Revisiting the Past with CMEpalooza Redux

Back when CMEpalooza started, Derek and I were both in a funny place professionally.

His most recent employer – a medical education company (MECC) whose name you can probably find on his LinkedIn page if you are really interested – had gone under, and he was trying to figure out the next step in his professional career. While the career of “Derek Warnick – CME Consultant” only lasted a short while before he realized he’d be better off with, you know, a job with a regular paycheck and health insurance and all, that stretch plays a very important role in the history of CMEpalooza.

Consultant Derek was, as usual, sitting alone in the corner during an “audience participation” session at the annual Alliance conference thinking deep thoughts.

“Why can’t I put together a conference like this (only better)?”

“Who can I convince to buy dinner for me tonight?”

“Did ALF ever make it back to Melmac?”

We’ll ignore the last two questions for the time being, and focus on the first one, which was obviously the seedling from which CMEpalooza grew. With lots of time on his hands (alas, the life of a newbie “consultant”), Derek was able to go home and think more about his idea of a CME “free-for-all” conference. He bounced the idea off a few colleagues who presumably responded, “Great idea” (or at least that’s what Derek tells me. I have my suspicions) and off he went.

Derek heard from someone that there was a person in the CME world (i.e., me) using this newfangled, and most importantly, free platform called Google Hangouts to live-stream certified education, and he thought, “Huh, maybe this is what I can use.” From there, the pieces fell into place. He came up with a catchy title for the conference, used WordPress to develop a website – this very website we still use today — and basically said to anyone who wanted to present at the inaugural CMEpalooza, “Go for it. I’ve got nothing better to do.”

What, you were expecting a story that involved a business plan, heavy-hitting investors, and accomplished advisers? Surely you know us better than that.

Anyway, while Derek was toiling away at the inaugural CMEpalooza, my employer – a different MECC – was also going under. In a few months, my self-employed career took launch and I too was left with a little too much time on my hands. I sat down with Derek one afternoon and agreed to come aboard as co-producer/co-director/co-something of CMEpalooza (actual transcript of the negotiation: “Me: Do you want help with CMEpalooza?” “Him: “OK.”).

The first order of business for us was to come up with an agenda for our first Fall meeting. Unlike the inaugural CMEpalooza where Derek allowed everyone with any semblance of an idea onto the agenda, it was deemed that we should tighten the reins a little bit for the future and come up with some topics people in the industry would be interested in. With our recent professional history, one of the first sessions we hit on was entitled, “Death of the MECC: Fact or Fiction?” Yes, it was somewhat of an autobiographical topic that hit close to home for both of us, but there was legitimate concern in some MECC circles that our days were numbered.

Jan Perez of CME Outfitters gratefully agreed to moderate this session and recruited a panel from a cross-section of providers to delve into the current and future state of the MECC. As with every CMEpalooza throughout our history, you can watch the session in our Archives (or just click here). To this day, it’s one of my favorite sessions in our history.

Five years later, the MECC model is facing a whole new set of challenges, although fortunately things overall seem to have stabilized since Derek and I had our career crisis (wait a minute, were we the reason our respective MECC employers failed? Let’s not dwell on that too much. Moving on…). As we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of CMEpalooza, we thought it’d be a good idea to revisit that session from our inaugural Fall meeting with a new spin. We’re calling it “The MECC Reborn: Our Present and Future.” It’s on the Spring agenda. There will likely be a “redux” session or two in the Fall as well.

Jan Perez graciously agreed to moderate this session once again (actual transcript from the email invite, “Me: Will you moderate this again? Her: Do I have to?” I kid, I kid). I think it’ll be fascinating to get a sense of where some of our industry leaders see the future of the MECC world heading.

Probably not to Melmac.

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