Some meetings are a case study of what not to do to create audience participation and satisfaction. The room is set classroom style when the breakout discussions require rounds. The online registration system chokes, and the planner forgets to bring the paper backup. The meal is cold, late, or both.

We always remember when things go wrong. But we rarely take time to consider the elements that regularly make meetings successful. Every detail is important, but there is a common thread among meetings that generate excellent participant feedback and real changes in attitudes and behavior: case studies.

Case studies are proven favorites among attendees at CME and promotional meetings. Out of eight different delivery formats, “case-based learning” ranked second-highest among physician learners, according to Medical Meetings' 15th Annual Physician Preferences in CME Survey (January/February 2008; online at meetingsnet.com — search for “Bias in the Hot Seat”).

As we all are challenged to manage meetings that have a greater impact, case studies can be an excellent way to please all stakeholders. Case studies promote adult active-learning principles by helping participants engage in and apply the education they receive. Great case studies improve audience involvement, feedback, and message retention.

But like any good idea, some case studies flop. The best results occur when organizations use the case study to connect with participants before, during, and after a meeting. The repeated connection and interaction with participants helps the message succeed in the meeting and stick with the audience over time. The tips below will help you successfully incorporate case studies at your future meetings.

Before the meeting

  • Help drive attendance by informing those you invite that they can “stump the experts” with their most challenging cases.

  • In confirmation e-mails, ask pre-registered attendees to submit cases for possible discussion/review.

  • Work with your moderator to review and select the top case studies that will be considered by a panel of experts.

During the meeting

  • Allow the speakers to present their own cases and ask the audience to vote or give feedback on what they would have done in the same situation.

  • Present the cases provided by the audience and ask the experts to compare and contrast each of their own approaches.

  • Use an audience-response system to engage participants or even have them rate the expert approaches. Show trends or graphics relevant to the topic and audience.

After the meeting

  • Since time is always limited in a live setting, have the experts respond to a handful of cases that weren't addressed in the meeting and e-mail the case studies and opinions to attendees after the session.

  • Consider development of a “Case Studies CD-ROM” or “toolkit” of recommendations and practice guidelines that will improve retention of the messages from the live meeting.

The most memorable meetings are either really good or really bad. To make sure your next event earns praise instead of blame, make a case for case studies. They can increase attendance and audience involvement while helping participants incorporate the messages back home.

Brandy Gray Lewis, BS, CMP, is director of business development for Meeting Logistics Management in Atlanta. Reach her at brandy.lewis@mlmabsg.com.