Blog | Monday, December 16, 2019

Physicians should use medical conferences to network like rock stars

Every doctor out there will likely attend at least a couple of conferences a year. It's part of the job, a great chance to get away from the daily grind of clinical practice, and brush up on the latest knowledge and new developments from your specialty. One thing that doctors are not so good at though, especially compared with other professions, is using conferences as a highly effective networking tool. It's a huge wasted opportunity if doctors don't take advantage of this, because those who are good at it, regularly find things from amazing job offers and new career opportunities, to interesting research projects and high level institutional collaborations. And the key is to get out and talk to as many fellow colleagues as possible. Here are 3 common mistakes physicians make:

Sticking with only your clique
Okay, so we're all intensely tribal beings at heart, and that includes doctors. You may think it's normal to sit, dine and wander the arena with only the people you know, because there will likely be a number of colleagues attending from your institution. There may even be a group dinner organized. That's all very well and good, but don't do this at the expense of not meeting any of the thousands of people around you, all sharing common interests and passions. After all, you're with your colleagues every day anyway! So start up a conversation with the doctor standing in line with you or the one seated beside you. Turn around and confidently introduce yourself and say where you are from, like the trail blazing doctor that you are. Go to some of the organized happy hours, lunches and dinners— of which there will be many.

Not strolling the sponsor booths
Some doctors seem almost afraid of the exhibit hall, which is baffling. In here you will probably find a number of companies, small and large, trying to showcase their products. It could be an innovative new idea, startup, or an established multinational. Nobody is going to force you to buy or sign up to anything, you're a grown adult professional. But what you can gain is profound insights into the health care industry and you never know what interesting thing you may stumble upon.

Running from lecture to lecture, and then right back to your hotel
Your conscientiousness is commendable. You want to absorb as much as possible and pack in all the learning. But you are not in school anymore! Conferences are not all about education and lectures, and you shouldn't walk around with your head down the rest of the time. Relax and be sure to take in the whole conference arena, and then get out and sample some of the local sights and culture.

If you're more at the beginning of your career, a realization will dawn on you very quickly, which should actually be taught in school. No matter what profession you are in—yes, even the scientific ones—the most successful people you see around you, will also be pretty ruthless networkers. It sounds so incredibly obvious, but like many things in life, most people around you aren't doing it—so just by doing so, you'll instantly put yourself ahead. So I set you this challenge if you're not already good at this. Before your next big conference, make sure you pack business cards and have an updated LinkedIn profile (astonishing this even needs to be said, but it does to physicians!). Set yourself a goal of networking with at least five new people and send them a message afterwards via LinkedIn, email or cell, telling them it was good to connect at the conference. You'll be surprised where consistently doing this will take you in your career.

Suneel Dhand is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the founder of DocSpeak Communications and co-founder at DocsDox. He blogs at his self-titled site, where this post first appeared.