Setting Expectations

On March 12, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in Philadelphia, I posted the following on Facebook:

Three weeks later:

Six months later (note from Scott: technically, five and a half, but whatever) and these same people are still in our houses, which is why I am hear to talk to you about setting appropriate expectations for the day of CMEpalooza, now less than a month away (Wednesday, October 14, if you forgot).

Let’s all be honest and admit that there is a nonzero chance that one of the following things will happen during any virtual conference:

  • A panelist’s video or audio feed glitches because they have multiple kids at home sucking up all the bandwidth with virtual school or watching episodes of Cobra Kai or both at the same time (both of my kids will be home for virtual school during CMEpalooza. Say a little prayer for me and Verizon FIOS on October 14.)
  • A viewer watching the livestream at home has their video start buffering or pausing. We sometimes get complaints about this in the eval comments, so it’s time for a little come-to-Jesus moment: It’s not us, it’s you. If the video you are watching starts buffering, it’s because of an issue with your internet…probably because you have multiple kids at home sucking up all the bandwidth with virtual school or watching episodes of Cobra Kai or both at the same time.
  • Someone’s kid/spouse/pet appears on screen because they didn’t realize or didn’t care that there was a video call going on. Frankly, at this point I’m disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Seriously, when was the last time someone’s cute kid or pet showed up on screen and it didn’t make you smile? We should start making it a requirement.
  • Power outage. It happens. Fortunately we can usually just have people use their phone and everything is fine. It’s not yet happened to Scott or me, but we have had some close calls (my power went out for 15 minutes one year.) My neighbors are currently having an addition put on to the back of their house and the idiots gentlemen working there have already cut our power once.

One of the unexpected pleasantries that has evolved from the bloom of pandemic-initiated virtual programming is that it has made me feel much better about the production value of CMEpalooza. Watching media monoliths like ESPN and CNN experience the exact same technical issues that we sometimes have during CMEpalooza has definitely been a boost to my self-esteem.

There will be glitches. There will be interruptions. There will be mistakes. The show will go on and it will be fine.

Because I know it will annoy Scott, I wrote a haiku to summarize the moral of this post. I call it Pandemic Haiku.

it’s fine it’s fine it’s
fine it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine
everything’s fine

(note from Scott: Don’t tell Derek, but once again he failed to count syllables properly — check line 3, doofus — so this is not technically a haiku and I am OK with it)

(note from Derek: You come at the king, you best not miss https://www.howmanysyllables.com/words/everything’s)

Feeding CMEpalooza

[3 months ago]

Derek and Scott return to their secret lair somewhere in northwest Philadelphia, last visited in March, to discuss Derek’s latest idea for CMEpalooza.

Scott: “OK, I’m here. What?”

Derek: “Now here me out on this, but what if we have a meal for everyone?”

Scott: [stares directly at Derek, a look of profound incredulity on his face]

Derek: “Pretty good idea, right?? I knew you would love it.”

Scott: [opens mouth to talk but says nothing as it continues to hang open]

Derek: “Go ahead — you can tell me how much you love it.”

Scott: “Um, don’t we run a virtual conference?”

Derek: “Correct!”

Scott: “There are no people physically here.”

Derek: “Yes.”

Scott: “There are no meals.”

Derek: “Right.”

Scott: [stands up to leave]

Derek: “No no no no no no….wait! Wait! Grubhub! Grubhub!”

Scott: [glaring] “What?’

Derek: [talking fast] “We can give everyone Grubhub vouchers. They’re only good for the day of the conference and people can use them to buy food to eat while watching a session.”

Scott: [slowly sits back down]: “That is…not a terrible idea. We can’t afford to send every participant who watches a voucher, though.”

Derek: “Maybe we can add it to the Sponsorship Prospectus and ask some of our amazing sponsors (who will definitely not read this in a blog post 3 months in the future) if they would like to support it.”

Scott: [folding his arms] “This is actually a pretty good idea. I like it.”

Derek: “Thank you.”

Scott: [eyeing Derek suspiciously] “What else?”

Derek: “Nothing.”

Scott: [still looking doubtful] “Really?”

Derek:“…so about that Sixers post I suggested back in Mar-”

Scott: [slams door on way out] [peels out in driveway]

We are still looking for sponsors for CMEpalooza Feeds the People, which you can read about it the Sponsorship Prospectus. If you are interested in supporting it or finding out more details, please email Scott at scott@medcasewriter.com.

 

Educator, Teach Thyself

Why do we have CMEpalooza? Why do we have the Alliance conference? Why do we have the ACCME Newcomers’ meeting or CME Live or the Informa Connect–CBI’s Grants summit?

We have them to teach. We have them to learn. We have them to stay informed.

As CME professionals, it is resources such as these that we utilize to stay at the top of our game as we educate healthcare providers around the globe. We want and expect the most current and accurate information available. Never has this been more vital than in the middle of a pandemic where we are faced with the dual challenges of providing rapid education on a poorly understood disease and doing so via digital platforms that are unfamiliar to many.

[This is the part of the blog post where I channel my inner Grandpa Simpson and shake my fist at political clouds. If that sort of thing bothers you, now would be a good time to stop reading. I recommend clicking over to this article in Vulture that ranks every single Radiohead song.]

It has become even more important now, during a period of time where information that doesn’t align with a given individual’s world view is labeled “fake news” and ignored with no accountability. Facts, data, and research are brushed aside in favor of amplified opinions. Career politicians scoff at the advice of career infectious disease specialists. A governor denounces the notion of listening to experts for guidance in front of a nationally televised audience and is met with a collective shoulder shrug.

But we, the CME community, cannot afford to be this cavalier in our views towards data and expertise. These elements are the lifeblood of the work we do and provide the validity necessary to gain the trust of healthcare workers that rely on the education we provide. If we don’t believe in science, then science will not believe in us.

And so, I write this blog post to implore all of you – implore all of us – to educate yourself. Educate yourself so you are equipped to respond when someone questions you. Educate yourself so you have an evidence-based reason behind why you are doing what you are doing and not because, well, that’s just the way we have always done it. Educate yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.

The tagline for Dr. Jen Gunter’s blog is “Wielding the lasso of truth.” I thought this was pretty clever when I first read it 6 years ago, but it has taken on a new sense of urgency and rebellion these past few years. It is OK to be smart and it is OK to seek out those smarter than you for their advice.

CMEpalooza Fall is coming up on Wednesday, October 14 and there are going to be a lot of really smart people talking (much smarter than Scott or I. I can’t even remember my Netflix password) who can help you spin your lasso of truth. There are plenty of other resources currently available or coming soon. Here are just a few of them:

The Many Faces of CMEpalooza

First things first. If you were hiding under a rock last week (side note: who came up with this expression? Hiding under a rock. No one hides under a rock. If you tried to hide under a rock, you would be dead. Dumb.) or not paying attention because you were too busy binging HBO’s Perry Mason (fantastic), you may have missed our release of the 2020 CMEpalooza Fall agenda. I think we have a number of really great sessions, but then I always think that, so you should check it out yourself.

And speaking of really great sessions, the CMEpalooza archive has been updated to include all of the sessions from CMEpalooza Spring (note from Scott: Never let it be said that Derek doesn’t work quickly. It’s only been, oh, 4 months since the Spring event). It is crazy how many sessions are in the archive now. I could count them all up and tell you exactly how many there are, but…I don’t feel like it. Let’s just go with an official designation of “a lot.”

For a visual representation of the amount of sessions Scott and I have produced, here is a collage of pictures of Scott or me from every session.

Because it is hilarious, each of these pictures is a screenshot of when Scott or I first appears on screen. A few things I noticed:

  • Scott has his eyes closed at least five times. I have no idea why, but it made me LOL each time.
  • I have my mouth hanging open in multiple pics. Not sure if I started talking too early or if I’m just staring dumbly into the camera like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Scott changes shirts in between sessions way more often than I realized. He is the the Lady Gaga of CMEpalooza.
  • I wore the same shirt for four different paloozas. I was mortified as I went through the pictures and realized it (“Oh no, not the same shirt again!”)

So, be sure to join us for CMEpalooza Fall on Wednesday, October 14 and find out if I break out the same shirt for a fifth palooza and count Scott’s wardrobe changes. It’s fun for the whole family.

Program Manager Power Ballad

Being a child of the ’80s, there are few things that I enjoy more than a good hair metal power ballad. The spandex, the hair, the guitar solos, the five-second screech — it all combines into a ball of cheesy goodness. Let’s do a quick Top 5 Hair Metal Power Ballads, shall we?

(In case you are baffled by the term “hair metal,” I think this picture of the band Poison sums it up pretty well.)

5. Guns N’ Roses – Patience

4. Skid Row – I Remember You

3. Whitesnake – Here I Go Again

2. Poison – Every Rose Has Its Thorn

1. Warrant – Heaven

The key with any top notch power ballad is to not let the plaintive wailing turn into whining. Nobody likes a whiner. White Lion’s When the Children Cry is a prime example of wailing turning to whining. It has the hair, the clothes, the soaring guitar riffs — but when the chorus kicks in, lead singer Mike Tramp’s vocals remind me of when my kids were little and cried about going to bed. It’s a little like nails on a chalkboard.

In an effort to avoid becoming the White Lion of the CME world, I’d like to offer a very cordial and pleasant reminder that today is the last day for you to recommend a program manager for our Program Managers: We Get the Job Done! session at CMEpalooza Fall on October 14. We have had a nice response so far, but welcome anyone else who has someone you would like to suggest. Just follow this link to read about it and complete the form.

And if anyone has a favorite power ballad you would like to add to my list above, please feel free to let me know in the comments. I know there are some closet Stryper, Winger, and Kix fans out there. Put on your acid-washed jean jacket with the Mötley Crüe patch and join in!

 

Recommend A Program Manager (Please?)

The planning for CMEpalooza Fall on Wednesday, October 14 is well underway, and to the amazement of the entire CMEpalooza staff, I manged to finalize the moderators for all of the sessions I am running before Scott finalized his. This is truly a momentous occasion as it is perhaps the first time it has happened since the very first palooza Scott and I did back in the fall of 2014.  For those of you wondering if we really make this a competition, I tell you the same thing I tell my wife whenever she asks me the same question: Everything is a competition. Sometimes I just don’t tell you.

(note from Scott: I actually have had my moderators in place for 6 weeks. I just didn’t say anything to Derek. The guy needed a win. I am tired of hearing the same story over and over about how his 7th-grade basketball team won the state CYO championship).

One of the sessions I am particularly excited about is one that comes directly from a suggestion we received on our most recent post-CMEpalooza survey: Program Managers: We Get the Job Done! As you can probably infer from the title, the session will be focused on providing participants with a number of program management tips, best practices, workflows, etc., that program managers (heretofore abbreviated to “PMs” for convenience. Also because I’m never sure if it should be “program” or “project” manager, and this covers both bases) of all levels can utilize.

Christina Hosmer-Gallo, Senior Vice President of Educational Development at Med Learning Group, will be moderating the session, and we are hoping to have a panel of experienced program managers joining in on the conversation. Here is our current conundrum: PMs are often the behind-the-scenes kinds of folks who don’t get a lot of exposure to the broader CME community. So we don’t really know a lot of the ones who are really, really good at what they do (and preferably aren’t camera shy).

So what’s the solution? Well, you are, my good friend. As part of the process for putting the panel together, Christina and I would love to get some recommendations from the CME community for PMs you have worked with who would potentially be a good fit for this session. It can be someone you have worked with in a partnership, someone who works for your organization, or someone you talked to at a conference and thought was really smart. Or you can recommend yourself — we don’t mind!

You can use the form below to submit your recommendation. We will leave it up for a week and make the deadline the end of the day on Monday, July 27. We will take another week to review the recommendations and then reach out to the individuals we think will make the best panel (our goal is to have a panel of 3 or 4). Make sense?

If for any reason you prefer to email me rather than fill out the form below, you can send your recommendation to thecmeguy@gmail.com.

We Need to Have a Chat About CMEpalooza — Part III

Hey gang! Derek here. I wanted to have a little chat with all of you about CMEpalooza (Yes, again. I originally posted this in 2017, then again in 2018, but some people never learn.) Not the actual Fall event, mind you. Until we have the agenda totally set (we’re working on it), we don’t have much more to tell you about it, though Scott will undoubtedly have an update on our intern search soon (note from Scott: He’s right. I will).

No, what I wanted to chat about today is the continuation of a disturbing trend, and one that I want to try and bring to an end. I’m here to talk to you about the word “CMEpalooza.”

Here’s the thing — it’s”CMEpalooza.” It’s not “CMEPalooza” or “CMEPALOOZA” or “CMEpallooza” or…(ugh)…”CME palooza.” It’s one word with the first three letters capitalized. It’s a mash up of “CME” and “palooza.” It’s a palooza of CME. It’s CMEpalooza.

In one of the first emails Scott sent me when we first started working on CMEpalooza together, he referred to it as “CMEPalooza.” I responded to him with a threat of fisticuffs if ever he spelled it that way again. It’s one of the few arguments I’ve ever won with him. To be fair, most of our arguments rarely extend beyond this exchange:

Me: Hey, should we try this?
Scott: No.
Me: Why not?
Scott: Because it’s dumb.
Me: Fair point.

Nonetheless, winning this argument was no great feat. Still, I even had “CMEpalooza” t-shirts made. See?

IMG_1474

As someone who has his name misspelled more often than it is spelled correctly (Derek, Derik, Derrick, Dereck, Derick, Darek, Darik, Deric, Derk), I am perhaps a little oversensitive to the incorrect spellings. Still, CMEpalooza is my baby and a little piece of me dies inside every time I get an email asking me a question about “CME palooza.”

The moral of the story is this: it’s “CMEpalooza.” All one word, no capital “P.” The next person to write it wrong gets banned. From something. Not quite sure what, but I’ll figure it out.

When They Zig, We Zag

Back in ancient times, a wise man once said: “Why do we pay lots of money to go to conferences when we could stay at home in our comfy clothes and do the same thing much cheaper?”

That wise man was me (and by “wise” I mean “lazy and bored”) and the year was 2014 (Ahh, 2014. Back in the days when we did crazy things like leave the house and give random strangers high-fives. Such an innocent time.) CMEpalooza was born, and maybe there were other virtual conferences around then, but I certainly wasn’t aware of them. I don’t say that to brag – it seemed like sort of a silly idea at the time.

Fast forward six years and virtual conferences are now everywhere. Was CMEpalooza a trendsetter that made everyone jealous so they decided to copy our idea? As much as I’d like to claim imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, clearly the coronavirus deserves all due credit for the surge in online meetings. We were just lucky enough to stumble onto the idea a few years ahead of time.

As Scott mentioned earlier in the week, we have started the planning process for CMEpalooza Fall (happening on Wednesday, October 14), and I wanted to share with you a few updates we are making to help keep us on the cutting edge. Like a wide receiver sprinting downfield, we at CMEpalooza have looked over our shoulder, seen the cornerback closing in, and made our move. We are going old school.

That’s right, the original virtual conference is going audio-only! Instead of video conferencing, we are switching to the old teleconference format you grew to love in the early aughts. It’s going to be great! Approximately 300 people on a teleconference with beeping and booping every time someone calls in or hangs-up. During the Q&A time, we will open the line for anyone to talk so that there will be a long period of silence and then a cacophony to rival the Tower of Babel as everyone asks a question at the same time. Just think of the fond memories it will dredge up.

Also, we will be shutting down the blog and transferring everything over to Google+ and MySpace. Despite going old school, Scott and I still believe that social media is a vital cog in our outreach to the CE community. TikTok is the hot social network of 2020, but the TikTok Teens aren’t really our key demographic, you know? We think these two platforms will really help us reach our target audience.

I know these changes might seem a bit drastic, but I really think that nostalgia-conferencing is the next big thing, and we are ready to jump on it. If anyone has any questions or ideas you want to discuss with me, just hit me up on my beeper. The number is 267-99-…hold on.

[…]

[…]

OK, I have just been informed that MySpace is now myspace and barely functional and Google+ is…well…extinct. Shoot, that really puts a crimp in our promotional strategy. Ugh, this is going to take more planning than I expected. Sigh…I guess we will just have to go back to the old video conference format for the time being.

Sorry to disappoint you all. It looks like nostalgia-conferencing will have to wait for another time…

(Note from Scott: Please, someone save me from Derek’s flashbacks to the “good old past” and fill out an application to be our Fall intern. It’ll be fun. Maybe.)

Where Do I Watch CMEpalooza Spring?

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

Will people be able to hear me on the broadcast?
No. You are not on the broadcast. You are only watching a video feed of the broadcast. You can play “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow at full volume and no one will hear you except your neighbors, who might call the police, who might interrupt you while watching CMEpalooza. So, don’t play “Basketball” by Kurtis Blow at full volume while watching CMEpalooza.

Can I watch CMEpalooza at home?
Yes.

Can I watch CMEpalooza at the office?
No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza in a conference room with 150 other people?
No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza while at a coffee shop?
That depends. Do you own your own coffee shop and will you be watching by yourself? If no, then…No! Stay home!

Can I watch CMEpalooza at home with my kids?
I don’t know. Let’s ask them.

Yeah, maybe not.

Do I have to pre-register or register?
Nope.

Do I have to pay anything to watch CMEpalooza? I love paying registration fees.

No. You don’t have to pay anything to watch CMEpalooza.

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 seven questions and shouldn’t take you more than 60 seconds. If it takes you more than 60 seconds, Scott will come to your house, stand outside your bedroom window (at least 50 feet away, to be safe and all), and recreate the John Cusack boombox scene from Say Anything.

Can I get a certificate for watching CMEpalooza?
Actually, yes. Well, kind of. We’re not accredited or certified or anything like that, and we have no way of verifying whether you actually watched any of these sessions or not. But if you want a certificate of completion that you can use to self-report participation in CMEpalooza Spring 2020, here you go. I’ll also post it on the LIVE page tomorrow. Who knows, maybe these certificates will be worth something 2,000 years from now.

How do I ask questions of the presenters?
Good question. There are two ways you can ask questions:

  1. Send a text to the Peer Audience text line at 267-666-0CME (0263)
  2. Tweet a question using the #CMEpalooza hashtag

We try to get to as many questions as we can throughout each presentation.

Do I have to watch all the sessions?
YES! No. Watch what interests you.

Will the sound quality for each presenter be crystal clear with consistent volume and no glitches?
No. Will it be pretty good for most presenters? Yes. There will be some who sound better than others. There may be a few glitches and hiccups. That’s just how it goes with a free conference where presenters volunteer their time and use their own equipment. Some people aren’t comfortable doing a presentation while wearing headphones and a mic, so we don’t force them to use it. We do the best that we can with what we have available to us.

Will I be offended by anything during CMEpalooza?
Are you offended by Sam Spade-esque, gumshoe detective, film noir satire that includes words like “dame” and “yokel”? If yes, then I suggest avoiding the Jake Powers session at 3 p.m. ET. It’s OK, really, you don’t have to watch it. Go grab a coffee and snack and come back for the 4 p.m. session. We’ll still be here.

What if I’m busy during the day of the live broadcast?
All the sessions will be archived on the website, probably within 15 minutes of the conclusion of each session. How are we able to do it so fast? We have a co-worker who is a real crackerjack on the interwebs. Here she is hard at work, writing our latest blog post.