Health by Tech - Groningen
My first international conference!
On the 11th of May, I set off with poster in hand to present at my first international conference. This also happened to be my first external conference! I was presenting my work on digital skills as a mediator of psychosocial wellbeing factors at the 11th annual Health by Tech conference in Groningen, NL. Despite my initial thought that the Netherlands were fairly close to Wales, it took almost a whole days travelling by coach, plane, 3 trains and a taxi to reach my hotel. I had considered staying in the city centre but was very glad to have booked a hotel directly opposite the convention centre as it meant I could sleep in a little on Thursday morning!
Walking into the conference centre felt quite intimidating, but the organising committee who signed me in and directed me to the poster boards to hang my work were very welcoming. Even though I was early, I noticed most people were already conversing in small groups and, not knowing anyone else there, I felt I couldn’t interject myself. Instead, I got a cup of coffee and did a lap of the other posters being hung. Doing this allowed me to strike up a conversation with another presenter who introduced me to a few people she knew and helped me break the ice.
This poster became very well travelled!
The conference went off without a hitch. I attended fascinating talks about the role of social robots in caring for older adults, the application of VR to improve motor skills in stroke patients and applications to improve adherence to fitness regimes. I had great conversations with academics, business leaders and policymakers about the role and responsibility technology has in promoting health, and how this should include psychological health as well as physical.
After the conference, I had some time to explore the city and visit some sites recommended by people I’d met. I felt very grateful to work in a role that allows for these kinds of experiences to be possible – to meet and learn from field experts, to share my work and get ideas on how to develop it further, and to travel!
An amazing keynote speech by Dr. Olga Perski about the benefits of dynamically tailoring interventions to better suit patients/clients.
As this was my first external and international conference, I did feel like it was a bit of a test run in some ways. I didn’t really know what to expect about a lot of a factors, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot. In light of this, I wanted to share some things that I’d like to do at my next conference in the hopes it might help anyone else preparing to present their work.
I’d like to include my Twitter/LinkedIn handle and email address on the poster so I can encourage people to connect with me. I spoke to some really insightful people and some who seemed to have a genuine interest in my research, but I found it difficult to find a way to be able to follow through with that and translate it into something ongoing. I’m hoping that, in future, if I have my details written down on my poster/slides, then I can ask people I’m having interesting conversations with to follow me/email me so we can keep in touch.
I’d like to be more forthcoming. I found it quite uncomfortable to approach more senior people at the conference and try to strike up a conversation. I think this as a result of imposter syndrome and worrying I wouldn’t be able to keep up in conversation with them. I’m not sure why this was a fear as everyone I spoke to was very welcoming and engaging and I felt like I had something relevant to contribute to all the conversations I had. Next time, I’m going to make a greater effort to approach people I’ve seen talk and ask them about the work they were presenting.
The final thing I’d like to do at the next conference is apply for a talk instead of a poster. As this was my first round of conferences, I stuck within my comfort zone of presenting a poster instead of a talk. The next time I apply, I’m going to follow my own advice and put myself out there and stretch my comfort zone by giving a talk instead of a poster.
Feeling very proud to be presenting my work to leading experts in the field. I had some very positive and thought-provoking feedback!
Of course, I had to share a few pictures of Groningen in the beautiful May sunshine - what a stunning city! I'm so glad I had an opportunity to visit!