November saw the 54th bi-annual European Medical Writing Association (EMWA) meeting held in Riga, Latvia (3-5th November). This training conference is designed for professional medical writers and researchers alike, in both pharmaceuticals and the medical devices industry. The conference offers workshops to improve writing skills and understanding of medical writing specialisms. Individuals at all stages in their careers are welcome and encouraged to attend—those new to the industry, as well as those in senior positions and company founders. Here our in-house Medical Writer, Sarah Croft shares her experience:
Being able to attend conferences in-person again has been a relief, especially for newer members. EMWA provided a chance to feel part of a scientific community wider than just their job role and employers through meeting others also involved in the medical communications industry. For more experienced members, there was the opportunity to attend advanced workshops. Additionally, EMWA provided the chance to reunite with old faces, colleagues from across Europe and friends.
The conference itself was extremely well organised, with screens guiding you to each individual workshop session and colour coded lanyards: green for the ‘newbies’; red for workshop leaders and black for members of the executive committee.
Following the morning workshop on the first day, a welcome session took place. Everyone was gathered into the lecture hall—all eager and looking around, as anyone naturally would when in a room filled with strangers. A warm welcome greeting was given, with the announcement that this year EMWA was being attended by approximately 30 new members—all eyes on the green lanyards! There were fewer people than I had initially anticipated. Perhaps this was due to remaining COVID travel restrictions in some countries, accompanied by a nervousness to travel, or, the opportunity to attend virtually from the comfort of your own office or home.
Workshops focused on improving writing skills for abstracts or plain language summaries (PLSs), for example. Others were more science orientated, such as writing skills required for documents relating to pharmacokinetics. Some key lessons I took away were top tips for writing online and for different types of articles, as well as the introduction of PLSs alongside the recently updated Good Publication Practice policy. Attendees had a variety of writing interests. Some of the participants were regulatory writers, some wrote blog posts, some were solely researchers, and some were freelancers of multiple writing types. EMWA was different to a typical conference in the sense that there was no-one trying to sell a product or service for their company, everyone was there to learn.
From my point of view, attending the conference in person provided more benefits than attending online ever could. The opportunity to meet new and interesting people in the industry face-to-face—namely members of the executive board of EMWA, is an experience that could never be matched online. Additionally, when attending in person, you are presented with a larger sense of community and opportunities to share experiences and ask questions. Sadly, this is the last in-person conference for EMWA ever!!
Perhaps in the future online attendance will be developed to better reflect meetings in person (metaverse?) but for now, I recommend everyone to attend conferences in person if financially and physically possible.
Thank you to all the organisers at EMWA who made my first experience very memorable, and of course, thank you to all the friendly faces. Look out for next month’s more detailed article which discusses the EMWA symposium on what sustainability in medical communications and healthcare looks like.