We’re in the thick of conference season, so covering meetings is still very much on my mind. I recently shared some of the things I do before covering a medical conference, and thought I’d follow up by sharing some of the things I do when the conference rolls around.
This might be helpful to you if you’re preparing to cover your first conference.
- Check in: Sounds obvious, yes, but be prepared! You likely won’t need to use the same line to collect your badge as the conference attendees. Most of the time you just have to report directly to the Press Room at the meeting – usually located in a quieter location than the main area where the meeting is being held. Check on the conference website before you go – sometimes the “Press Information” link will provide details about checking in. If there are no specific instructions, simply ask where the Press Room is when you get to the meeting, and likely your badge will be ready and waiting for you. Obviously you don’t necessarily need to arrive at the conference venue until you’re needed there. So if your first presentation to cover isn’t until the afternoon of the first day, don’t feel the need to arrive when the meeting opens up in the morning – unless you want to, of course.
- Settle in: I like to arrive at the meeting each day about an hour before the start of whatever I’m covering. Usually I’ve traveled in from somewhere – interstate driving and trains have been involved! So I like to sit around and gather my thoughts in the Press Room. Typically there are plenty of goodies to be had in there too – coffee, pastries, cookies, etc. So it’s always nice to grab a drink and a snack while I plan out my attack. This is a good time to check the building plan too, so you can figure out what rooms are located where – if your conference is a huge one at an even more huge venue, this can be really helpful, especially if you have to switch from room to room in between talks without too much time to spare. This is the time to double-check the times and locations of your presentations for the day.
- Get a good seat: When you’re covering an oral presentation, you’ll want to do whatever you can to get the best seat possible. Obviously if you are running between rooms with little time to spare, you might just have to settle for what you can get. But if time isn’t an issue, do try to plan ahead – this will make all the difference to your comfort (and hence coverage of the presentation), especially if it’s a longish talk. Arrive in advance of the session if you can – this might make it more likely that you’ll be able to grab one of the table seats. Sit close to the front, and along the aisle – especially if you want to take photos of the screen, grab the presenter at the end for questions, or make a quick exit to cover a parallel session in a different room. If you are recording the session, avoid rows closer to the front than the loudspeakers – the sound often ends up muffled.
- Plan ahead for the poster sessions: At the large conferences, poster sessions typically are constantly rotating, so you need to ensure that you don’t miss out on seeing the ones you’d planned to cover. Sometimes if you hit the poster boards as your particular session begins, some posters may not have been pinned up. But I admit that I usually still try to get there within the first 30 minutes of the session to get an early viewing of those that are ready. I like this time because it tends to be a bit quieter than when presenters are required to stand at their board. So you get a head start in catching some of the poster presentations that you want to cover, and allows some space for photographing them without too many other folk elbowing you. It also gives you a chance to scope out any extras that catch your eye – this can be useful if you have a last-minute emergency, say if someone doesn’t turn up for the meeting and your chosen poster isn’t presented after all. Having a stand-by can be helpful – and your editor will be happier with a replacement than one less story!
Image Credit David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos