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Conference dos and don’ts

Conference season is now back into full swing; make the most of your time


What are your top tips for attending industry conferences?

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Despite shrinking operational budgets, attendees are booking up and showing up to gather, network, exchange and learn, and yes, enjoy the down time and stress-free environment a few days away from base brings. As a seasoned conference goer and speaker though, here are a few dos and don’ts to enhance your conference experience and ensure you maximize the learning opportunity.


  • Go to all the classes you can. The conference program has been carefully curated and attending all the sessions you can in the track of your choice allows you to gain as much information as you can. Your conference speakers have been selected to give you the latest and the best take aways. Make the most of them and don’t be afraid to ask questions – or line up at the end to engage the speaker.
  • Take notes and photos. Use your notes to create a “takeaways from the conference session” lesson for your next grand rounds or study day. If you have been fortunate enough to have been sent by an organization at their expense to the gathering, plan to pay it forward and prep an update session for your team on your return home.
  • Meet as many people as you can. The classes are only half the benefit of any conference; the network is the other half. On returning home, the ability to pick up the phone, drop an email to a colleague in a similar system with a similar issue may pay dividends in your own organization. Conference name tags usually use larger and bolder font for attendees first names (also helps people like me read them without squinting) so you can address a new colleague with familiarity. Saying their name as you meet them will help you remember it and store the moment.


  • Spend your conference time on your phone or laptop doing your day job. Make sure you have sufficient cover at the office/on your regular shift so you can focus on the education and network in front of you. If you are merely transferring your office to a faraway conference center, you should question your attendance in the first place.
  • Don’t go home with a suntan. Unless you are taking part in the two-day intensive outdoor disaster recover drill class, spend the bulk of your time in sessions and networking opportunities.
  • Don’t chronicle the bars and parties you may drift into on your social media channels. Any photographic record involving holding your beverage of choice and observing your antics is a huge nonstarter and fodder for naysayers and media outlets.


Read next:

How to select education sessions at an EMS conference

6 quick tips for selecting conference education sessions at an EMS conference

Decoding the brochure

I like to maximize my available time and select the sessions I wish to attend before I arrive. Through the years, I have come to discover that the brochure descriptions of the presentations have a much deeper meaning than the two paragraphs submitted by the speaker. They are full of clues as to what you are going to hear and the rhythm, speed, volume and pitch that the content is going to be delivered in. To help you decide who to see and what to listen to, here is a quick decode sheet:

  • “Lively.” Like Ricky Bobby, I talk with my hands.
  • “Fast paced.” I have more slides than the time allows and can’t decide what to take out.
  • “Insightful.” I’m making it up as I go along.
  • “Thoughtful.” There will be lots of pauses as I try and remember what I was going to say.
  • “Scenario-based.” Pull up a sandbag, swing the lamp and I’ll tell you a war story.
  • “Multiple examples.” I haven’t decided how many at the time of submitting the entry.
  • “A real-time look.” Will surf YouTube on the day for suitable video content.

I hope to see you all out there at upcoming EMS conferences. Please stop and say “hi” and add me to your network. Also, make sure you attend all my conference presentations where I will canter through a number of eclectic issues in no particular order in a lively, yet insightful scenario-based way!

This article was originally posted Oct. 10, 2022. It has been updated.

Rob Lawrence has been a leader in civilian and military EMS for over a quarter of a century. He is currently the director of strategic implementation for PRO EMS and its educational arm, Prodigy EMS, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and part-time executive director of the California Ambulance Association.

He previously served as the chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (Virginia), which won both state and national EMS Agency of the Year awards during his 10-year tenure. Additionally, he served as COO for Paramedics Plus in Alameda County, California.

Prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 2008, Rob served as the COO for the East of England Ambulance Service in Suffolk County, England, and as the executive director of operations and service development for the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust. Rob is a former Army officer and graduate of the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and served worldwide in a 20-year military career encompassing many prehospital and evacuation leadership roles.

Rob is a board member of the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration (AIMHI) as well as chair of the American Ambulance Association’s State Association Forum. He writes and podcasts for EMS1 and is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Connect with him on Twitter.