Just 3 short months into my job I was sitting with my boss when she mentioned that the annual meeting for ophthalmologists and ophthalmology administrators was coming to San Diego. My predecessor had not only attended one but had also submitted a course description and presented at the convention. “What a career opportunity,” I thought, but I had just 5 days to prepare a submission. “No problem,” I thought. And so I got to work.
I submitted three course ideas thinking perhaps that would give me a greater chance of having one accepted. This would be a great opportunity to add something to the resume. After all, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS)/American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA) symposium and congress is touted as the “largest U.S. meeting dedicated to the anterior segment specialist” and the “leading practice management program in ophthalmology.” I waited impatiently for 6 weeks between the submission deadline and receiving word on whether any of my submissions had been accepted. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that two of three had been accepted. I now had 5 months until the presentations.
I posted the descriptions prominently at my desk so as to be reminded, “what am I doing today that contributes to this presentation?” It was soon mid-March, and I was staring down the handout submission deadline. I threw something together and met the deadline. I still had 18 days until my presentations. Plenty of time. But before I knew it, I was off for California.
Some of my anxiety was lessened as I visited with other health communicators and felt that my expertise was being validated. But attending the presentations and seeing other health communication professionals in action made me nervous. I spent those days at the conference going back and forth between listening to others’ presentations and working on my own in my hotel room.
My presentations were not as polished as I had hoped. They didn’t fill as much time as was allotted. I didn’t have nearly the attendance I was hoping for or the engagement with my audience during Q&A I would have preferred, but I learned some key things:
- Don’t let your ego get in the way of recognizing that you have bitten off more than you can chew. Looking back, I would have asked the convention organizers to choose just one of my presentations, especially as it was my first time attending.
- Don’t think things will just fall into place. I should have presented in front of more friends prior to the real thing. Presenting just once a few days prior probably wasn’t as effective as having weeks of rehearsals.
- Capitalize on any time possible to network with other like-minded professionals. I loved being able to meet other marketers in the ophthalmology world in a devoted “networking lounge.”
Most of all, let any opportunities to present in front of a captive audience of your health communication peers better you in the industry. You won’t ever know what you know, or how far you can go if you don’t try!