Some advance work can help freelancers make the most of #ahcj19 conference

Cynthia Craft

About Cynthia Craft

Cynthia Craft (@cynthiahcraft) is the director of engagement for AHCJ, joining the organization after an extensive career in daily journalism, including a decade on the health care beat. Craft most recently worked as a senior writer at The Sacramento Bee, having also worked for the Los Angeles Times, Dallas Times Herald and the California Journal.

So far, it’s looking as if our upcoming Health Journalism 2019 conference in Baltimore May 2-5 is going to be one of our largest and busiest info-packed gatherings ever.

As the event grows nearer, here’s a handy checklist to help independent journalists, in particular, get ready.

Before the conference, you’ll want to go to our online freelance directory to:

  • Make sure your presence there is as strong as it can be.
  • Spruce up your profile – or add it, if you have not already.
  • Post a photo. If you need one, visit “Head Shot Station” at the conference.
  • Update or curate your list of areas of expertise.
  • Add links to your latest and best work – and your website.
  • Update your email address.

Each week, AHCJ gets calls from editors looking for freelancers to contact for potential assignments. Our fairness policies prevent us from giving an advantage to one member over another. The freelance directory is our answer to such requests and a substantial addition to your toolbox for success.

Also before you travel to Baltimore:

  • Go to healthjournalism.org/hj19 to preview online the topics and speakers of our 60-plus conference panels. You’ll have some difficult choices to make when two or more eye-catching sessions occur in the same time slot. It’s best to confront your dilemma ahead of time.
  • Decide upon systems or methodology that can help you organize your topic information, web resources, expert sources and thoughts about how you can cross-purpose these in primary and secondary stories. Walk away from each panel with at least two story ideas and an organizational format, like spreadsheets, laptop files or separate notebooks to help you remember where you recorded information.
  • It goes without saying: pack plenty of business cards and résumés.
  • Leave some room in your suitcase for helpful materials you will find at the conference.

Upon arriving in Baltimore:

  • Study the printed program for pre-planning and extensive descriptions of the panels. Each day has a handy time-slot grid so you can map out each day’s journey through the conference.
  • Check Page 14 of the program for a pre-selected list of panels “Especially for Freelancers.”
  • While in those sessions, help keep the excitement level high by live-tweeting using special hashtags for each panel – which you will find printed at the end of the program description.
  • If you’ve signed up for PitchFest, take time in advance to prepare and polish story pitches you’ll deliver to editors. PitchFest is always a bit hectic, and you won’t want to lose your cool or blank out on your “elevator pitch” midstream.
  • It’s a given that you’ll be tired and hungry after working hard to squeeze all you can out of the conference. For times when meals are not provided, see our special AHCJ online dining guide.

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