AS I WAS RESEARCHING this issue's cover story on measuring outcomes for CME, I got to wondering what organizers of conferences for CME providers and meeting planners in general were doing to measure the impact of their education on the real-life practices of their attendees. After all, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander: If CME providers are being asked to step up their efforts to measure outcomes for their participants, despite today's tight times, it seems logical that those who educate providers have the same responsibility, right?
Maybe, but that's not how it plays out. While Meeting Professionals International, the Professional Convention Management Association, and the American Society of Association Executives do survey their attendees after their annual conferences, they're still not asking those real-life questions about the ways in which people are changing their behavior based on what they learned at the conference. Instead, what they're asking basically comes down to: “Did you like it?” and “What can we do better next year?” Which are fine questions, but the answers won't tell them if you translated anything from theory to reality when you got back to your desk.
The Alliance for CME took a step in the right direction last year by including a “for change” on its conference evaluation form and following up to see if those who intended to make a change actually did, says Bruce Bellande, PhD, the Alliance's executive director. “We had the same question on this year's evaluation form,” he adds. “Depending on staff time and resources, we may do a follow-up to this year's respondents.”
Ah, the old time and money crunch once again threatens to thwart good intentions. But it doesn't have to. If you agree that outcomes measurement is as valid a need for CME providers as it is for docs, why not do for your industry associations what you wish your attendees would do for you: If you learned something at an industry conference that's changed the way you work, let them know. If you thought you'd gotten a gold mine of information, but it didn't work in real life, let them know that, too. Even — or especially — they need to know if you learned nothing at all of practical value.
The more feedback they get, the better they can design programs that will help you move your career — and the industry as a whole — forward.
But that's just my opinion. Please contact me at (978) 448-0377 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you think.