Plans For Game Day: A Medical Student Conference And Residency Fair

THE DRAFT

Now that you have been drafted to serve as a club officer for the upcoming academic year, your goals should include keeping pace with last year's activities. No matter whether you are president of the emergency medicine club or the family medicine interest group, your intentions should be the same: strive to make this year more exciting, intriguing, and overall better than before. Where do you begin?

VISION

As you accept this new management position, your club members are looking to you for leadership and progression in a positive direction.

Create a common vision for the future of your club. Analyze what has worked in the past and what has not. Feel free to change the format of a certain activity, or replace it completely. A successful student day with a residency fair is a large undertaking.

In one example, a club's core curriculum was supplemented with a very successful Emergency Medicine Student Conference and Residency Fair, with over 70 students in attendance representing 7 different schools. This event showcased three morning lectures involving emergency medicine topics, lunch and residency fair, and afternoon small group afternoon tracks. The key to the success of the day's activities was coupled with good attendance. After all, a good party requires that people show up. The ace up their sleeve is that this conference was free of charge, a feat that your club could easily accomplish with advanced planning.

TRAINING CAMP

As you know, training camp takes place during the dog days of summer. Seize this time for some preliminary planning. Focus on redefining your goals for the year, start brainstorming about fundraising activities for the big game, determine first-rate lecture topics and start actively seeking out a coach with playoff experience. To find a good coach scout your school's academic department or regional residency programs.

Part of training camp entails reviewing the rules of the game and building fan support. Meet with the officials at your institution and get it cleared with them in writing. These officials can also give you names of people to contact and aid in room reservation.

STRATEGY

Now on to some of the intricacies of the big game - let's go through it "play by play" to see how it might potentially unfold.

Of most importance is selecting a good date for your activity. Being that your target audience is medical students, this date should be chosen carefully. Plan your conference for a weekend that works for you and your classmates. For example: a Saturday immediately following spring break, knowing that there shouldn't be tests scheduled closely and that most students would have some weekend time to sacrifice.

Format should be the next issue. Chose one that works for you, but a good example is: a general session in the morning with 3 speakers, a residency fair over lunch, and afternoon hands-on tracks.

Once you have a plan for the event, develop a timeline and a program committee. This will create a division of labor and deadlines for the tasks. Two areas to focus on early include fundraising and logistics for the event, which prove to be an invaluable resource. Not only will this free your officers to deal with other concerns, it allows club members that are quite anxious to get involved and help in the process. This will show the fans that the team is working well together at an early stage. Weekly practices for the program committee are essential to get everything ready for the big game.

Since this conference isn't going to cost a dime to attend and there's no formal registration process, you should assign a contact person for the club and have all interested parties go through him/her-again, this will help determine numbers. Your contact person will be responsible for answering questions that might arise in the months/weeks prior to the conference and will ultimately be responsible for the final head count. Set a goal for the number of people you plan on having attending the event; this will depend on your facilities and the number of schools in your area.

How does money fit into this equation? The answer is simple - you either have it or you don't. If your club is fortunate enough to have been blessed with money then it's imperative that it be managed correctly - make your money work for you. If however, your club is starting from scratch, then you must first decide upon some easy ways for your club to fundraise. Here are some relatively easy ideas: market your club's T-shirt, raffles, or investigate possible grant opportunities. Since this event will showcase your school, the alumni association may be a valuable resource.

The next step in the process is arranging speakers for the event. Ask your coach for suggestions of topics and good speakers in the area. This is probably the hardest part of the job, as catching up with numerous physicians and their schedules can be a daunting task. Follow up with and email or phone call and explain what you are trying to set up. Most physicians will admire what the organization is trying to do and be willing to help.

Decide which residency programs to invite by searching the web. Start with an email, send the brochure, and follow up with a phone call. Begin with programs in your city, then region and work outward. They will be more likely to get involved if they know students from around their area who are likely to be interested in their residency, are going.

One key to a successful conference is the marketing, which can start with a nice brochure. With technology today, all of your brochures and flyers can be created with desktop publishing software. This enables you to have professional looking marketing material while still maintaining a cost conscious mindset. Development of a website might also provide an avenue for free exposure.

The last of our plays revolves around maintaining a good relationship with the AV department and environmental services at your location. They might be an invaluable sideline resource to avoid major penalties during the big game.

SALARY CAP

Keep it simple: decide on a budget and stick to it. What to budget for (in order of priority) -- FOOD, FOOD, FOOD, speaker honorariums, guest parking, nametags, setup and miscellaneous items (see figure 1). Remember, this game was planned with the idea of showcasing both your club and your school. Food is not a choice, as the concession stand is a requirement for enjoyment of the big game. If possible, contact your school's food services coordinator and inquire as to how much an event like this might cost. If that's not possible, try a local restaurant, one you know and love and see if they might cater the event. And if push comes to shove, the deli sandwich/cold cuts option is always available, but again you are trying to showcase your club - and the pizza/subs idea has been done before. For an event like this, possibly an eight hour affair, plan on doughnuts, bagels, pastries, coffee, and juice for the morning lecture symposium, a buffet during the lunch hour/residency fair, and (if you can afford it) snacks throughout the afternoon didactic sessions.

Now that you have arranged the food and might be a little tight under the cap, you must figure how to honor those who have given up a weekend to come and participate in this conference. A cash award is usually standard - but as we alluded to earlier, we may not have the money in our budget to give everyone a cash award - and the option of giving different speakers different amounts should really not be considered (we want to be fair). One idea is gift certificates to local restaurants. It actually sends a nice message to the honoree - "thank you for your time this weekend - now go and enjoy a nice meal out with your spouse/significant other in return." The great thing about this type of reward is that it allows you to stay within your pre-planned budget, but tells the recipient that we cared enough to honor him/her with something other than the standard cash award - just some food for thought.

PREGAME

Okay, it's the day before the big game. It's time to take a "cold run" through the activities for the following day. Consequently, a coaches meeting should be held to discuss the upcoming events. Then a "walk through” conducted, looking at all of the rooms reserved for the next day, assuring that the proper number of tables were set up, and that introductions were practiced.

GAME DAY

Playbook Checklist:

  • AV Equipment
  • Camera/Photographer
  • Room Reservations In Writing
  • Supplies (Nametags, Badge holders, Markers)
  • Honorariums
  • Banners
  • Parking Vouchers
  • Verify Food Orders

 

Try and step back and enjoy your event. All your hard work has paid off and you have succeeded in your goal of providing a fun and intellectually challenging activity for all!

REVIEWING THE FILMS

Reflect on the events of the day. You might want to pencil in changes relating to your game plan for the next season. Finally, remember to think about all of those who helped you achieve your goal and thank them.

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