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!