Using Twitter to stay updated in scientific meetings

Well, I’ve done it again. It seems that everytime I try to make the early registration deadline for a conference, something seems to come up. One of the kids gets sick, a transmission breaks, I have a crazy week at work … you know, life.

Unlike the past few years however, I’m very excited to say that I will be making it to the American College of Chest Physician’s annual scientific meeting, CHEST 2013, in Chicago at the end of October.

While I wasn’t able to make it to the conference last year, it turns out that I didn’t have to miss everything because I had a new and unique tool at my disposal. A tool that allowed me to catch a surprising amount of the action and actually obtain some of the benefits of the conference without actually being there: social media.

Because of the explosion in the use of social media at conferences, every attendee is potentially his or her own reporter. Attendees broadcast their thoughts on twitter with a hashtag followed by the name of the conference and the year. Thus, last year I was able to follow CHEST by simply following “#CHEST2012” on Twitter. Attendees use social media to discuss presentations in real time giving you clinical pearls; findings of the latest research in pulmonary, critical care, sleep, and thoracic medicine; and even pictures of slides demonstrating important findings. By simply following the Twitter feed of a particular scientific conference, you can easily learn about the latest research and happenings.

I have taken this approach to several meetings, even ones that may not necessarily be within my particular field.  For example, while it hasn’t been worthwhile for me to take the time and expense to attend Kidney Week or ASCO, or ACEP, I am interested to know what comes out of these conferences. Following the tweets from those conferences gives me practical information distilled from a week of scientific sessions.

While these benefits are useful, there’s another significantly more tangible benefit that comes from using social media, particularly while at the conference itself: networking.

Over the past year I have been excited to make connections through social media with many colleagues around the country. But making those connections through social media is only the first step. Human beings are after all social creatures. Face-to-face connections are ultimately more productive and satisfying than anything that we can accomplish online. So at this year’s conference, I will be looking to use Twitter as a tool to help me connect with my colleagues at CHEST 2013. By being active at the meeting and sharing my experiences through social media I’ll surely add to the community of professionals with which I interact.

How often do you strike up a conversation and get to know the person sitting next to you at a scientific conference? Not often. But on Twitter I’ll be asking my Twitter peeps (mostly people I’ve never met before) to join me for a beer after the session. Maybe two.  It’s like networking on steroids, call it Networking 2.0. These connections lead to discussions about patient care, business opportunities, and research. The serious work and business of medicine.

So if you’re at CHEST this year, hit me up on Twitter, and let’s talk about practicing science on the cutting edge. If you’re not there, listen and join in on the conversation by following and using the #CHEST2013 hashtag. Maybe we can meet in person at a future conference. Just please do me a favor and message me about making the early registration deadline.

Deep Ramachandran is a pulmonary and critical care physician, and social media co-editor for the journal CHEST. He blogs at CaduceusBlog and ACCP Thought Leaders, and can be reached on Twitter @Caduceusblogger

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