A New Dentist’s Guide to Winning at Conferences

So you are a newly minted dentist or still training/in school and want to make the best out of your conference experience? No worries…here’s how.

To win you have to have a strategy and in the case of healthcare-conference-winning that breaks down to 3 things. What to do before. What to do while you are there. And, what to do after.

Let’s jump in.


Before the event

Arrange to meet up with colleagues but also plan to separate from them to “mingle” or to do some networking alone so you can meet new people. That way you’ll  have the freedom to talk about whatever you have in common but also learn new things. Figure out a good place to meet and schedule appointments for coffee and catching up. Aim to meet someone face-to-face that you’ve only been communicating with by e-mail/online on IG, etc.

Google yourself. Not in that weird narcissistic way! You genuinely want to see what comes up and review your social media activity to check your professionalism, and adjust your privacy settings if necessary.

If you’re an introvert, plan to be a little bolder than you might normally be. Easier said than done – we know. Expect to be a little uncomfortable but know that you’re learning an essential skill. Making small talk with strangers is good practice for promoting your dental practice and attracting and retaining new patients. If you’re an extrovert, plan to listen more than you talk. Asking questions and being interested in other people’s answers is the best way to make new friends. Finally, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile… what are you waiting for!


At the event

Come prepared with a two minute “spiel” about your professional interests/goals. If you want to make a good first impression, do research into some of the “hot topics” in dentistry so you are prepared to discuss these knowledgeably. Drop by the booths of different exhibitors if you do business with them (or maybe your principal does) so you can meet other sales staff and regional managers. Listen carefully to the presentations you are attending and what people are saying when you’re meeting with them informally on the exhibit floor. Ask thoughtful questions. If you’re keen and ready to learn, people love to be asked for advice.

Don’t be afraid to ask the experts for their professional opinion on a technique or technology they know a lot about. But don’t waste their time. If it seems like something that easily be Googled – Google it! Experts will appreciate it if you show that you know a little bit about their work (e.g., scientific articles they’ve published, other courses they’ve given), and expect you to have paid attention in the lecture. If you hope to discuss a patient’s treatment with them, ask their permission first. (You should also have let your patient know you will be getting some advice about their case.) Some conversations are better held privately or one-to-one (by phone or video conference) after the convention or conference.

If you’ve had a good conversation, get the contact information of the person you’ve been talking to. When you’re starting out as an associate, it’s helpful to get comfortable making small talk with all sorts of people in the dental industry, other oral health professionals, professional advisors to dentists, etc. You can learn something useful from everyone and you never know where your next associateship opportunity will come from. For the same reason you should make an effort to get to know more people in your social circles.

When you want to purchase a dental practice or start one from scratch, you will want to ask for leads and arrange professional consultations. Speakers will usually include their contact information at the beginning and end of their presentations – take notes. When approaching speakers after presentations you may have to wait quite a long while to talk with them. So give some thought to making your questions concise and to the point. Speaking with them in person will help them put a face to your name. When you contact them by e-mail later, you can mention that you met them at the conference and attended their presentation to remind them.

Exhibitors will often have a stack of business cards and sales staff will follow up with you if you give them yours. Make sure your phone is powered up so you can add colleagues to your contacts list immediately. Notes are helpful “memory jogs” – jot down a few points about your conversation/where you met them in the contact information on your phone. 


After the event

Make sure to follow up with a request for if you’d like to talk about any subject in greater depth. Be specific about why you want to meet with them. Respect their time. Book 20 minutes and make sure you keep the appointment. Keep in touch (occasionally) with anyone who’s introduced you to someone else. Whether or not the introduction led anywhere, or simply gave you encouragement. Let them know how things worked out for you and what you’re doing now. This is how you build a professional network. Connect with the people you’ve met at the conference or convention on social media and engage with their content. What you’re doing is creating a “digital profile” for the next conference or convention, and gaining some visibility in online dental professional communities that can help you meet even more people next time!


Ready. Set. Connect!

Ok! You ready to go out there and make the best of that conference and make all the connections of your professional dreams. Just don’t forget to have fun doing it – conferences should first and foremost be a time to destress from the daily grind in clinic. You have your strategy now go out there and make the most of that next healthcare conference or event.


Dr. Lesia Waschuk is a Compliance & Education Specialist at Prep Doctors. She has more than 20 years of experience working with the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) and NDEB. 

If you are attending the 2023 ODA ASM, make sure to stop by our booth (#1947). We’d be happy to connect and chat about some of our highly sought after CE courses and we’ve got lots of prizes and freebies as well. See you there!