So What Comes Next?

As we head into week 4 of our national hibernation, I’m noticing a few new trends. Yes, my social media feeds are still primarily dealing with the day-to-day of current Covid-19 pandemic, but I am also slowly seeing the emergence people who are wondering what’s going to happen when we finally get a handle on things.

Will we revert back to our old ways, packing sidewalks, restaurants, and arenas like nothing ever happened? (I doubt it, at least not right away). Will wearing masks in public become a regular occurrence? (doubt that too). Will we react more quickly the next time we’re threatened with a health pandemic? (I assume so).

And then there are those of us in the CME industry trying to crystal ball our future. Look, I know that there are a lot of us who rely heavily on face-to-face meetings for a significant chunk of our revenue. We’re all perhaps crossing our fingers that in the summer, fall, and foreseeable future we’ll be able to hold all of these live events that have been planned for months and months, and that people will once again be willing to travel thousands of miles to attend them.

I suspect that that is a bit overly optimistic.

For years, there has been a general reluctance to offer much in the way of live, online, accredited education for healthcare providers. As the theory goes, our learners already spend a considerable number of hours at live, in-person meetings/conferences, so there is no way they would be interested in a live, online conference. Plus, how do you replace the value of face-to-face interactions?

I’m not sure I have the answer to that second issue (though I have some ideas), but I think the last few weeks have shown us that that first theory may not necessarily be true. Admittedly, these are unusual circumstances, and there are quite a few healthcare providers who work off the front lines of emergency care who have more time on their hands than usual right now. I mean, I have been able to schedule calls with some rather prominent clinicians on the same day as I reach out to them. When was the last time that happened?

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve watched parts of several live, online events geared at least in part of the healthcare community. The meeting organizers are consistently overwhelmed with participation, which has typically numbered in the thousands. I suspect some of the attendees have simply been those in the general public who are interested in high-level education, but you have to also believe that a number of providers are also watching, as often evidenced by the types of questions being fielded from the audience.

So what does that all mean for the future? Well, it could, could mean that we’ll need to start looking at hybrid solutions for live events. There are likely going to be lots of people who are leery of airline travel, especially international travel, which is going to put a damper on attendance for some of our larger conferences. So as live attendance takes a hit, how do you supplement things with an online solution?

Join us from 11-11:30 a.m. this Wednesday, April 8 for a special CMEpalooza Company Spotlight broadcast where I’ll be joined by the bright minds from Educational Measures. We’ll take a look at what the future holds for live, online conferences and steps that we may all need to take to adapt at least in the short term to best meet the educational needs of our learners. Since this may be a big part of all of our futures, it’s something we all need to learn more about.

 

 

CMEopoly Prize Winners

Typically, when we have a random drawing to select the winners of our special sponsor events, it’s a BIG production. We hire entertainers (Right Said Fred was the headliner last fall), provide a lavish spread of food and drink, and generally party for hours and hours. The cops have shut our party down at 4 a.m. twice in the last few years, but hey, we don’t really care. It’s the event our tireless team of crack interns looks forward to most each season.

So it was, alas, somewhat anticlimactic this week when the prize drawing was confined to my home office. I couldn’t even muster the energy to blast I’m Too Sexy on my speakers, but you can do so if you really want to.

Nonetheless, we have several happy winners, each of whom won $100 Amazon gift cards. Here they are:

  • Sabrina Stambaugh — Manager, Physician Development, Baptist Memorial Health Care
  • Carrie Roberts — Director, Continuing Medical Education: Utah Region Steward Health Care
  • Karen Chiarini — Education Events Coordinator, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Jesse Henry — Consultant, Learning, OhioHealth Learning Continuing Medical Education
  • Stephanie Staggs — Program Coordinator, Graduate & Continuing Medical Education, College of Medicine, Texas A&M University

If you are at all curious about the correct answers to each question, you can find them by clicking here.

 

What’s Old is New Again: The Return of CMEpalooza Company Spotlight

For anyone who has been following CMEpalooza since our early days , you’ll know that every year, we try out new things. Occasionally, these succeed, but more often, they fail to garner any traction and simply get buried beneath the tombstone of “Derek’s Dumb Ideas” (my failed ideas, of course, were brilliant but simply before their time).

One of these ideas was something we called CMEpalooza Company Spotlight. The premise was simple – we would work with an organization tied to CME and plan a 30-minute broadcast that spoke to a fundamental issue of interest to the CME community while also highlighting what that organization was doing to address that issue. We even gave away two free opportunities to jump start interest, which I think we both thought were pretty interesting and added value both to the featured organization as well as our audience.

Alas, no one was willing to actually, you know, pay for the Spotlight and so these simply went away.

Until now.

That’s right folks, we’re bringing back CMEpalooza Company Spotlight for a special event next Wednesday, April 8 from 11-11:30 a.m ET. I’ll be joined by some of the fine folks at Educational Measures to talk about the challenges of transitioning from live, in-person conferences to live, online events. I think we have all already seen some of the struggles our community is having as we are being forced to adapt to unfamiliar technology, so we’ll be focusing on how to proactively avoid some of the common pitfalls of live, online education so that we can maximize the effectiveness of our education.

We’ll be broadcasting this special event on our LIVE page. There is no registration required and attendance is, of course, free for everyone. We hope to have some time to answer questions from the audience as well (feel free to submit any burning questions in the comments section below in advance of the broadcast if you want to).

Important CMEpalooza Updates!

Ehhhhh…the updates aren’t really that important, but I figured that if I said they were important and used an exclamation mark, more people would click and read. No, no, I am not a marketing professional…I just play one on the Internet.

That’s about all I have for an opener. You’re busy. I’m busy. Let’s get right to the updates.

Update #1
We have updated the agenda with information about our opening breakfast session sponsored by AcademicCME: How Should the CE Industry Respond to a Novel Healthcare Crisis? COVID-19 is obviously something that is having a major impact on all of our lives, both personally and professionally. Our hope is that this session can help make some sense of how the CME community can respond.

Speaking of the coronavirus, a local business near my home has a Window of Hope where they display pictures from neighborhood kids about their hopes for the future. I think 3-year-old Jack might be on to something here. Seems like as good a plan as any.

UPDATE #2
Scott wants me to remind everyone that the CMonopolE (née CMEopoly) sponsor event thingy ends tomorrow, so get your entry in ASAP. You can read all the important stuff here…and by important I mean that you can win a $100 Amazon gift card.

UPDATE #3
Update #3 is still a secret and I can’t actually tell you what it is (once again: marketing genius!), but we have something cooking for next week that we hope you will find helpful. I don’t want to say too much until we have all of the details finalized, but let’s just say that an old CMEpalooza brainchild may be making an unexpected return. More details to come! (<– building suspense! I am available for marketing consultations.)

Please Excuse the Technical Difficulties

What to do to keep sane, week 2.

So like most of you, things have been a little bit cramped in the Kober household these last few days. Compounding the issue last week was that it was the scheduled Spring Break for my 9-year-old, so there was no pretending that any learning was going to happen. We made the best of the nice days by driving out into the hills of Pennsylvania to do some pretty serious hiking (it’s easy to social distance when you literally see 2 other people each hour).

On those not-so-nice days, while my son learned how to set up video chats with his friends while playing some game called Roblox, I decided to do some market research while keeping abreast of what’s happening with Covid-19.

I managed to check out three live broadcasts, each with a different focus, each using a different delivery mechanism. Here is what happened:

Broadcast 1: Platform unknown, but looked and interfaced like GoToWebinar. One presenter on video, one moderator without video, and slides. Video quality was decent, audio was clear. All was well until suddenly, about 45 minutes in, the presenter lost his connection. 30 seconds went by. Then 60. Still, nothing. The moderator had no choice but to end the webinar kind of abruptly. Takeaway for you: If you can, try to avoid single presenter sessions online. If you “lose” your speaker, you are lost.

Broadcast 2: Zoom broadcast through a proprietary link. This was more along the lines of a professional development activity, given by a colleague I’ve been friendly with for many years. What I did not realize is that all of the attendees would be on screen and would be expected to offer their input into the topics. The live broadcast started at 8 p.m. ET so I wasn’t as perfectly groomed as I usually am during the day (a shirt without stains is about what I consider “perfectly groomed”). Video and audio was OK. There were only three of us there so super casual conversation. The moderator suddenly lost her audio for about 90 seconds halfway through, but figured out how to get it back. I’d send you the link to this exciting broadcast, but well, I don’t want to. Takeaway for you: Let your audience know in advance if there is any chance they are going to end up on screen. It’s not a pleasant surprise.

Broadcast 3: Zoom broadcast through Facebook Live. This one had 4 speakers, all on video. No slides. One of the speakers had a ton of trouble with her connection. Her audio cut out frequently and she lost her feed for several chunks of time. The other speakers kept trying to bring her into the conversation, but it got a bit frustrating once everyone realized that her connection just wasn’t reliable. Takeaway for you: If you can, test your presenters’ AV setup in advance to try to minimize any issues midstream when you are live.

So basically, there were technical issues with all three of the broadcasts that I watched, which honestly was not totally unexpected. In the online setting, there is undoubtedly a loss of control. Things happen, and there often isn’t an easy solution.

Derek and I have learned over the years how to troubleshoot a lot of the issues that crop up during our live broadcasts, and yet there are always at least 1 or 2 sessions each time around where we can’t get a panelist’s video to work, or there is an echo we can’t isolate, or someone simply keeps dropping off the broadcast. Firewall issues? Poor Internet connection? Hardware compatibility? Someone doesn’t want to own up to having a bad hair day? You can’t always know.

After each CMEpalooza, we ask viewers to fill out a short survey to give us feedback into how we’re doing. Inevitably, we’ll get a handful of people who will say, “It was hard to pay attention to XYZ session because there was this buzzing noise” or “Can’t you do something to make people’s audio louder?” We are usually well aware of these issues – they are annoying to us too – but sometimes they are out of our control or beyond our level of production expertise. I suspect there may be even more grumbling for anyone who is charging for access to their broadcasts when the quality isn’t perfect, so if that’s you, you’d better be prepared with a stock answer to those who are going to whine.

(note from Derek: trust me, we are aware when there are audio/video issues. A little piece of me dies inside every time someone’s audio glitches. My laptop crashed during a session last year and I was mad about it for days.)

During our recent AV tests with various Spring panelists (which I must say have been completely bereft of any major problems), I’ve been asked a couple of times if I thought the added burden to overall Web bandwidth was going to affect the technical quality of our broadcasts. The answer is very simple.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I mean it. I don’t have a clue. Obviously, we hope it won’t, but if it does, there really isn’t anything we can do about it. Bill Gates stopped taking my calls many years ago.

Just like always, we’ll do the best we can to troubleshoot, and we’ve got enough experience that we’re always able to salvage something meaningful from our sessions even if there is a partial panelist meltdown. We’ll keep on striving, just like everyone else, for that perfect game. It’ll come eventually.

Oh, and one more thing: Don’t forget that you only have a few more days for your CMEopoly submission. Entries are due this Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. You can get everything you need by clicking on this link.

A New Sponsor Event: CMEopoly

Week 2 (or more) of the virtual workplace is kicking in for most of us. Hopefully everyone is settling in to some sort of regular work routine. But between video calls with the team and tedious administrative work, you are probably looking for some kind of fun distraction that doesn’t involve “Netflix recommends for you…”

Well then, my friend, you have come to the right place. Not only do we have a fun distraction for you this week, but we have a brand-new event that will even allow you to make some money for very little work and learn a bit about the CME community. Amazing, right?

Since we began rolling out our Sponsor prize events each year, the roster has typically been the same — CMEpalooza Trivial Pursuit in the Spring and CMEpalooza Bingo!! in the Fall. Why? Laziness. That’s about it.

But with the current health pandemic, I had a little bit of extra time last week to come up with a brand new idea. And so, we present to you today CMEopoly. I know, it’s not a great name. But would CMEpalopoly or CMEpaloozopoly have been better? Did Derek offer any alternate suggestions? The answer to both of those questions is shockingly one and the same…(note from Derek: This is so easy. It should be “CMonopolE”. Do I get the $500 now?)

As always, we’re giving away $500 in Amazon gift cards as prizes. Five winners will get $100 each. In the current marketplace, that could buy you a roll of toilet paper, one small bottle of Purell, and a Whatchamacalit bar (I love those).

Here is what you need to know to play CMEopoly:

  1. Click on this link to download the necessary forms. That will give you a game board, the full list of “clues” (thanks to intern Katie for her help with these), and an answer sheet.
  2. Call up our Sponsor page, where you can get information about all of the CMEpalooza Spring sponsors as well as links to their website (this is vitally important since you’ll need them to get all of the answers)
  3. You earn one entry into our prize drawing for every color bundle you complete. There are seven bundles in all. We came up one short of filling the board, so Derek asked me to insert something silly in there. You can complete the answer sheet for one color bundle, two bundles, or all seven.
  4. While you can earn seven entries, you won’t be able to win seven times. Limit one prize per person.
  5. When you complete your answer form, email it to me at scott@medcasewriter.com. Make sure to include your name and professional affiliation so that when we announce that you’ve won, everyone can be sufficiently jealous.

Unlike the McDonald’s Monopoly game scandal from the early 2000s (I highly suggest HBO’s recent McMillions docuseries if you want a 5-hour binge show), CMEopoly is not rigged. Every entrant has the same chance of winning. These chances are generally pretty good, but vary depending on the number of entrants.

Entries are due on Wednesday, April 1 at 5 p.m. ET. Now get cracking.

A Day In the Life of a WFHer

After reading Scott and Katie’s eloquent posts from the past few days, I was left to wonder what I can do to make myself useful. Then, while scrolling through Facebook last night and reading the reactions from all my friends and family new to working from home (heretofore referred to as “WFH”), it occurred to me that maybe I could put my 8+ years of WFH experience to use by sharing some tricks and tips I have picked up along the way.

I started to write that up, but, honestly…it was pretty boring and not that true to reality. Instead, I thought I would share with you a typical (work) day in the life of an experienced WFHer. It’s actually not that typical since everyone else in my family is also home right now thanks to social distancing but just play along.

8:30 a.m.
(NOTE: Spare me the “You start your day at 8:30??” mockery. I spent years getting to an office at the crack of dawn…and then I got laid off. I start my day at a reasonable hour now.)

Ascend the stairs to my office on the 3rd floor, 2nd cup of coffee in one hand, 24 oz lime green Hydro Flask in the other.

Announce out loud, “I’m starting work now!”

Ignore office chair and desk and sit in easy chair instead (You don’t have an easy chair in your office? Get one. For…research purposes. Sure.)

Dog follows me upstairs, stops for a few head scratches, then continues into bedroom for her morning nap on the bed. She is technically not allowed on the bed, but we seem to have forgotten to tell her that.

Flip on SportsCenter (You don’t have a TV in your office?? Get one. Again, more research purposes.). I use it, um, for background noise while going through email. So. Much. Email.

Tom Brady is going to the Bucs??? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

[DELETE] [DELETE] [DELETE] Reply [DELETE] [DELETE] Reply [DELETE]

9:15 a.m.
Turn off the TV and head back downstairs to resolve any personal hygiene issues. This maybe includes a shower. Probably not.

Attempt to ignore anyone in the house who tries to distract me along the way.

9:25 a.m.
Walk back upstairs, stopping off in son’s room on the 2nd floor. He is, of course, still in bed.

Me: “Did you see Tom Brady is going to the Bucs?”

Him: “Yeah.” (This is pretty wordy for him.)

Both: “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”

(note from Scott: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!)

9:30 a.m.
Turn off the TV, gaze longingly at easy chair, but instead sit in my office chair at the desk. Continue answering email or begin working on high priority projects for the day.

Turn on music.

There is some strategy involved in my musical selection. If I am doing something where I need maximum focus and concentration – like reading grant proposals – then I will listen to something relaxing and without words (Miles Davis, John Coltrane) or with words I can’t understand (Sigur Ros, they sing in Icelandic.) If it’s something that takes less brain power – like entering scores into a spreadsheet – then I listen to something peppier (I won’t give any examples because everyone will just laugh at my inclination towards Dad Rock.) And if I’m doing something really mind numbing – like reading another one of Scott’s emails – then I really crank up the volume and listen to something like Rage Against the Machine or the Melvins.

10 a.m.
The cat saunters in.

He scratches at the easy chair, knocks over some papers, tries to eat a plant, and then insists on laying on the keyboard while I’m working.

He is basically just a big a-hole (sorry, I know this is a family website.)

Eventually he climbs down onto my lap, curls up, purrs, and falls asleep. All is forgiven.

10:30 a.m.
Snack time. God, I love snack time.

10:40 a.m.
On the way back from the kitchen, stop in each kid’s room to check on them.

They are both on a device of some sort, supposedly doing homework. It’s hard to tell anymore.

Neither one seems particularly thrilled to see me, so I move back up to my office.

Resume working.

11 a.m.
Conference call.

Whenever possible, I try to schedule my calls for 11 a.m. It’s my best time for a call. I finally feel awake enough to engage with other humans on an intelligent level, but lunch is right around the corner so the call can’t go too excessively long.

Sadly, it’s a rare day when I only have one call, so it really doesn’t matter.

Could this call have been an email? Of course.

11:30 a.m.
The dog finally climbs out of bed and makes her way back into my office, sticking her head in the trashcan.

She begins stretching, a sure sign she is ready to go out.

Yell down the stairs for someone to take the dog out. No response.

Stomp down the steps mumbling under my breath about being the only one working and still have to take the dog out.

11:45 a.m.
Ignore first email of the day from Scott.

Noon
Lunchtime! God, I love lunchtime.

My wife joins me for lunch and we chat. I have no idea where the kids are.

1-3 p.m.
Peak productivity, baby!

I am cranking out work like one of those cheesy manufacturing movies we used to watch in school that shows how pencils are made or something.

I am a well-oiled machine.

Nothing can stop me!

3 p.m.
The machine is out of oil.

I keep reading the same sentence over and over.

Time for coffee.

3:01 p.m.
Coffee time! God, I love coffee time.

Walking down the steps, I hold out a small hope that someone has made coffee for their dear old dad.

No one has.

3:30 p.m.
Ignore 2nd email from Scott asking why I am ignoring his first email.

4 p.m.
Work email has finally lightened up. Time to respond to Scott…

(note from Scott: Derek spent his Wednesday afternoon sending me play-by-play updates every 5 minutes from Game 2 of the 1980 NLCS between the Phillies and Astros. He was apparently watching this on his “research” TV while “working.” I mean, this was a game from 40 years ago! But yeah, I’m the one who overindulges in meaningless emails…) (note from Derek: I would deny this if it were not true.)

4:01 p.m.
Flood of work email comes pouring in. It never fails.

4:45 p.m.
The other cat walks into the office with a confused look on her face.

She is not an a-hole like the first cat, but is dumb as a brick.

She rarely comes up to the 3rd floor and is probably just lost.

She is riveted by a rubber band under the desk.

5 p.m.
I have lost all focus and the dog is whining to be let out. Again.

Work day over.

 

 

 

 

Making Yourself Useful

With the world turning upside down right now, I think a lot of us are harkening back to the last time when we suddenly had to adjust to a temporary professional “new normal.” I’m referring, of course, to 9/11. This was obviously a very different sort of event, but I’m seeing a lot of parallels in how many of us are dealing with the aftermath.

During 9/11, I was still working in my “first career” as a newspaper reporter in central Illinois (remember my origin story from a few weeks ago?). I think I was either supposed to have the day off or maybe I was going into the office a little bit later that afternoon, but as soon as the Twin Towers collapsed, I rushed into the office, found the editor-in-chief and asked, “How can I help?”

For the next few days, pretty much all of the reporters on staff, regardless of their usual beats, became news reporters. I spent the afternoon of 9/11 on the phone with former area residents now living in New York City. I remember my main interview was with a business executive who lived in a high-rise apartment with a direct view of the Twin Towers. He was obviously stunned with everything going on, but he was extremely patient with me in describing as best he could what was happening. I still have a copy of the newspaper from that day somewhere in the house. It wasn’t a great story, but I am proud of it because it was useful to the newsroom and hopefully to the broader community.

The next several days were somewhat less chaotic but the attitude was the same. People put aside any grudges or distaste for their jobs and came in with the same attitude – “How can I help?”

Which brings me back to our current situation.

I assume by now we are all working from home. For those of you who aren’t used to this, it’s likely a pretty big adjustment. You can’t talk to the person next to you in your cubicle. You can’t take a 5-minute break to walk into your boss’ office and complain about how coworker X is totally incompetent and you hate working with her. For extroverts like Derek who thrive on social connections, it can be a bit isolating (Note from Derek: Clearly, Scott is joking here. I was social distancing before social distancing was cool.)

Compounding the problem is that some of you may not have a lot of work to do. While many organizations are busy figuring out how to transition their scheduled live events into online meetings, I suspect there is likely a slowdown for some people. Are you a meeting planner who spends most of your day coordinating with live venues for upcoming conferences? Probably not a whole lot to do that applies to your usual role.

There is no playbook for how organizations deal with unexpected crises. It’s a time for creative, on-the-fly solutions where the team rolls up its sleeves and individually asks, “How can I help?” There is some great work going on in the CME community right now as we are all being forced to problem solve. I spoke with someone yesterday whose organization managed to turn a live 2-day meeting into an online event within 72 hours. They lost a few registrations but also picked up some new learners. It was a total team effort and it was a real accomplishment because it worked!

This is unquestionably going to be a tough few weeks. I just spent the last 10 minutes teaching my 9-year-old son about compound fractions because he couldn’t hear his teacher on the video explanation she posted. I may not be 7/4 as productive as I usually am, but that’s OK (yes, you all see what I did there). Just like you are, we are figuring out as we go how this is all going to work.

So for anyone worried about stepping out of your comfort zone these next few weeks, don’t be. Asking the simple question of, “How can I help?” is not only going to give you a sense of purpose, a sense of “I still matter,” but it’s also hopefully going to bring you a level of personal satisfaction as you acquire new skills and overcome some pretty significant hurdles. Maybe you’ll be asked to work with new people. Maybe you’ll be tasked with something totally unfamiliar to you. Maybe you’ll just be asked to “sit tight” for a while.

There is still light somewhere at the end of the tunnel, and we will eventually get back to our usual rhythms and routines. In the meantime, embrace the change. It’ll feel good, I promise.

 

Adapting to the COVID-19 Whirlwind

Since Derek and I both work remotely on a regular basis, we asked our Spring intern Katie to share her experiences from the last week to get a sense of how our CME world is adapting to changing circumstances. We hope you all stay safe.

About a month ago, the first Hospital Incident Command System email hit my work inbox. This is the system that provides us with emergency updates at Memorial Sloan Kettering. It’s been our main system-wide communications conduit regarding precautions being taken for COVID-19. We’re now up to our 11th update. Every time I see a new update come through, I cringe a little, worried about what is coming next.

I commute to our New York City site from New Jersey. I’ve become more and more concerned about my personal risk of exposure every day. I’m fortunate to have the option to work from home most days, which I know a lot of my colleagues have not and perhaps still do not have. I don’t have to worry about the conversation a few cubicles over about someone’s fever and chills or the office-wide coughing and sneezing. I don’t have to touch the communal microwave, so I don’t have to really worry too much about the magic triumvirate of Lysol wipes, Lysol spray, and hand sanitizer.

As social distancing became emphasized in the last week, many live meetings have been canceled and travel bans put in place throughout our hospital system. It was with a heavy heart that we had to cancel our in-person CME meetings as well. It took a few days for everyone to catch up to the whirlwind of our “new normal” before we finally perked up and found someone willing to try a live, remote simulcast broadcast.

We are trying to keep part of our CME program going through simulcasting. While we’ve dabbled in this internally before, we’ve never done it with remote speakers. But as new challenges arise in the ever-changing world of CME, we’re adapting to the circumstances.

We are using Cisco as our broadcast platform, with the live stream available privately on YouTube. We are getting lots of questions thrown at us as new issues arise. We’re doing the best we can to collaboratively tackle any problems and seeing how things play out. The level of communication has been one of our greatest strengths, and the enthusiasm to creatively problem solve solutions during the current COVID-19 crisis has been enlightening. People are being extremely accommodating. We have invited several international experts to give virtual presentations to our clinicians during times that may not be the most convenient (ie, during the early morning or evening hours), and the response so far has always quickly been “No problem.”

Despite the chaos around us, we are doing our best to conduct business as normal (well, as normal as possible). Reliable, evidence-based education is always vitally important, and even with social distancing and travel bans, we can make it happen. This is the way our lives are going to be, at least for a little while, and it’s been heartwarming to see how flexible and kind the professional world has been. In times of crisis, we always tend to band together and find common solutions. My hope is that we all get through this together and forge a stronger bond for the betterment of our futures, both within CME and beyond.

Surviving (and Thriving) in an Online Meeting World

Late last Friday, in a rare moment of pre-weekend creativity, I quickly jotted down a dual Twitter/LinkedIn post regarding advice for groups who are being forced to turn their live conference into an online event. More and more organizations seem to be going this route — just this morning, I read about another half-dozen or so larger meetings that canceled their live event and are going the online route. Medscape has a nice summary of all of the current cancellations, but things are changing by the hour as more groups assess their options.

(Quick aside: What does this mean for grant-funded satellite symposia at these cancelled live meeting? I don’t know – I’m not working on any of these. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments. I’m curious to know what groups are doing and what communications are ongoing between supporters/providers)

Anyway, as things continue to spiral worldwide with coronavirus, I thought I’d expand a little bit on the thoughts I shared via social media last week. Maybe Derek will even be inspired to add a comment or two of his own…(note from Derek: Nope. Busy.)

For those of you who are suddenly responsible for figuring out how to turn that live conference into an online event, a few pieces of advice after 6+ years of experience with CMEpalooza:

1. Rethink the format of your sessions. Some things don’t work online at all (problem solving in groups, for one), but some formats just need to be tweaked. Be creative and develop interesting ways to incorporate your faculty into your online sessions.

2. Consider opportunities for audience engagement. You can still use an audience response system. You can still take questions from attendees/viewers. You just need to figure out how to do it within the platform you want to use.

3. Expect some technology issues. You know how the microphone in that live conference room will sometimes buzz and you rush to find the AV tech? This is no different. There will be faculty whose audio doesn’t quite sync up with their video. There may be someone who mysteriously gets “kicked out” of the presentation room. Be upfront with your viewers in letting them know that things may not go perfectly. Prepare for the eventualities and learn to troubleshoot in real time (or work with someone who can).

4. Talk to your IT team and get their ideas. You want to hold concurrent sessions available to viewers through different links? You want to try Facebook Live? You want to experiment with something I’m not even smart enough to think of? Your IT people are the ones who hopefully are keeping up on online tech so don’t discount their input. If nothing else, there will likely be some infrastructure development necessary for your website, so you’ll be needing their help.

5. Keep in close contact with your faculty. Some of these people may have been waiting for years to present their groundbreaking research at your meeting. They are probably incredibly anxious wondering what’s going to happen now. Reassure them that you are working on a solution (you are, right?) that will still allow them the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

6. Consider the attention span of your attendees. Much as we may want to believe otherwise, Derek and I are smart enough to know that pretty much no one watches all 8 hours of CMEpalooza straight through. But then again, not many people will sit in sessions at a live meeting for 8 hours straight either. Be realistic with the expectations of your audience. If you have 2 or 3 “can’t miss” sessions, think about whether you want to bunch them together in one 90-minute block or space them out throughout the day. I don’t know that one solution is better than the other – depends on your audience.

7. Don’t throw up your hands and say “This won’t be as good as a live meeting.” That isn’t true. Different does not equate to worse. Hey, maybe you’ll be a hero and show that different can actually be better.