Abstract Specifics (Oxymorons Unite!)

Both Derek and I have the good (usually) fortune of being parents to young children. As any parent will tell you, one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences is watching your son or daughter develop their own personalities, their own interests, and their own identity.

While CMEpalooza doesn’t cry, complain, or beg to “Stay up just another 15 minutes, PLLLLEEEAASSSEEE,” watching as this new endeavor slowly matures and evolves has its own set of rewards. What started as an idea Derek thought up while eating his Count Chocula one morning has grown from a “do-it-myself-and-let’s-see-if-anyone-really-notices” thing to an event that is eagerly anticipated and guaranteed to reach a broad swath of the CME community.

So for those wondering if CMEpalooza Spring and Fall are happening again, yes, of course they are. The dates were released last week – Wednesday, April 8 and Wednesday, October 21. We’ve sent in our application to make these federal holidays so that everyone can enjoy the festivities without having to worry about pesky work getting in the way, but you might want to put a grueling all-day meeting into your calendars just in case the wheels of government move more slowly than we hope.

Here is what we have in store for our centerpiece Spring extravaganza (note: CMEpalooza Spring is different than CMEpalooza Fall. This is actually our second CMEpalooza Spring, though it was only called “CMEpalooza” the first time around because no one anticipated it would last long enough to have multiple versions).

What is staying the same:

  1. CMEpalooza Spring will continue to be free for our learning audience. This won’t change. Ever.
  2. We’ll still use Google Hangout On Air as our delivery platform, giving learners the ability to watch every session both in real time and upon its conclusion at their leisure.
  3. You’ll see presenters from a range of backgrounds and professional settings offering their thoughts and insights into our evolving world.

What is changing:

  1. It’s one day instead of two. Easier for the moderators and less of a hassle for learners
  2. The abstract application process has more defined guidelines. Last year, if you wanted in, you were in. We’re going to be a little more selective this year.
  3. The agenda is going to be crowdsourced by the CME/CE community. Unlike CMEpalooza Fall, Big Brothers (Derek and I) will not be deciding the topics and speakers.

Here is how the abstract process is going to work:

  1. If you are interested in leading a session for CMEpalooza Spring, click on the “Presenter” tab. That will take you to our online submission process. Creativity and innovation are strongly encouraged. We like to think that CMEpalooza is an out-of-the-box meeting so we are hoping for out-of-the-box sessions. There are full details on the “Presenter” page to give you a better sense of what we are looking for.
  2. Abstracts can be submitted until midnight on Friday, January 30.
  3. We will post details on all of the submitted abstracts somewhere on the website and open up voting on the agenda. You will be able to pick the top 4 or 5 sessions you’d like to be included in CMEpalooza Spring. The abstracts that get the most votes will get onto the agenda. Simple.
  4. We’ll contact those individuals who make the cut and put together the official schedule (and, obviously, we’ll make the announcement to the world via a Fox prime-time special right in the middle of American Idol)

Now it’s up to you. Think about what you’ve seen with the first year of CMEpalooza. Think about the Google Hangout platform and how it may be best utilized. Think about online education you’ve previously been a part of planning and how you can take the best of what you’ve worked on and put it into action.

We got comments and feedback from many of you on ways we can improve the experience, but our program is only as good as our presenters. We’ll post some more tips and hints in the coming weeks to try to get your creative juices flowing, and for those going to Dallas for the ACEHP meeting, we’ll be around (and don’t miss our session, Hanging with Mr. Google (On Air) Thursday at 1:15 p.m.) to answer questions and drum up excitement.

And now back to yelling at someone for hitting their sister.

Dates for Upcoming CMEpaloozas

Fine, nobody liked the poem I posted yesterday (I tried to convince Scott I was building up anticipation for the various CMEpalooza Spring announcements that are forthcoming. He wasn’t buying it.) So, lets just move on.

Here is announcement #1: the dates for both 2015 CMEpalooza Spring and Fall (This is, obviously, Scott’s doing. I break out in hives when I try to schedule something this far in advance.)

CMEpalooza Spring 2015: April 8, 2015
CMEpalooza Fall 2015: October 21, 2015

I suggest you call your local Hampton Inn right now, reserve a conference room, invite your entire office, project the CMEpalooza sessions onto a giant screen, and serve wings, hoagies (that’s a “sub” or “grinder” for you non-southeast Pennsylvanians), California rolls (for the vegetarians) and lots of coffee. But that’s just me. At the very least, do mark it in your calendars and plan to spend a little time with CMEpalooza on those dates.

Announcement #2 will be coming early next week and will cover the specifics of how we plan to develop the agenda for CMEpalooza Spring. It’s definitely a departure from how we planned CMEpalooza Fall 2014. I think you’re going to like it.

The Coming of Spring

The ice-king trembles on his throne,
And holds his rod with loosened hand;
For there are murmurs in the air
Of one who cometh, sweet and fair,
To break with smiles the monarch’s band.

The skies are dawning a new blue,
To welcome her whose dancing feet
Thro’ cloudland hasten from afar,
Guided by sun, and moon, and star,
Her waiting friends once more to greet

The timid violets lift their heads,
And heavenward turn their gentle eyes,
And catch the fragrance newly born
Which cometh with the Spring’s glad dawn,
And steal their color from the skies.

The merry birds on twig and branch
Trill out the news with fluttering wings,
While Robin seeks the early fruit,
Impatient watching the green shoot,
And the glad tidings gaily sings.

The brook, grown weary of restraint,
Has burst its weakened bonds at last,
And rushing down the mountain-side,
Lends its fresh influence far and wide,
And Winter’s icy reign is past!

- Mary Dow Brine, The Coming of Spring

CMEpalooza Spring is coming…

CMEpalooza Fall Infographic

“So, how many people did you have watching CMEpalooza?”

That is probably the most frequently asked question Scott and I heard after CMEpalooza Fall (contrary to popular belief, it was not “Did Derek get more handsome this year or was it just the lighting?” Hard to believe, I know.). Anyhoo, it’s actually a harder question to answer than you might expect. We don’t do registration, we don’t require evaluations (though a big thank you to the 100+ who did complete our optional survey!), and more than one person can be watching the same video feed. It makes determining the actual amount of “participants” rather complicated and a mess to explain.

With that in mind, I’m delighted to be able to share with you the CMEpalooza Fall 2014: Key Takeaways infographic designed and created for us by the wonderful folks at infograph-ed (Check ‘em out. They’re new!). They have done a fantastic job of combining our data points from multiple sources and using the key takeaways from that data to create a really cool visual representation. I always thought it would be neat to create an infographic as an outcomes report for a CME activity — but never managed to get it done — so seeing this was a big thrill. Drop us a note in the comments and let us know what you think.

CMEpalooza Fall infograph

CMEpalooza Fall Wrap Up

When I put together the first CMEpalooza back in March, I fully admit that a large part of doing it was to prove a point: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to produce a pretty good continuing education program.

Mission accomplished.

With CMEpalooza Fall, Scott and I wanted to move beyond just proving a point and producing something that was “pretty good.” Our goal this time around was to improve the educational experience for those watching and to provide something of real value to the continuing healthcare education community. Judging from the feedback we have received about last week’s event, I believe we can say that we succeeded.

But before I put too much strain on the ol’ rotator cuff patting myself on the back, I’d like to offer up a few thank yous.

Thank you to all of our panelists. Really, I don’t think we could have asked for a better group. If you’re looking for an advantage between holding a virtual vs. a live conference, look no further than the panelists we were able to line up. I have absolutely no doubt that the only reason some of our panelists agreed to participate was the fact that they could do it from their home/office and not have to travel. That’s a huge plus.

I also want to thank our panelists for their patience in learning a technology that few of them had used prior to CMEpalooza and dealing with the goofballs running the program. Poor Christopher Drake patiently spent 40 minutes on a practice Hangout with me while I tried to figure out why his audio wasn’t working, only to discover the next day that I had my laptop muted the entire time. The lesson, as always, is that I’m an idiot.

Thank you to our moderators. A big reason that CMEpalooza went as well as it did was the fantastic work of the moderators. I admit to being slightly nervous as to how seriously they would take their role considering that many of them had no idea what CMEpalooza or a Hangout was. But every single one of them proved to be adaptable to the format and did a marvelous job of directing the conversation. Several folks mentioned that one of the things they most appreciated about CMEpalooza was the difference in tone of the conversations — both more casual and candid than the typical conference. That is a direct result of the work of the moderators to encourage that type of conversation (I also think it’s a result of the panelists not being able to see an actual audience…).

Thank you to my co-producer, Scott. Yeah, yeah, I’m not going to get too mushy here, but I do want to give credit where credit is due. After the initial Palooza, Scott is the one who came to me with the idea of doing another one with only panel sessions in order to better utilize the Hangout format for its intended purpose. He was right, and CMEpalooza Fall was a better program as a result. Kudos to him (side note: in case you ever get concerned that we take CMEpalooza too seriously, just ask to read our supposedly CMEpalooza-related email exchanges sometime. Recent conversations included an argument over whether or not Cool Ranch Cheetos do, in fact, exist, along with one where Scott called me a “waffler” and I responded with a Homer Simpson-esque “mmmm…waffles.” It’s amazing we get anything accomplished.)

Thank you to all of you who watched CMEpalooza Fall. It goes without saying that this is the most important thank you of all. I was truly blown away by the number of viewers for CMEpalooza and the amount of individuals who completed the survey (for more specifics, you can read the post Scott wrote earlier in the week). The fact that the website had over 400 unique visitors on the day of CMEpalooza Fall is just stunning to me. If ever you need a reason to believe in the power of social media, consider this: the majority of the marketing for CMEpalooza Fall was done via four social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog). We were also really thrilled with the increased amount of questions and interaction from the audience this time around. I think the inclusion of a texting line to send in questions helped, but I also think people were a little more willing to try out Twitter and Google+ this time. Plus, there were just more people watching to send in questions.

And last, but certainly not least, a big thank you to our sponsors. I realize this is where everyone rolls their eyes and thinks, “Oh, great – he’s pandering to the sponsors now. BORING!” so I’ll keep it brief. It’s not an easy decision to support a conference where, when you ask the guys in charge to tell you how many people participated last year and how many you expect this year, they shrug their shoulders and tell you, “We’re not sure.” I am thankful for those who took a chance on sponsoring CMEpalooza and I hope they’re happy with the results.

Thanks again to all of you. This was fun. How about we all do it again in the spring?

CMEpalooza Fall… By the Numbers

In the months leading up to CMEpalooza Fall, we were often asked, “How many people attended the inaugural spring CMEpalooza? And how many do you expect at this one?”

Our answers? “We’re really not sure.” And, “We’re really not sure.”

So much for a data-driven industry.

This time around, however, we have a much better handle on these sorts of things. And 7 hours of education later (with a few days to decompress and let the numbers sink in), we’re happy to report the following:

  • The CMEpalooza website attracted 449 unique visitors and 3,042 page views on the day of the event, both daily records for the site.
  • There were between 64 and 103 live viewers at any given time for our 7 sessions (note: one viewer can sometimes equal greater than one participant. See first bullet point under the survey data description below). The most viewed live panel was our “Have We Forgotten About the Content in Continuing Medical Education?” session. On average, the live audience for CMEpalooza was about double what we saw for the spring event.
  • According to YouTube, there have been 1,343 views of our sessions. Currently, the most viewed session is “The Future of CME: What Will CME/CPD Look Like in 5-10 Years?”
  • Since we announced the date and format of CMEpalooza Fall on May 13, we had 10,388 page views to this website. Some days (namely, the weekends), we only had 10-20 folks who came to the site, while most weekdays, especially when new content was made available, we ranged between 50-150 page views.

In addition to this raw data, we also received completed surveys from 116 individuals (thank you to all of them). If you didn’t complete one, there is still time. Go here.

Here is what we learned so far:

  • Of the survey cohort, the majority (90%) watched CMEpalooza alone, although there were several large groups, some with as many as 25 individuals who gathered to marvel at the wisdom of our panelists.
  • Our audience was diverse, with 38% from medical education companies, 12% from both hospitals and medical schools, 8% from both industry and medical associations/foundations, 7% from medical specialty societies, and 16% from the mysterious “other” category
  • People gave us a lot of feedback about CMEpalooza Fall, such as:

I think it would be nice to have some presentations on the nuts and bolts of things, like QI – maybe the project manager who actually worked through the QI project and not the CEO or Dean who just oversaw the process. (Our response: Yes, always good to remember that people in the trenches have lots to teach as well)

I think this is a great initiative — steep climb to make changes in entrenched system (Our response: The more we do it, the easier the climb)

Can’t afford to attend in person meetings for CME education/providers so this is so welcome and appreciated! (Our response: The “free” thing is good for sure)

CMEpalooza Fall is AWESOME (Our response: With a capital ‘A’)

Need more controversy! How about a debate next year? (Our response: Next year? There is going to be a next year? Well, OK, if you insist)

I love eggs (Our response: We love bacon)

Number of times the word “love” was used in feedback for CMEpalooza Fall: 8 (Our response: You’re pretty OK, too!)

As with any robust data set, there are many ways these numbers can be cut up and presented, and we’ll likely do some cutting to get a better handle on our audience as we attempt to build on our success for next year (wait, next year? There’s going to be a next year? OK, fine, fine).

And Now…CMEpalooza Jokes

A full blog post and thank you will be coming sometime next week, so, in lieu of anything more substantial, here are the jokes people submitted into our survey.


A pair of jumper cables walks into a bar. The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything!”


Where do sick boats go? The dock!


CFO to CEO: “What happens if we go to the expense of training these people and they leave?” CEO’s response: “What if we don’t and they stay?”


Q: What’s brown and sticky? A: A stick!


I didn’t say they were good jokes. Anyway, if any of you participated in CMEpalooza Fall on Wednesday and didn’t complete our (very short) survey, we’d be ever so grateful if you clicked this link and did so.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Where Do I Watch CMEpalooza Fall?

Where do I watch CMEpalooza Fall?
You watch it on the LIVE page.

Will people be able to hear me on the Hangout?
No. You are not on the Hangout. You are only watching a video feed of the Hangout. You can sing Ave Maria at the top of your lungs and no one will hear you except your neighbors (who might call the police who might interrupt you while watching CMEpalooza so don’t sing Ave Maria at the top of your lungs while watching CMEpalooza).

Can I watch CMEpalooza Fall at the office?

Can I watch CMEpalooza Fall at home?

Can I watch CMEpalooza Fall in a conference room with 10 other people?
Please do.

Can I watch CMEpalooza Fall from the top of the Empire State Building while jugging flaming torches and drinking a grape slushee?
I don’t know how the wi-fi is up there, but sure.

Do I have to pay anything to watch CMEpalooza?

Do I have to pre-register or register?

Do I have to take a survey afterward?
Well, you don’t have to, but it would be nice if you did. It’s only 5 questions and shouldn’t take you more than 30 seconds. If it does take you more than 30 seconds, you’re putting too much effort into it.

Do I have to watch all the sessions?
Nope. Watch what interests you.

What if I’m busy tomorrow?
All the sessions will be archived, probably by the end of the day.

What, Me Worry?

I just got back from the annual conference of the American Medical Writers Association in Memphis (still scarred by hearing the Saturday night band at BB King’s Blues Club lead with “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. And it only got worse. It was like a awful wedding. But I digress).

One of the sessions I led at the conference focused on ways that Google Hangout and Hangout On Air can be used in personal and professional circles. During the session, I “beamed in” two writers from opposite coasts to lend additional perspective to the discussion and to demonstrate to the audience how Hangouts work and what they look like.

The main takeaway of the audience? “Wow, that was easy!”

I wasn’t surprised. It’s the same reaction we got from a number of our panelists who had never participated in a Hangout before our test run. Apparently, something new and different automatically carries with it the assumption of a steep learning curve. Is that the way we all looked at cell phones the first time one was thrust in front of us? I honestly don’t remember.

A few technology providers have contacted Derek and I over the last few weeks offering their platforms in case something goes wrong with the Hangouts. I’m not here to malign or undervalue any of these providers (and watch as our thousands of viewers crash “the Google” on Wednesday after I’ve said this), but there really is very little that Derek and I are worried about on the technology front. We have both used Hangouts dozens of times for personal and professional purposes with very little problem. Sure, there are minor issues that crop up from time to time, but it’s rarely more than making sure the audio on your computer isn’t muted.

We’re now a little less than 48 hours away from the start of CMEpalooza, and we’re about as ready as we can be. Our moderators and panelists have come up with some great agendas and discussion guides to keep them on track.

We hope that what they say both surprises and engages you.

We hope that you take the opportunity to ask questions and interact with our panelists — we’ll remind you how to do this at the start of each session.

We hope that you gather your colleagues around you to watch a session or two, and then discuss what it means to your organization.

And we hope, at the end of the day, that you say, “Wow, that was easy!”