How far do you fly professionally? Do you hover in your office, working day in and day out, honing your skills through a "roll up your sleeves and work" experience? Or do you venture out and tap into the expertise of others to help you gain even more knowledge and skills? Perhaps more importantly, have you ever considered what you might be able to offer to others?
Expanding our professional wings is something we all think about every summer, as we pore over the registration brochure for the AMWA annual conference, trying to select workshops and sessions from the wealth of outstanding educational options. Those options are available to us because other AMWA members made a commitment to share their knowledge and experience. What about you? What can you share?
If you're an AMWA member, you've received reminders about the various ways you can contribute to the annual conference. Take advantage of these opportunities to help you fly a little farther professionally. The AMWA breakfast roundtables and coffee and dessert klatches are the perfect opportunity for a first-time presenter: the setting is informal and the number of attendees is low. The deadline to submit proposals for either roundtables or klatches is March 31, 2011. Maybe you have a way of streamlining or improving the quality of your work or have done some research that would be of interest to other medical communicators. If so, think about submitting a proposal for an AMWA poster; the deadline is March 18, 2011. Are you a workshop leader in the making? It's too late to become a workshop leader at the 2011 conference, but it's never too late to plan for a future as a workshop leader.
What will you gain from presenting at an AMWA conference? Much. The December 2010 issue of the AMWA Journal featured "Enhancing Oral Presentation Skills" in the Professional Development section. In this article, Kristina Wasson-Blader described the many benefits of giving oral presentations—you enhance your organizational and visual aid development skills, expand your professional network, improve your communication skills, learn new subject matter, and mentor students. You will also gain self-confidence, which helps prepare you for even more professional engagements.
AMWA is home for us, but as we all know, there's benefit in flying from the comfort of home. We should explore additional venues where we can help other professionals enhance the quality of writing and editing in a wide variety of medical and health care settings. I recently attended the Alliance for CME conference and, while I enjoyed the experience and gained some valuable knowledge, I was disappointed by the dearth of sessions on the actual work of developing CME content. My conversations with other AMWA colleagues who were at the conference confirmed that, indeed, such sessions were lacking. We joked that maybe we were the ones who had to lead those sessions. But that's not really a joke.
As a result of my experience at the Alliance conference, I am submitting an abstract for a session related to developing CME content at next year's event. I asked a client to present the session with me so that we can combine our areas of expertise to offer a more comprehensive session for attendees. The collaboration also enhances my working relationship with my client. In short, it's a win-win situation. Could you, too, offer knowledge or skills to others in the CME world? The deadline for abstract submission is March 18, 2011, and information on submitting abstracts is available on the Alliance Web site.
The Alliance conference was not the only time that I've felt that more of an "AMWA presence" was needed at a professional meeting. I was happy to see at least one or two AMWA presenters at last year's Health and Science Communications Association conference, but I thought there was definitely room for more of us and what we know. A quick review of the program schedule for the 2011 Association of Teachers of Technical Writing meeting revealed approximately three sessions with a topic related to medical communication. Surely there are more of us who can help shine greater light on this topic.
Think about the work you do and what other organizations you belong to. Who would best benefit by your wisdom? If you're a regulatory writer, you could present at a future Drug Information Association event. If you work in a corporate environment, the Association of Business Communication convention may be the place for your presentation. If you're from the public health arena, you can share your expertise at the American Public Health Association meeting. If you're in public relations, the Health Academy conference (a group within the Public Relations Society Association) can be an outlet for your wisdom.
I know what you're thinking. You don't have the time—or the money—to travel all over the place. But if you plan to attend one of these meetings anyway, consider making it an opportunity to present. Your employer may even be more inclined to support your travel (with time and money). Also, check out the locations of the meetings; if one is scheduled for a city near you, seize the opportunity.
Expanding yourself professionally is not limited to what you can learn from others. It also involves sharing what you've learned. If we all venture out into venues beyond AMWA, we not only spread our professional wings but we also heighten awareness of AMWA and enhance the credibility and value of our profession.
We are the ones with the unique blend of education, skills, knowledge, and experience regarding medical communication. It's time for the rest of the world to know that.