In 2019, I was fortunate to be an Early Career Blogger for the AHA and attending the scientific sessions in Philadelphia (pictured below). It seems hard to believe that one year later, the same conference is being held exclusively via an online platform. COVID has caused a lot of changes, including the way we strive to provide education and conferences that still have the same impact.
Attending a conference such as AHA can be intimating due to its venue size, the numerous presentations, and navigating your way through the thousands of attendees. I was fortunate to discuss how best to be successful at such a conference and with the transition to an online platform, I want to equip others with a few tools I think will help make the experience enjoyable.
- Organize your schedule. With the increased flexibility of attending from the comfort of our own homes, it’s critical to plan ahead to optimize what sessions we want to see. Look ahead and block off your schedule so you can be free of distractions during the sessions.
- Prioritize your time. multitasking isn’t very productive and we may have the urge to answer work emails, phone calls, or text with friends. Focus on making the best use of your time during the presentations.
- Be an active participant. Try to participate beyond listening. I encourage fellows to take notes, ask questions, and get active on social media by using conference hashtags, live chats, and other tools to connect. Several sessions are dedicated to meeting trialists, researchers, and leaders in the community in order to provide the same opportunities as the live conferences did. I believe, it’s critical for us to engage in these sessions.
- Build your virtual community. At in-person conferences, the audience normally listen to the speakers and may make small talk in the coffee line. With virtual conferences, we all have the chance to engage in more meaningful ways. By being more actively engaged, you can expand your network and start to potentially collaborate with others in the field.
- Take Breaks: It’s important to recognize we can all fatigue from attending back-to-back-to-back sessions. I always make sure I have a snack, water, and time to stretch. Getting up to walk for a few minutes in-between sessions will help keep you fresh and more engaged.
- Replay. You can easily catch any recorded sessions you may have missed. By being able to watch the sessions later, you can continue to keep the conversation going and continue to expand your network.
There are multiple ways to continue to have an amazing experience at the AHA but participants have to have a few tools to be successful. I believe the above tips are a great pathway to make the most of any virtual conference.
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