Thanks to scoping the internet for conference abstract deadlines I was accepted to present an elevator pitch at the 46th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Academic Primary Care, a royal mouthful referred to as SAPC 2017. The SAPC conference champions primary care, which encompasses all services that are a patient’s first point of contact. It is the only major conference of its kind in Europe, a hub of health and service related general knowledge, and this year, with the theme “Pioneering Change”, there was a focus on challenges in primary care and G.P. related workforce and education.
I was only able to attend one out of three days but those few hours alone had elegantly informative keynote lectures, workshops, elevator pitches and oral presentations, with parallel sessions covering topics such as diabetes, urgent care and access, methodology, long term conditions and of course, mental health. The penultimate lecture in particular had everyone moved, discussing the dangers of turning individuals and their experiences into epidemiological statistics. Throughout the day high profile experts were in attendance from all realms, clinical, academic and editorial, alongside nervous youngsters fresh from their postgraduate programs. To top it all off the conference was hosted by Warwick Medical School, so I was able to visit the university town and its eclectic campus, dotted with rabbits and natural water features. The Warwick Art Centre is particularly bombastic.
The whole event could have reeked of privilege were it not executed with a precise enthusiasm. Everyone involved was genuinely passionate about making a difference in the country’s quality of primary care and making peoples’ lives better, not to mention the lighthearted and humorous attitudes mingled with the official and prestigious vibe, flanked by visually appealing academic posters. I felt honoured to be representing Manchester’s Centre for Primary Care, finding it a pleasure to attend, and not to downplay the value of the conference but the tote bag received at registration was a highlight. Among its contents I received an anthology compiled by Swansea University Medical School that contains reflections of medical students in clinical practice, a good and relevant read for a budding psychologist.
However, a significant factor that made the experience enjoyable was the Twitter storm. Networking and promotion for conferences is now monopolised by the little blue bird and SAPC 2017 was no exception, trending by early afternoon via #sapcasm. I highly advocate conference attendees finding out what an event’s official hashtag is to utilise it as a networking and promotional tool and to follow the conference’s official Twitter and as many conference goers as possible. Thanks to #sapcasm my feed was brimming with potential contacts and conference updates and I dove into virtual socialisation, tossing in my views of the presentations with the best of them. Live tweeting amplified the event.
Some skeptics may say this hinders natural communication and deviates from the presenters. I disagree. SAPC’s promotion prior to and during the conference was captivating, kept me aware of the goings on and was an asset for networking in the way LinkedIn has tried to be. Following someone and giving their profile a cursory glance can be used as a jumping off point to introduce yourself, establishing this preconceived familiarity that can give you an edge. You don’t need to be nervous about approaching a senior academic who may not notice you when you can simply follow them online, grabbing their attention. And with regards to the presenters, I was more engaged in their research due to the promotion of their work via Twitter that hooked you in advance. You can even acknowledge people who stood out and who you appreciated listening to- I promptly tweeted my favourable regard for a well conducted and intriguing presentation on “Codesigning a patient safety guide in primary care” and such actions go on to stimulate educational conversation.
Twitter also supplemented the sessions with others’ viewpoints from a spectrum of expertise and for those I missed it was a source of primary knowledge. I made use of this when I missed the “Mental Health” session when presenting my own pitch in the “Older people” session and I even took advantage of it on the second day of SAPC 2017 that I couldn’t attend but still received tweets for. This inclusivity extended to all those who couldn’t make it to SAPC 2017 but ecstatically followed Twitter updates, participating with their own feedback. Not just caricature millennials we’ve associated with the 21st century, but highly accomplished clinicians and academics made use of this platform to conduct a dialogue about primary care. SAPC 2017 made as much of an impact online as it did at the Ramphal Building of Warwick, if not more.
If anyone was reluctant to use Twitter it was I but using it to promote myself, follow other professionals, relevant organisations and media outlets and boost my presence at such events has been conducive to my productivity. I successfully networked for the first time in my life thanks to Twitter, with follows eventually translating to me handing over my card. One speaker actually recognised and spoke to me because of my tweets and I was able to garner an eager and attentive audience by tweeting about my upcoming pitch.
Contrary to popular belief I did not spend the day with my eyes glued to my phone but instead enjoyed the rare sunny weather, the gorgeous campus and the privilege of listening to wise and experienced individuals. Twitter just allowed me to saturate myself with all that SAPC 2017 was offering. The overall experience was so rewarding I’m already gearing up for SAPC 2018. It’s only a shame I didn’t attend the second day as I’ve JUST read a tweet that they conducted a master class in tweeting!