Taylor’s top 10 tips for covering scientific meetings

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Mark Taylor

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonMark Taylor

How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?

Mark Taylor has covered more than a few scientific conferences in his two decades as a health care journalist. While he says that doesn’t qualify him as an expert, he does admit that “over the years I’ve painfully acquired a few tips for how to successfully cover such massive events.”

Most recently, he attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (as a GSA Journalism in Aging Fellow), which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions.

Following that meeting, Taylor shared his top 10 tips for efficiently covering scientific conferences. Find out what they are and then come back here to  add your tips in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Taylor’s top 10 tips for covering scientific meetings

  1. Norman Bauman

    Get as much background in the topic of the meeting/interviews as you can in the limited time you have before the meeting.

    The best place to get that, as a medical librarian recommended, is a review article in a major general journal like NEJM or Lancet.

    An interview really goes well when I pull out an underlined copy of the subject’s article, and say, “You said here that …”

    (Plan B: Sometimes I sit through a presentation and don’t understand it at all. I run up to the speaker with a recorder and say, “Doctor, what’s the main point here? How would you explain it to a community physician?”)

  2. Dan Keller

    1) Ask your editor for any topics at the conference of special interest to him/her. 2) When at poster sessions, look for the posters where attendees congregate. Those are ones of particular interest to people in the field. It’s also a good way to snag someone for an independent comment. 3) When shmoozing people at receptions or while sitting at lunch tables, ask them what they think will be the most interesting topics at the meeting. 4) Good stories can come from news conferences, but remember that those are the stories that the sponsoring organization wants to feature, for whatever reason. Don’t forget that there are also a lot of good stories that don’t make it into news conferences. Some editors seem to demand the “big stories,” ie, the ones that are being featured in news conferences. Some may also appreciate your uncovering presentations that not everyone else has. 5) Good PIO’s can get you speakers’ slides and/or email addresses, as well as independent experts to comment on presentations. Just ask what they can do for you. Be polite and pleasant. 6) If you don’t understand a term, often just asking the person next to you in the audience can get a quick, useful answer (eg, “Psst. What does a diffusion weighted imaging MRI show?”)

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