I am very fortunate that my job allows me to do a bit of interstate and international travel. Working for a not-for-profit means that while there are some opportunities for attendance at conferences, finding sponsorship is necessary if I want to attend all the conferences and meetings that are worthwhile and beneficial to my job.

Last month, Johnson and Johnson kindly sponsored my travel to Barcelona for the EASD conference, specifically to attend its second annual European Bloggers Summit.  As the only person from Diabetes Australia lucky enough to be given an opportunity to attend the conference, I knew that I would be waving the Australian flag enthusiastically as I spoke about our experiences with diabetes social media and blogging. I searched out all the relevant, social media-focussed sessions and made sure I could get to them.

The day after arriving, I attended an IDF symposium about how social media can improve the lives of people with diabetes. The symposium was on the Sunday before the Tuesday start of the EASD meeting, so unfortunately, it wasn’t as well attended as I fell it should have been.

Given my recent presentation at the ADS/ADEA conference, I was very interested to hear this session – especially the presentation by Claire Pesterfield because as well as being a PWD, she’s also a diabetes nurse. Claire made some really interesting and valid points about how difficult it is for HCPs to jump on the social-media-as-support bandwagon when in most hospitals sites such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the hospitals’ IT people. It’s not really all that easy to tell people about great online support networks if the ‘red screen of death’ pops up every time you try to log on to one of them. I’ve been told that this situation is mimicked here in Australia.

We also heard Paul Buchanan (moderator the GBDOC tweet chats) speak about his recent (ridiculous, crazy, lunatic) arrival in Barcelona. From Brussels. On a bicycle. Paul and his group Team Blood Glucose were part of the Mobile Health Grand Tour – made up of a group of people who forgot that there are planes, trains and automobiles available to assist in the 2,400km journey from Brussels to Barcelona. Paul spoke about how social media and new diabetes technologies were employed on the ride. Interesting stuff!

J&J DOCThe Euro Bloggers Summit ran on the Tuesday and Wednesday. It was a couple of days of workshops and presentations which covered how we could improve the numbers of people reading our blogs and ensure that we have the right ‘look and feel’ to them so that they were attractive to readers.

While the formal presentations were interesting and provided me with a lot to the think about, the thing that was the most valuable was the time spent speaking and networking with the other bloggers. There was a common theme in the room. While we like to think that there are people reading our blogs, it’s not really about the numbers. The real reason we all do what we do is because we are trying to connect with others who are going through the same things. We’re hoping that someone will read what we write and say ‘I thought I was the only one. But I’m not. I don’t feel so alone anymore’. We are telling our stories and sharing our fears and hopes while we look out for people who can share their stories with us.

Social media has the ability to remove all the things that get in the way of us feeling connected. We don’t worry about geography and thanks to translating software, language barriers can be broken down. Even pesky time-zones differences seem easily surmountable.

Being in the room with people who are doing the same things as me is an incredible privilege. Getting to hear about their work and their lives is an honour and I am grateful for every opportunity I get to learn from them. We need to start creating more opportunities like this in Australia. The World Diabetes Conference is the perfect chance for that to happen. Please take advantage of the fact that this significant diabetes meeting is being held in Melbourne and that there is discounted registration available to consumers. I’ll be there and I really hope to see some of you too!

Disclaimer

Johnson & Johnson covered my travel and accommodation costs so I could attend the Animas European Bloggers Summit. They were also kind enough to cover registration costs to the EASD meeting. There was no expectation that I would write about the Summit (or them). As part of this arrangement, I will be presenting for them at their booth at the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne in December. You should come along and heckle me!

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