Summer is just around the corner, bringing Chicago's most exciting annual conference in clinical oncology back to McCormick: the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

With over 40,000 professionals on the frontlines of cancer research, 2.6 million square feet of convention center space, and a full 5 days jam-packed with activities and symposiums, you’re probably overwhelmed.

HDMZ’s Beginner’s Guide to ASCO will help lead you through the conference!


Step 1. Plan ahead!

The first step is to ask yourself what you would like to get out of this conference. Is it to hear an insightful talk and learn more about the industry? Maybe you want to network? Whatever it may be, work out your priorities so you can plan accordingly.

  • Select which talks you want to attend in advance
    • ASCO has a program guide that makes it easy to filter through the sessions to find the ones you want
  • Choose events outside of ASCO to attend
  • Know who you would like to network with
    • It’s much easier to coordinate meetings in advance rather than on the fly
    • Consider reaching out on LinkedIn prior to the conference to set aside some time to talk
  • Create an itinerary
    • Include details of the talks, events, and meetings you’re attending (room #, building #, and start time are all useful)
    • PRO TIP: Use reminder apps to stay on time! You can customize the time that the notification goes off

Step 2. What to pack?

  • Chicago’s early June typically hovers around the high 60 degrees. Also bring an umbrella, as it can often rain! 
  • With ASCO’s dress code of business casual, make sure to wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking and long, action-packed days. 
  • Snacks, as well as hand sanitizer, gum, and mints
    • Anything easy to carry and eat: protein bars, reusable water bottle, and something caffeinated
  • Business cards
  • PRO TIP: A spare bag. There will be loads of free stuff, and you’ll need something to hold all of your newly acquired treasures


Step 3. You’re here, now what?

  • Network, network, network
    • Make a clear effort to introduce yourself to others
    • PRO TIP: Create a QR code to your LinkedIn profile
  • Attend the events that you set up prior to arrival
  • Meet up with these HDMZers! 
  • If you're feeling overwhelmed at the conference, take a breather
    • ASCO provides many spaces to get away from the crowds:
      • Garden in the Lakeside Center (East Building), Level 3, D2 Terrance, that looks out over Lake Michigan
      • Prayer/quiet room at North Building, Grand Concourse, Level 3
      • McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary is a nice spot to decompress, or meet up with colleagues to walk and talk along the lake
    • These activities can be completed sitting or standing

Step 4. Enjoy Chicago!

  • Take lots of photos and notes at the conference
  • Try deep dish pizza
    • Classic institutions for deep dish are Lou Malnati's, Giardano's, and Pequod's
  • Get dinner in Chinatown
    • About a mile west from McCormick Place
    • Some of the best places to check out are listed here in Eater's Chicago
    • One of our favorite spots is Minghin Cuisine for dim sum, which is great for large groups of people!
  • PRO TIP: Have fun
    • Visit the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum, all just a short walk from McCormick Place
    • Take a stroll through Grant Park 
    • Explore the Museum of Science and Industry


We hope you had a great time in Chicago, but the benefits of attending ASCO carry over after the conference. 

Step 5. Take some time to reflect on your experience and what you learned

  • Write these answers down so you can make the most out of your next conference:
    • Did you meet the people you wanted to? 
    • Did your network and community grow?
    • Did you attend the events you planned?
    • What would you do differently next time around
    • What were your takeaways?

Step 6. Reach out to your new connections and networks

  • Consider sending a note on LinkedIn letting people know it was nice to meet them
  • Share photos on LinkedIn and use your notes to create a recap post

Step 7. Call out to HDMZ!

  • If you were able to meet up with any HDMZers at ASCO, please stay in touch!