Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Writers Unite

The AMWA annual conference is always a wonderful reunion of medical writers and editors from around the globe. The conference has so much to offer: We learn in workshops, sessions, and roundtables, and we network at lunches, dinners, and receptions. And we miss our colleagues who weren't able to come. So, AMWA members being what we are--incredibly generous and supportive--we devised ways to bring news from the conference to members unable to attend.

For years, we've done this the old-fashioned way, by asking members to don a reporter's cap, take notes at a session, and write a summary that's published in the AMWA Journal. With the explosion of social media, we now have other, more timely, ways to bring conference news to those at home; namely, the conference blog and the AMWA Twitter account. Last year saw the the dawn of these two high-tech communication tools, and a group of conference attendees happily blogged and tweeted their way through Dallas.

Again this year, we need reporters and bloogers and tweeters (oh, my!) to capture news from the conference. Reporting and blogging are wonderful ways to exercise your writing skills, adding yet another benefit to the conference (as if there weren't enough already). Tweeting is just plain fun, with the greatest challenge being "How do I possibly convey my important message with just 140 characters??" Anyone and everyone can tweet from the conference--there'll be more on that social media tool later, as we get closer to the conference. For now, I'm focusing on reporting and blogging.

Although it's all about writing, reporting and blogging are very different animals. Reporting requires an objective approach to summarize the discussion of a topic at a session, while blogging offers a more free-spirited approach to commenting on a session or the conference experience itself. Blogging also gives you a wider range of ways to express yourself, as you can post audio files, video clips, or photos in addition to commentary in words. If you need more proof of the differences between the two means of communicating from the conference, check out some of the previous conference summaries and blog posts. One thing that reporting and blogging have in common is that they provide a great benefit to you as a writer.

"I always enjoy writing AMWA conference reports because it helps me sharpen my reporting skills and demonstrate my writing ability to my peers. Perhaps best of all, it gives me writing samples that actually have my name on them to show to potential clients," says Donna Miceli, a long-time AMWA member and conference reporter.

Faith Reidenbach, one of the aforementioned members who blogged her way (quite successfully) through Dallas, comments on the benefits of blogging: "If your job requires you to cover medical congresses, or if you're interested in entering the lucrative world of advisory board reporting, gain experience by blogging for the AMWA conference. It's a supportive place to practice turning a report around within hours instead of days or weeks. And it's fun! Instead of expressing other people's thoughts, as we medical communicators do for a living, you get to give your own opinions."

Debra Gordon, a veteran blogger, provides another take on blogging: "Want to get the thoughts rattling around your head out into the world? Want to share your opinion of the AMWA conference freely? Then offer to blog! It takes only a few minutes, it's fun, and it's a good excuse to run out and by an iPad."

If you're going to the conference in Milwaukee--and there are many great reasons to attend--think about your friends and colleagues who can't go. Heck, think about yourself and honing your writing skills. Think about reporting! Thinking about blogging!

To volunteer to report on session from the conference, contact Kristina Wasson-Blader, Conference Coverage Coordinator for the AMWA Journal. To volunteer to blog, contact Vicki White, the Conference Blog Creator and Coordinator.