Six Keys to a Successful Annual Meeting

Michael Pistoria, DO, FACP, SFHM, is as guilty as you are of not always getting the most out of the annual meeting—and he’s one of the people planning it.

Dr. Pistoria, HM12 assistant course director and hospitalist at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa., always suggests that if an HM group sends more than one person to the annual meeting, those people should split up and go to as many different sessions as possible. But then, at HM11 in Dallas, an interesting course about an accountable-care unit caught the attention of three people from his office.

“I went, our senior vice president of care continuum went, and the director of our program—we were all there,” Dr. Pistoria says. “I’m thinking, ‘Well this is good, we’re all going to get a slightly different take on it and we’re all going to be listening for different things, and, when we do sit down to compare notes, this is going to be helpful.’ But there were other sessions we could be in.”

To be clear, there is no wrong way to attend an annual meeting. But like knowing which nurse shepherds a smoother discharge, there’s always a way to do it better. Tips from Dr. Pistoria and HM12 course director Jeff Glasheen, MD, SFHM, include:

Jeff Glasheen, MD, SFHM, HM12 course director I would treat this much like you would your first semester of college. You wouldn’t just show up and see what course you wanted to go to. You’d spend some time prior to showing up.

—Jeff Glasheen, MD, SFHM, HM12 course director

  • Prepare. Set up at least a basic schedule or pick out a few sessions to sit in on before arriving at HM12, or you risk trying to build a successful meeting on the fly. “I would treat this much like you would your first semester of college,” Dr. Glasheen says. “You wouldn’t just show up and see what course you wanted to go to. You’d spend some time prior to showing up….If you don’t have a game plan, you’re going to end up missing out on something you want to learn.”
  • Go where you friends don’t. As Dr. Pistoria attests, it’s a natural tendency to want to attend sessions with colleagues and critique together. However, this is a once-a-year opportunity. Attend different sessions and compare notes.
  • Attend the keynote addresses. This year’s lineup features a national election analyst for “CBS News,” the chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and the incoming chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Between them, there probably are a few good nuggets to glean.
  • Attend the special-interest forums. SHM holds a series of small-group sessions focused on such hyperlocal topics as rural HM and health information technology (HIT), among others. Society staff and leadership take notes and let attendees drive the conversation.
  • Network, network, network. Everyone had that first meeting where they didn’t know who was who, so feel free to introduce yourself to anybody. Get business cards from everybody. And hit the hotel hotspots armed with questions and a willingness to buy a potential new relationship a drink.
  • “There’s a tremendous willingness to help new people, to answer questions, to have the hallway questions, the conversations that occur at 11 o’clock at night at the bar,” Dr. Pistoria says. “If you see somebody and you say, ‘Hey, you know, I was in your session earlier, can I ask you a couple of follow-up questions?’ People are going to say, ‘Hell yes, sit down. Let’s talk.’ If people remember that and aren’t shy, I think people really can maximize the potential benefit.”
  • Share what you learn. Start a quality initiative or talk with your C-suite about starting a project. Email some of your new contacts to start a dialogue. Don’t go home, give one brown-bag session to your colleagues, and wait until next year’s annual meeting to think about the “big picture” again.

“It’s easy to get back home and fall right back into the patterns you were doing before,” Dr. Glasheen says. “If you get excited by something at the annual meeting, go back home and really work at putting that into place.”

About Richard Quinn

Richard Quinn is an award-winning journalist with 15 years’ experience. He has worked at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and currently is managing editor for a leading commercial real estate publication. His freelance work has appeared in The Jewish State, The Hospitalist, The Rheumatologist, ACEP Now, and ENT Today. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three cats.

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