recorder2In my last post, I discussed a few options for recording presentations if you’re a medical writer who’s decided to start reporting medical conferences – or maybe you just need to record interviews with experts or key opinion leaders for articles you are writing.


First-Time Use

Once you decide on your device, I can’t stress enough how critical it is to get familiar with it before the meeting. I realize this may seem natural to most folk, but I’ve seen enough writers at meetings, frazzled because they’ve had some kind of issue with a new recording device – they hadn’t checked it out in advance because it had seemed like it would be so intuitive to use.
I’m not at all a tech-geek, so I’m definitely someone who tests out new tech devices before I REALLY need them – more times than I probably need to, just to appease my anxiety level! You may not need to be quite as Type A about it as I am, but I definitely advise playing around with your new device until you feel comfortable using it. Whatever device you’ve decided on, don’t let the conference be the first time you use it!
If you get the chance, test it out at some kind of presentation in a big hall, similar to what you’ll experience at a conference. Maybe your local university or community college hosts some public lectures – attend one and give your recorder a test drive. This will allow you to see how the audio holds out in a large auditorium.
A Couple of Tips

  • Use earphones: Your audio quality will vary depending on the speaker, acoustics in the room, your location, etc. – a lot of things you have no control over. When you’re listening to the recordings as you write articles, if you’re struggling with the audio just using your computer’s speakers, plug your earphones into the computer and see if that helps. It often helps me a lot. In all the years I’ve been using mine at conferences, I’ve never had an issue where I’ve not been able to understanding the audio from a lecture, and I’ve had a lot of “poor” audio issues (often when you’re attending a lecture, you just know it’ll be rough listening to the audio because it’s difficult enough hearing it adequately in person – maybe the acoustics are producing lots of reverberations in the room).

  • For one-on-one conversations, let the speaker know you’re recording their comments: If you’re chatting individually with a speaker at a conference, or even with an expert over the phone, be sure to ask their permission first. It’s the polite, professional thing to do. I’ve never had anybody refuse to be recorded – I think most professionals kind of expect to be recorded during interviews, but it’s still polite to ask. And explain why you’re recording the conversation – it’ll put them at ease, and help them figure out how best to answer your questions. If the purpose is to obtain a direct quote, they may prefer to take a couple of moments to think about how they phrase something, so that it flows better in your article. If it’s just so you have their information for paraphrasing in the article, they may not feel the need to be as succinct, because they know you can select the information that you feel is most pertinent.

Hopefully this will help with your preparation for the conference!


screenshot_127The Scientist is hosting a virtual career expo about alternative careers for scientists, outside of academia. One of the panels on their agenda will explore the field of scientific communication.
It’s taking place on Wednesday June 10th, 2015, at 11:30 am EDT.
And the best part? It’s free to register


So don’t delay – sign up now to secure your spot!



recorderIn past decades, the warmer weather used to signify the height of conference season – although these days it seems to pretty much run all year round – especially with many organizations holding their annual meetings in the winter in a warm and inviting location. And some just choosing to host them in the winter in a not-so-warm location (my specialty college has decided on Minneapolis for our typical winter meeting this year! Although they’ve at least brought it forward to October, instead of the usual December!)
Anyway, if you’re a medical writer and are considering conference reporting for the first time, you’ll need to take some kind of recording device with you.
What Choices Do I Have?

Digital Voice Recorder: The good news is that, nowadays, you have heaps of choices when it comes to a recording device. Everyone is different when it comes to recording devices and what they prefer to use. Digital recorders also come in all shapes and sizes – from pocket-sized ones like mine, to huge things with their own cages and wheels! I like using my Olympus recorder (that’s mine in the photo), it’s small and light, simple, reliable, and works well for me – plus, I’m a creature of habit, and it’s what I’ve always used! But, what works great for me may not suit you. But if you’re thinking of an actual device and don’t know where to start, you may be interested in this this Top 10 Review that I came across recently.
Unless you have specific additional needs for your recorder, you don’t need to spend a whole load of money on it – I’ve had mine for many years, and I think it cost me around $90 – it runs at about $120 these days. A few things to consider when deciding on one:

  • The USB connection (mine has a USB port that folds out of the device – no need for a USB cord)

  • Size (you’re going to be using it like an extra appendage at the conference – you’ll like it better if it’s small and light, and easy to kick into action if you’re late running into a presentation)

  • Storage

  • Battery life

Smartpens: I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about these Livescribe Pulse Smartpens. Personally, I’ve never even tried using one, but they seem intriguing and I’ve come across a lot of folk who love theirs. Unless you’re someone who likes risking buying gadgets anyway, it might be worth doing some detective work yourself before investing in one of these. See if any of your medical writer friends have one you could try – if you have a AMWA local chapter (or other networking) meeting coming up, ask if someone might bring their pen with them so you can test it out during the evening.

Smartphones & Tablets: At the very least, there’s a high chance you own some kind of smart phone or tablet, allowing you access to either a built-in recorder and/or the use of some kind of downloadable app for recording purposes. Your laptop may also serve a similar purpose with its built-in recorder. So they’ll also be options you can consider, although they likely won’t be as good as an actual digital recorder – but some folk use them as their primary recording source, so you may find this a great option for you.


AIf you’re an aspiring medical writer – or even a seasoned one – and are looking for some inspiration, motivation, or additional tips about medical writing, Dr. Emma Hitt Nichols has compiled an awesome series of podcasts that should fit the bill nicely.


Check out Medical Writers Speak for a great listening selection (or get them directly from iTunes). In addition to hearing some cool stories about a variety of medical writers from different backgrounds, you’ll get to hear how they got into medical writing, as well as the snippets of advice they have to offer.



AMWA members – have 1you registered yet for the upcoming webinar on Web-Based Software for Literature Reviews (May 28th, 1pm EST)?


It’s free for AMWA members to attend, so if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and register asap! And if you’re a medical writer but not yet a member of AMWA, I highly recommend joining – particularly if you’re just transitioning into the field. The benefits of joining AMWA are many and varied, and you’ll get to meet the nicest people – that’s certainly been my experience over the years, especially at local chapter meetings.


usbAnother Lesson Learned


I’ve learned many great lessons in life – usually from my mistakes. In fact, I always say I’ve learned more from my mistakes than from anything I ever got right.

This has frequently been the case when it comes to all-things-technology!

My most recent Grrr Moment came from a fried memory stick incident. For about a year, I’d been carrying around a memory stick containing all kinds of wonderful information – typically stuff I would need quick access to at different locations – whether I was working at home, in the office, or working casually at Starbucks. I had a variety of things on it – collections of ideas, interesting articles to read, copies of my old tax returns, writing ideas, partly-written articles for my blog…..things like that.

There was nothing sensitive that caused me any horrific consequences (like unfinished work, or projects that hadn’t been forwarded to clients – I save all current projects on my computer hard drive which is backed up on an external hard drive, as well as in The Cloud). But the memory stick was just my general Go-To Guy, containing a whole bunch of stuff that I was intending to transfer to my hard drive “at some point”.

Then it fried. I distinctly remember sitting at home using my laptop one morning. My memory stick was plugged in, and before my very eyes, the light on the memory stick suddenly went out, and it was no longer being recognized by the laptop.

I tried all kinds of home remedies to revive it, to no avail. Even my IT guru couldn’t resuscitate it. So I had to just accept its loss. Even though there was nothing critical on it, it contained stuff that was helpful to me, so I felt really mad with myself for not transferring everything. Especially as I’d literally spent the year telling myself repeatedly that I’d transfer it to my computer at some point!

Now I have a new Go-To memory stick, and I just transfer everything from it to my computer whenever I update it!

So, if you’re like me, and carrying a handy little memory stick around, learn from my mistake. In the words of the great sportswear company, Just Do It – don’t wait too long!

Last week I attended our fall AMWA-NE Chapter dinner meeting, which turned out to be another fun evening.

We met at Mick Morgan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Newton, MA. It was a fun venue, although our private room turned out to be not-so-private! It was a side room that was continuous with the main part of the bar, and had no door. So we could still hear the music and antics in the bar, as well as the “Open Mic” event that started up shortly after ours did! But regardless, it was fun, and we all coped admirably with the side noise!

Our speaker for the evening was our very own AMWA fellow and former New England Chapter president, Jill Shuman. A certified Editor in the Life Sciences (ELS) and a Certified CME professional (CCMEP), Jill discussed various routes for a medical communicator to take in order to bridge gaps in expertise. A selection of those that she reviewed, included:


Certification/credentialling programs


Certificate programs


University degrees

Although some colleges offer programs that require classroom presence, some now offer programs for medical writers that are completely online. These include:


Although AMWA currently offers a variety of certificates for members to undertake, it will soon also offer a certification program – the first examination is set to be held in 2015, and the program will be open to all medical writers, not just AMWA members. And just in case you need a refresher, this link explains the difference between certification and a certificate.

If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to join AMWA and check out your local chapter meetings.

And if you’re local to the New England region, please come and join us.



Yesterday was our AMWA-New England chapter’s Winter Roundtable Brunch at the Hilton Garden Inn in Waltham, MA.

It was a beautiful winter day here – chilly, but bright and sunny with a clear blue sky. Perfect driving weather for those who made the trek from the opposite ends of New England.

I was privileged to be hosting a roundtable discussion on “Blogging for Medical Writers”. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the local chapter meetings that I’ve been to, but this one was especially fun, what with the “on that note” digressions that some of our discussions took! But, what happens in AMWA-NE, stays in AMWA-NE, so you’ll just have to use your imagination as to where our conversations were diverted!

There were 7 of us at our table, and the 2 hours just flew by. Thank you so much to the wonderful medical writers in our group for making it such a wonderful, productive, and interactive discussion.

Thanks also to AMWA-NE for organizing the event, and to the Hilton Garden Inn for not only hosting us, but more importantly, keeping us fed and watered!

I put together some notes from our discussion – so if you’ve never tried blogging before, but are think of doing so, they might be of some help to you as you get started. Please let me know if you are a medical writer with an active blog – I’ll add your URL to the list! And similarly if you happen to come across any other active medical writer blogs, I’ll be happy to add those too.

I’m already looking forward to our next local chapter gathering next month!


I recently talked about white papers as a good market for medical writers to tap into. And I additionally wrote this guest post on writing white papers for the medical industry.

But not everyone is a fan of this old favorite!

What’s the Problem?
They tend to get a bad rap. Painful, dull, and overlong are just a few adjectives that I’ve seen used to describe these important documents. Yet they’ve been around for some time, and their academic voice remains a high-impact asset in marketing.

Not all white papers are created equally though. Their quality varies widely, depending on the author. When written properly, they can be extremely effective marketing tools, even in simple PDF format. The flip side, however, is that when written poorly, they merely come across as a big old sales pitch in disguise (and sometimes not even in disguise!). A small bias is expected (it’s a document that aims to grab a sale, after all), but if the overwhelming message to the reader is a forceful sales pitch, it may just fall on deaf ears.

One problem with a white paper is its short half-life – once sent out, that’s it, it’s gone. And the reader may not even finish reading it. Another problem is inflexibility of content delivery – even if the reader likes it, he still may not be motivated to contact a sales representative.

Interestingly, many people believe that white papers may be on the way out due to the advent of new 2.0 technologies. Our ever-increasing immersion into the fast-paced digital era has, for better or worse, reduced our attention span. As a result, some feel that traditional white papers are less appealing, whereas digital information delivery allows the reader to become more involved in researching a product, thus enhancing product curiosity.

What Alternatives are There?
Consequently many feel that the traditional, thesis-like white paper may be outdated amidst today’s technology. Some businesses are therefore now reaching out to their audience via different platforms, and building client relationships in a more interactive way. A few of these include:

  • Microsites: These can be used to create a marketing message for lead generation. Information that would typically go into a white paper can be placed on the site, but in a more readable and interactive format. Information can be shared there in various formats (such as via a blog, surveys, webinars, and discussion forums to name but a few), and can also be updated as necessary.
  • Twitter: Social networking is becoming another useful method for reaching a target audience.  Twitter is a growing platform for this, with Twitter chats being increasingly used for marketing.
  • eBooks: Their landscape format is favored by some, supposedly because it makes for easier reading. Throw in some embedded links too, or interactive media “bells and whistles” such as video or animation. The finished product may then better engage the reader, increasing his interest, and making him more likely to finish reading it.


Where Does the Future Lie?
Having said all this, however, white papers have stood the test of time. After all, companies are still using them, and often still in their very traditional, bland form. Some critics argue that our reduced attention spans actually allow a paper document to function better than digital material. For instance, many people visit many websites, but how long do they stay to read them? Additionally, the viral “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of much digital material these days could work against its effectiveness as a delivery platform for product information.

Personally, despite seeing the value of new technology, I feel that white papers will remain steadfast. I think most of us would agree that attention-grabbing content remains king, regardless of format.  And likely the customer, not the marketer, will have the final say on whether white papers should be axed. At the moment though, there is enough evidence that they remain a valued marketing tool. So although change is always good as a process evolves, I suspect most companies will retain a special place in their heart for these documents. After all, marketing is still marketing, and the factors that drive sales haven’t really changed.


So what do you think? Is creativity the new white paper?


Image credit Photostock at Free Digital Photos

On September 23rd 2011, The International Freelancers Academy is hosting the world’s biggest online conference for freelancers. And the best part is that registration is completely FREE!

Registration is ridiculously easy – just visit the link above & register by providing your email address. They’ll confirm your “seat”, and then all you have to do is plug in and listen on the day itself.



The schedule of sessions looks wonderful – all kinds of seminars that cover things from what to charge, how to use LinkedIn to find clients, money management advice, self promotion….and many more.

Although this is obviously not specifically geared toward freelancers in medical writing, all these things apply to this field too! A solo business is a solo business, whatever its niche – so head over and sign up. Even if you only manage to get to hear one or two sessions, I’m sure it’ll be a worthwhile experience.