Last week was big for me, it was the culmination of the past few months of work that had led me to waiting in Manchester Airport, ready to head off to my first conference as a medical writer. It was the European Society of Paediatric Endocrinology (ESPE) Annual Conference of 2015.
Our client had a satellite symposium within the conference, at peak lunch hour. Unsurprisingly, 800 free lunch boxes can amass quite a crowd and we managed to fill most of the seats before the symposium started! My job on site, as medical writer, was to check the content that the speakers had provided (after some back and forth over email before heading out) was accurate and clear and to assist in crafting new drafts of the presentations that would project clearly once the content was finalised and had received comments from the authors and the various branches of the client’s internal approval team.
Once we got on site, Jill (my boss), Nadine (the project manager) and Tony (the PowerPoint Wizard) and I had a lot of work to do. No matter how many revisions you do before you go out, once the client and the speakers are together and in discussions with each other there will be a whole new cascade of changes that are raised and discussed. Keeping on top of what is being changed, what is staying the same and fielding questions about data can be quite challenging, but we managed to get through it and implementing the changes didn’t result in too late of a night.
Conference day itself was pretty intense, we had to run to time no matter what, as there was an internal symposium starting 15 minutes after our slot, whether we were packed up or not. This was made worse, as the previous major session was running late, so we had a late surge of delegates arriving just before we were due to start. But we got everybody in, and the symposium went off without a hitch, even the electronic voting pads for the audience questions worked smoothly!
True to form, just because the symposium was full of highly esteemed medical professionals, it didn’t do anything to stop the problems raised by putting a large group of people in the same place! Somehow, people managed to miss the huge tables of food and had to try and fight their way back against the tsunami of delegates to get to their free lunch. Many people didn’t seem to understand the concept of, ‘there’s more room and free food in the overflow hall, and you can even get a seat!’ and opted to stand at the back of the main hall, free lunch-less ( as a recent graduate, this makes no sense to me…)
As most of my job was already done (not much you can change to a presentation while it’s being presented) and, aside from some minor crowd control at the start when the hosting staff were a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of delegates surging in, I spent most of that hour trying (in vain) not to catch the eye of people who might think I was still a member of the hosting staff. What stood out to me the most was the amount of people asking if they could charge their phones in and among the cables being used by the Audio-Visual crew, and the bemused looks they gave when I said no!
As it was my first business trip, I thought I would allow myself to enjoy the little things; like not having to hand over my card at check in, getting to hand out my first business card to a prospective new client (albeit a separate branch of the same company) and being picked up from the airport by somebody waiting with a card with my name on.
One or two tips I learned for next time; bring a UK extension cable to save on EU adapters, leaving a shirt in the bathroom while you have a shower really does get the creases out very well and if you make friends with the lobby staff early on, they will go above and beyond the call of duty to help you out later on. All in all, I loved it and I look forward to working on more conferences, maybe I’ll even get to see some of the city next time!