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I love the big ophthalmology meetings. For me, it’s a case of an ever-expanding circle of friends composed of ophthalmologists, scientists, congress staff, fellow journalists, PR and industry types (some of whom are generous with their significant expense accounts...). It’s fantastic to see familiar faces and resume conversations against a backdrop of the latest and greatest in ophthalmology. But here’s the thing: I think I prefer – and learn more from – the smaller meetings. And I’m not talking about the frustrations people feel when there are two must-see parallel sessions.

I find that the smaller the meeting, the easier it is to access the speakers. Few people reading this editorial will have a “PRESS” ribbon under their ARVO Congress badge, or MEDIA written at the bottom of their AAO pass. (Both of which literally open doors for me.) But even then, I often find it hard to catch the superstar speaker after she or he has presented their latest work on the podium at the bigger conferences. The speaker often gets crowded and has to rush off to another pressing commitment. However, when I found myself at the CXL Experts Meeting in Zurich last year, it was no problem getting hold of the likes of Theo Seiler after he’d presented some impressive data – he was sitting next to me at the back of the room before and after his presentation! I kept bumping into him during coffee and lunch – and he may have been sick of the sight of me by the end of the meeting. In fact, there was a whole host of excellent speakers – top names in the field – and I was able to chat to all of them at some point without issue. 

Clearly, these people are busy and in high demand, so that sort of access – and the amount of time you can spend – is rare. And it’s something I have to give Robert Osher great credit for. My first visit to his meeting – Cataract Surgery: Telling It Like It Is – was back in January this year. It’s by no means small, but the faculty are only there on the condition that they’re available to the delegates throughout the (very long) day. I could speak to surgeons like it was a conference a tenth of the size. And that’s important. I always have questions and receiving answers makes me better at my job. I’m pretty certain that it’s also the same for you. So consider the smaller meetings: if you manage to corner an expert, you might learn more than you could ever imagine...

Mark Hillen
Editor

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About the Author

Mark Hillen

I spent seven years as a medical writer, writing primary and review manuscripts, congress presentations and marketing materials for numerous – and mostly German – pharmaceutical companies. Prior to my adventures in medical communications, I was a Wellcome Trust PhD student at the University of Edinburgh.

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