Faculty who present at continuing education activities usually have the best interests of the audience at heart and want to share their knowledge with colleagues in the hopes of improving the quality of patient care. Unfortunately, they sometimes are a bit overzealous and try to jam too much into too little time. Managing the clock may not sound exciting, but it’s a critical skill in continuing education that many providers overlook. We invited Amy Hammer, the director of education, science, and professional development at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, to join us in a discussion of this issue.

From: Scott
To: Cathy, Amy
Subject
: Too many slides, too little time
It happened again. Another faculty member who insisted that he would be able to jam 60 slides into 30 minutes of discussion and still leave “plenty of time” for questions.

I have attended too many sessions where it was a frantic race to the finish to let that happen anymore. Yet I still
find it amazing that our faculty so frequently fail to understand how to properly pace a live presentation and insist that the more information they have to dispense, the more that learners will get out of the talks. I always love the sense of dread on the faces in an audience when they realize the presenter still has 25 slides to cover and only five minutes to cover them.

Amy, your group is responsible for the coordination of speakers for hundreds of talks each year during your various events, and I’m always impressed by how well you are able to rein in presenters so that they usually don’t have to rush to the end of their slides. Any tips for the rest of us on how to deal with those overeager or overambitious presenters?

From: Amy
To: Scott, Cathy

We have the opportunity to have more interaction with our faculty for ASCO’s smaller thematic meetings, and we schedule session-planning calls for each individual session. The annual meeting is a bit trickier in that all communication is electronic and few, if any, session-planning calls are scheduled. We do our best to outline criteria and responsibilities through a Web site we use for planning. 

In addition to providing presentation guidelines, ASCO also regularly communicates with our audiovisual vendor to be on the lookout for any faculty member who may have too many slides. Again, this is much easier for our thematic meetings where we may have approximately 50 faculty, as opposed to our annual meeting where we’ll have more than 600. Once we’ve been alerted of a potential offender, ASCO staff will approach the faculty member to discuss the situation and encourage him or her to reduce the number of slides.

We also rely heavily on the expertise of session chairpersons to keep the speakers on track. Some are very proactive and request the slides to be submitted for their review prior to the start of the meeting. That review combined with the attentiveness of our AV team has been invaluable in helping staff identify potential problems.
 

From: Cathy
To: Amy, Scott

I find the problem lies mainly in programs where presenting faculty need to delve deeper into a particular subject and engage the audience in a meaningful way to make any difference in changing behaviors. There is no possible way to cover every important point in a one-hour program, so they need to be selective. What we’ve been trying to do is work with our faculty to narrow down the key educational points we set out to address in the program. Easier said than done, but persistence and effective communication is always key.

From: Scott
To: Cathy, Amy

One thing I see a lot is that people on our side of the medical education fence often seem reluctant to confront faculty and suggest (even politely) that they trim back their slides. It’s the old “They know way more about this topic than I do, so I wouldn’t dare encroach upon them” mentality. What we often overlook is that we have expertise in this arena too, and have been a part of enough of these activities to know when things are bound to fall apart.

Amy, it’s interesting that you authorize your AV vendor to speak to faculty who are clearly trying to do too much with their talks. Are there any guidelines you have them look for (e.g., one slide for every minute) or are they expected to manage these based upon their own judgment?

From: Amy
To: Scott, Cathy

Our AV vendor will alert us, and staff will take the lead in speaking with the faculty member.  We do try to follow the one-slide-per-minute rule, but our vendor is very experienced with presentation management within healthcare, so we also trust their judgment. 

In addition to speaking to the presenter directly, I also alert the session chairperson that a presenter may have a slide surplus.  He/she will usually also say something to the speaker to confirm the presentation time and help them in narrowing the number of slides, if necessary. Also, if we’ve had several bad experiences with a speaker or chairperson, staff make certain to inform the planning committees of the previous problems so that they can be well informed in making their final speaker selections.

From: Scott
To: Cathy, Amy

I think that’s an important point—if you have worked with someone you know tends to runs long with their presentations, you can be proactive about working with them on time management. I had one faculty whom I worked with earlier this year on a series of live programs who I knew loves to talk (and talk and talk), but I spoke to her so many times about the need to start and end her part of the discussion on time that she became almost fanatical about watching the clock. It was sort of a running joke between us.

From: Cathy
To: Amy, Scott

I think it really boils down to good management, and that’s our responsibility as the accredited provider. That’s why they’re paying us the big bucks, no? (In case you were wondering, yes, that was rhetorical...)

Cathy Pagano, CCMEP, is president and Scott Kober, MBA, CCMEP, is director of content development at the Institute for Continuing Healthcare Education in Philadelphia. You can e-mail them at cpagano@iche.edu and skober@iche.edu.
Amy Hammer is director of education, science, and professional development at the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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