CMEpalooza Coming Attractions

Kids these days have it easy.

OK, fine, maybe they don’t have it easy in every way, but I’m talking about important things. Like the movie theater experience.

(Warning: I’m about to sound like an old geezer)

Back when we were kids, we used to have to sit through at least 3 minutes of boring credits before any movie started. I’m sure it was quite the thrill for the mom and dad of the second associate producer in charge of film sets in Asia, but for the rest of us, COME ON AND START THE MOVIE ALREADY!

But you know what didn’t suck? The coming attractions!

I guess if you read Variety or one of those industry magazines, you knew about the big blockbuster movies that were coming out in 6 months, but 13-year-old, sports-obsessed boys like me didn’t read any rag besides Sport magazine (the naughty cousin to the more expensive and popular Sports Illustrated), so the only way I knew what to look forward to in theaters was to show up on time to the start of whatever movie I was seeing and catch the coming attractions. Sometimes, the coming attractions were better than the movie itself (I’m looking at you, Beetlejuice).

So if coming attractions are so much fun, why haven’t Derek and I ever provided you, our loyal blog readers, with a list of the important coming attractions prior to our Spring and Fall meetings? Well, there is a very good reason for that, and here it is:

We usually don’t know what the coming attractions are until, I dunno, 15 minutes before we trot out something new.

Let’s briefly take a look at today’s text message exchange between Derek and I to show you what I mean (and yes, this happens every week):

DEREK: You got anything for the blog this week? If not, I guess I can figure out a way to write last week’s blog using different words but basically saying the same thing.

ME: No, I’ll think of something. (Idea pops into head) I got it. No worries.

DEREK: OK, cool. Can you put in a reminder about The Grants Hotline?

And that, boys and girls, is how you put in a reminder without obnoxiously putting in a reminder. (So yes, go to the Grants Hotline and submit your questions [note from Derek: Please?])

Anyway, back to coming attractions. This fall, we actually have more plans than usual, so I thought I’d offer a few teasers to whet your appetite.

COMING ATTRACTION #1 (late September/early October): CMEpalooza sponsor event. Will we see a return of CMEpalooza Pursuit? Maybe Cluedo palooza will make a comeback? Or maybe we’ve got something brand new in store? Ooh, the suspense.

COMING ATTRACTION #2 (early October): The debut of a brand new event, the CMEpalooza STEPtacular Challenge. Is this something where Derek shows off his dance moves on TikTok? Maybe STEP is an acronym for something really cool that you’ll never figure out in a million years? You’ll just have to wait and see.

COMING ATTRACTION #3 (mid-October): CMEpalooza Haiku. Nothing much I can do to jazz this up. Derek writes pithy, non-rhyming verse. He’s been doing it for so long that it’s pretty much automatic. Snoozefest. (note from Derek:

these words ring untrue
it takes great skill but I do
make rhyming haiku)

COMING ATTRACTION #4 (Wednesday, October 19): A very special day that I dare not talk about lest I give it all away. OK, fine, it’s CMEpalooza Fall.

An Intern, A Thief, and A Raid (A CMEpalooza Satire)

Before Derek and I embarked on the launch of CMEpalooza nearly a decade ago – yes, it’s really been that long – we met with a cadre of lawyers to be sure we were appropriately protecting our intellectual property. We had seen too many professional presentations “repurposed” over and over in various venues, too many witty blog entries plagarized with impunity, too many sponsorship ideas stolen by competitors. We weren’t rubes – we knew with absolute certainty the impact that CMEpalooza was going to have on our little world, and we wanted to put up the appropriate legal barriers to anyone bold enough to challenge us.

There are lots of goings on within the world of CMEpalooza that the general public only catches a glimmer of. We speak about our rotating pool of crack interns from time to time in our blog, but these are really the people who make CMEpalooza hum along smoothly. Who else would scour local liquor stores to get Derek the Weller CYPB Bourbon that he needs to unwind on the porch every night? Who else would stand in line outside of the Philadelphia 76ers team store at midnight every October 1 to make sure that I got the limited edition jersey of every free agent signed by our beloved basketball team?

We put a lot of trust in our interns. Many of them have gone on to be some of the most influential people not only in CME, but in the broader educational world. Because of the sensitive nature of their duties during their time at CMEpalooza and our legal requirements for total secrecy, we don’t allow our crack interns to ever tell anyone that they even as much as stepped foot in our hallowed hallways. The best we are able to do is to give them a conspiratorial wink when we pass them in the hallways at the various “lesser” CME events where we frequently cross paths.

The last day of each intern’s time with us has always been something we have considered fairly special. We invite our team into our offices (Derek’s has photos of him with a goofy grin in all 50 U.S. states – impressive!), have them share all of the things they love and hate about CMEpalooza, and then they leave. Empty handed. That’s key to this story – our interns are not allowed to take anything with them. Not so much as a stapler. It’s not because we’re cheap (OK, fine, maybe we are), it’s not because we don’t trust people (OK, fine, maybe we don’t), but it’s because we don’t want to weigh down our interns with the weight of their past and instead allow them to focus entirely on their bright future (yeah, that’s it!).

All of which makes what I’m about to share with you so disturbing.

A few months back, Derek and I started hearing whispers about one of our former interns – let’s call her, I don’t know, Donna Grump. I honestly didn’t even remember much about Donna. I mean, we go through so many of the best and brightest that, after a while, the memories of some of our former interns start to run together. Was she the one who made fun of Derek for his signed photo of the cast of Small Wonder, or the one who chided me every morning when I whistled the theme to Silver Spoons in our hallways? You can see how it’s hard to keep these things straight.

Anyway, Donna apparently didn’t appreciate the legal responsibilities of her time as a CMEpalooza intern as much as she should have. First, it was a midnight phone call I got at home – Donna’s a thief! Then the scrawled note left taped to Derek’s keyboard – Donna can destroy you with what she ‘s stolen! Normally, we wouldn’t take these things very seriously, but let’s face it, we’re in a pretty sensitive time in our history so we figured it was time to pay Donna a visit. Good thing she only lives 2 blocks from me.

So I knocked on Donna’s door one morning to confront her. She seemed surprised to see me, backing up a few steps when she saw me on her doorstep. Her Rottweiler growled in the background.

I tried to be nice, set her at ease, make her think I was there for a simple “how do you do, chat” before getting to the heart of the matter.

SCOTT: “Hey there Donna, so nice to see you again. I heard that you may have something that belongs to us.”

She folded like a poker player with a pair of deuces in a game of 5-card draw.

DONNA: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh, OK, fine, I’ll admit it. I stole Derek’s Facebook password. Here, take it. The dude is more boring than my great-grandfather, and he’s been dead for 23 years. I just wanted to post a few things to make it seem like he was more interesting than he really is, but no one believed anything I wrote!

And she slammed the door in my face. “Now go away!” she yelled at me.

Not wanting to cause further angst, I tiptoed back home and huddled with Derek.

DEREK: “I always wondered how that post of me talking about how much I loved the Barry Manilow concert last summer got there. It was Donna! Let’s call the feds!”

I calmed Derek down. The feds have enough on their hands right about now. We settled for a call to one of our own, CME Detective Jake Powers (you may remember Jake from here and here). Jake suggested a sting, a raid, a takedown. It sounded exciting. We were in.

JAKE (to us): That Donna is less honest than a three dollar bill. Her story has more holes that a slice of swiss cheese used for target practice. She’s guiltier than a cat burping canary feathers. She-

DEREK: We get it. She’s hiding something. Now what?

A few mornings later, when Donna took her dog out for a walk, Jake slipped in through the side window (it was unlocked – he doesn’t actually have any ability to jimmy locks or anything useful like that). And here is what he found in a folder on her kitchen table entitled – SECRET CMEPALOOZA DOCUMENTS THAT I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO TAKE AFTER MY DAYS AS AN INTERN. The photo quality isn’t great – Jake still has a flip phone.

We had her… red handed. A few mornings later, with our lawyers in tow, we showed up at Donna’s house. But she was ready, too – apparently, Jake isn’t as sneaky as we would have liked. He left his business card on her table (when asked about this later, Jake admitted to us that business isn’t so good these days and he needs to always scour for new clients).

Donna greeted us with her own team of lawyers, who claimed that Donna’s privileges as a former CMEpalooza intern gave her the right to “declassify” any materials that ever came across her desk. Donna went on a social media tirade, claiming that this “raid” was nothing more than a ruse, a personal attack on her that was unprecedented in American history. She threatened retribution, saying that “Derek will never again enjoy his $1,300 bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year bourbon without looking over his shoulder.”

So why are we telling you, our loyal fans and followers of CMEpalooza, all of this today? Frankly, we’re tired of living in fear. We need more eyes and ears everywhere, to prevent Donna from tearing down everything that we hold dear. It’s going to be a bumpy few months folks. But together, we can get through this.

What You Can Learn From a Tour Guide About Quality Education

I recently returned home from our family’s much-delayed summer vacation abroad (you can guess the reason). For the last 5 years or so, we’ve become big proponents of AirBNB Experiences when we travel to new places, not only as a way of acclimating ourselves to each city, but also to get unique perspectives on the lives of those who reside there. You can book some really interesting activities – over the last few years, we’ve done some hands-on to learn how to make Montreal-style bagels, create our own scented soaps, and become a beekeeper for a few hours.

But the majority of the “experiences” that we book involve walking tours of some variety. Fortunately, I have a very curious and outgoing 11-year-old who likes chatting with tour guides so he’s always happy to come along (the wife likes them, too). On our most recent trip to Amsterdam, we went on five different walking tours over the course of a week. They all had a unique theme – one was a food tour, one took us out to a town with several windmills and a wooden clog factory, one was a canal cruise, one introduced us to the more “adult” side of Amsterdam (the boy was excluded from that one), and one was a more general historic overview of a nearby city.

As some of you may be aware, I also serve as an occasional volunteer tour guide in the historic area of Philadelphia during the summer, so I have some experience on both sides of the “walking tour” experience, which perhaps give me a bit more of an expert perspective on the issue. Maybe. Let’s just pretend either way, shall we?

A few days ago, I began thinking a bit more about all of the walking tours that we’ve been on through the years, and especially some of the qualities that separate a good tour guide from a bad one. I quickly realized that there are a lot of parallels between a good tour guide and a good CME faculty member. After all, both roles focus on education and engaging an audience. So here are some of my takeaways on what it takes to succeed in either role.

  1. Be prepared. Know your subject. You don’t have to be the be-all, end-all expert, but you need to do your research. It might even be a good idea to practice your delivery.
  2. Be a storyteller. No one is interested in a litany of names and dates alone (or detailed clinical trial data). Give your information some context and explain why it’s important/interesting.
  3. Have some personality. Don’t be a drone. If you look like you are checked out, guess who else won’t care?
  4. Be passionate about your topic. I had a mother come up to me after one of my recent tours and ask if I was a history teacher. When I told her that I wasn’t, she said, “You should be. You really seem interested in what you are talking about.” Alas, not making a career change.
  5. Tailor your talk to your group. This is much easier when you are dealing with a small gathering of 5-10 people and you can get to know the people a little bit, but anyone can take the pulse of even a larger room to get a sense of who is listening to you. That’s what our demographic ARS questions are for, right?
  6. Find the people who are most interested and focus on them. If you are in a room or leading a tour with a group of 20 people, not everyone likely wants to be there. That’s OK. Identify the people who seem most engaged and keep them in your corner. Often, they’ll be the ones to bring in those folks who showed up because someone else dragged them along.
  7. Invite curiosity. Maybe you get questions that you think are stupid or of little interest to you. So what? Once you shut a person down, they are going to tune you out. This happened on our last tour during our vacation. You could tell the tour guide just wanted to get things over, and walked far ahead of the group between landmarks. When anyone asked him a question, his responses were clipped and a bit off-putting.
  8. Laugh. Laugh at yourself. Laugh at your surroundings. And get other people to laugh. Remember, you are there both to educate and to entertain.