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Tomorrow I leave for Montreal, heading to the IFHIMA congress. This represents a great chance to get together with peers whose friendships have built over years in the profession. The HIM community is small in numbers, and as we move through our careers, we have the opportunity to work with HIM professionals in many different task teams, committees, or national initiatives. We get to know each other over board room tables, webinars and boxed lunches.

Of course, a conference such as this is also a chance to meet people I don’t know, and to start developing a rapport with them. And as an international conference, this conference allows all of us to meet people from beyond our provincial and national borders…we can share experiences, and learn from each other.

And we can’t forget the value of the congress in learning about the topics presented – and such a wealth of topics this congress offers! From sessions on the education of the HIM professional, to experiences in deploying an electronic record within a facility, there is sure to be something of interest regardless of your work experience and position. The disadvantage though is that there are so many topics and you can’t attend them all. The overall objective of attending the sessions is to identify those that may have the same issues as your workplace. Perhaps there are answers or approaches to deal with scenarios that haven’t been considered – now is your chance to explore options.

The lectures, talks and panels might provide some new ideas, but they can be one-directional, particularly as the organizers try to cram as many sessions as possible into the few days of the congress. Audience participation is usually encouraged, but the time limits can constrain some of the discussions. This means that you need to invest time in connecting with other people.

Most conferences have scheduled social events or dinners one of the nights of the conference. These events are often nice, but sometimes can very cliquish as people converse with those that they know, and haven’t seen since the last conference. I try to circulate – like the hostess at a party, I try to meet as many new people as I can. I consider every conversation and introduction as an opportunity to learn, to make a connection that may lead to a new topic for a course, a new practicum location, a guest speaker, or even over time, a new friendship.

The surprise is the most interesting, informative and educational moments are not spent in the sessions themselves: it’s in informal interactions with other attendees. These one of a kind, personal conversations you have with other people can only happen at the event. The legacy of these connections will last long after the conference has ended.

If you are attending the congress, find me, and let’s have a conversation. If you aren’t attending this congress, I hope to meet you at another conference sometime.