine site to connect with other attendees. And I’ve been asked if I will blog and if those posts can be syndicated.

I tended to tweet all the way through and not take seperate notes. I’m not sure if that is a mistake. But all tweets are archived do I can easily find them again. I also think that the connections are more important. I really am delighted to see more people blogging and to meet you and Ken.

My own professional development was the reason that I started investigating social media and I have not been let down in any way by these tools. The dividends are starting to be realised now:)


5 09 2011

I meant to comment on ” Its a bit like the lowest level of the EBM triangle, but the (often beer driven) conversations with new contacts are a brilliant way of learning and getting new ideas”. I don’t know if you were at the sessions on ‘what is evidence?’ but I think that in medical education we really need to rethink this! Education (even more so than medicine itself) is a practice and not a science. These conversations about practice- whether they happen in corridors or staff rooms or blogs or conferences- are the lifeblood of learning about how to become a better practitioner. They are likely to be much more useful that an RCT published in a journal about an intervention. Michael Baum has questioned the notion of ‘hierarchy’ of evidence in EBM and if he can, we can!

5 09 2011

Hi Anne Marie
Thanks for the comments. I absolutely agree that social media can provide another element to CPD and I’m a bit cross with myself that I didn’t realise this a couple of years ago! I was considering the Tweet storing option but I suspect I may not go back to these, but I might change my strategy (I am at ALT-C as well incidentally, presenting about Xerte, so see you there).
I see your point about the EBM triangle and although I didn’t go to that symposium I saw your Tweets and I was at the keynotes. I thought the discussions around “What is evidence” were fascinating and really made me think about transfer of information from one context to another. I guess I was a bit quick at placing conference interactions at the bottom level of learning from a conference, and yes they should be higher….but only if you do something with them maybe? It comes back to our previous conversation about reflection really – as professionals I think we should be recording our learning in some shape or form (Twitter included). Not everything, not all the time, but the intention should be there. And maybe if you can’t/won’t record it, you should show some kind of change in your practice as a result of your learning. But you are absolutely right that most of my best teaching moments have come from conversations rather than listening to key notes!

I’ll be interested to contrast ALT-C with AMEE. I’ve never been so I’m not sure what to expect!


27 09 2011
An audience with your audience: how the hashtag can unlock conference communication | janemooney

[…] experience, this added layer of interaction that Liz Mossop (@mossposs) nicely coins as the ‘4th dimension of conference attendance‘ can result in a richer learning environment and more insightful experience for both event […]

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