My first #hcsmca twitter meet-up in Toronto

Over the past year, I’ve been getting involved with the #hcsmca (Health Care in Social Media Canada) twitter community tweet chats. When an opportunity came up to help organize an upcoming event, I jumped at it not only to get involved around discussion about health care, but also as an opportunity to help increase exposure to the PA profession.

In my own experience, trying to stimulate conversation and engagement to encourage individuals to speak on social media avenues is difficult. Just because you build it, does not necessarily mean that they will come. Colleen Young, the founder of #hcsmca recounted her own journey with #hcsmca as an introduction to the panel discussion. A great example of success before transitioning into topics of “Failure in Social Innovation”.

With that being said, I was so impressed with the strength of the #hcsmca community.  Like-minded individuals with diverse backgrounds coming together to bring their talent, insight and expertise to issues around health care in social media. 

Organizing the Event

The coordination of an event entirely online with one initial meeting in person. This was a novelty to me, since there was very little micromanaging that I am used to with other initiatives and organizations. There were regular check-in emails and individuals overseeing the entire event. The logistics of the event (e.g. venue, meals, audio equipment, capability for live streaming) were delegated and like a well-oiled machine Sam and Colleen oversaw the completion of specific tasks. When I required feedback on a blog entry providing background on a tweet chat designed to set the tone for the event, they were quick to provide support and resources. 

This being the 5th #hcsmca meetup, everything ran smoothly. There were a few interesting points and suggestions that came up:

What went well:

  • Registration with Eventbrite: For registration there was an attendance list printed from the Eventbrite group. It was so easy to send notifications, create an event banner, edit details. I didn’t realize that we could have acquired a QR scanner so we could check attendance with printed tickets as an option. This is a tool I will definitely suggest for future meetings in areas outside of #hcsmca.event-brite
    Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 8.31.47 AM
  • Use of Google Hangouts: which allowed for meetings with voice, video AND chat. I’ve done teleconference meetings before, and I believe it costs money to setup and it requires calling an obscure number, punching in a long pin (which you need to keep track of) and the conference “moderator” to be present. This tool easily allows you to share links, pics, media and also share your screen. It’s a great collaboration tool!
  • Format of the twitter meet up: I really appreciated how informal and candid the panel discussion was. The format was three panelists having a discussion with occasional input from the audience. As a student, the “being lectured to” format is all to familiar. So although the discussion was not as structured, all points brought up captured the  many facets of failure and social health innovation.
  • Panel discussion went by quickly: The panel discussion took place between 7:15 pm to 8:15 pm approximately. I was surprised when the moderator Craig concluded the session. I felt “Failure in Social Innovation” was a topic that could have been discussed at length, and an hour was “too short”.
  • Mingling: Although I couldn’t stay for long due to early clinic the next day, there was plenty of time for mingling and networking. During the planning process, it had been brought up that people didn’t feel there was adequate time for networking at previous #hcsmca meetups.
  • Media coverage: I saw a personnel from CBC, and rumors of a possible Toronto Star journalist at the event.
  • The event was sold out: 110 available seats to a free event. Many people had brought colleagues, and individuals who had not heard about the #hcsmca community. It was refreshing to see a social media-organized community come together and run an event successfully.
  • Ustreaming & Monitoring of #hcsmca hashtag: The event was live-streamed, and we have yet to hear back about the number of participants/viewers of the stream. Yaser (@YaserAlyounes) oversaw this and fielded many of my questions about the use of livestream. It took a lot of work to ensure the right audio and video equipment was available for use. Yaser also monitored the #hcsmca hashtag to look for feedback regarding sound and lighting.


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Yaser hard at work while cameras live stream the event. 

Ideas and Suggestions for future events:

  • Tweeting at the Twitter Meetup: While the panel discussion was going live, I was tweeting up a storm on my phone grabbing relevant quotes and good points that I felt were important. There were quite a few typos, so if I ever attend another event, I may consider bringing a laptop.
  • Screen of live #hcsmca tweets: There were people live tweeting at the event. It would have been nice to have a screen displaying tweets tagged with #hcsmca updating live at the event. I’ve seen this done at a conference and it certainly increased engagement! Using tools such as makes it easy to setup.
    Screen shot 2013-06-19 at 2.38.53 PM

The Event

I got to meet and work with a lot of the familiar faces from the #hcsmca community: Colleen Young, Alaina Cyr, Jon Sachs, Sam Dunsiger, Annie Williams, Kate, and Craig Thompson,

I attended the #hcsmca Toronto meet-up in the heart of downtown at the Hard Rock Cafe at Yonge and Dundas Square. It was a convenient location, and we had an an entire floor reserved.

 Michelle, Colleen, Jackie, and moderator Craig Colleen with the #hcsmca moderators Colleen talking about the origins of #hcsmca

Craig, Michelle, Colleen and Jackie for the main event. 

Getting Involved

I definitely encourage other Physician Assistants and PA students to get involved in initiatives in your community outside of the clinic and classroom (provided you have the time and energy to commit). These provide you with opportunities to develop teamwork, leadership and communication skills. It’s good to continue learning and pushing yourself, exposing yourself to new people, places, environments and things, and to go outside of your comfort zone – a challenge I find especially harder after completing university.