One of the most effective ways to ensure your faculty is on time, on target, and compliant is to establish boundaries and set clear expectations early in the planning process. Detailed faculty planning calls can help to set reasonable roles and expectations and streamline follow-up communications.

Ask your faculty how they prefer to communicate. A tech-savvy physician may balk at the thought of receiving faxes but be willing to respond instantaneously to text messages. Consider using e-mails, letters, faxes, calling campaigns, and texts. You may get the best result using a combination of methods—shoot off an e-mail right after the call saying you will follow up more formally when you send the disclosure form the following week. Thank them in advance for their cooperation, include your most important needs, and let them know they can call you if they have any questions. You can also reinforce your message by following up e-mails with a phone message. Effective communications
can help you turn around an absent-minded physician before it’s too late.

It’s also important to be concise and direct. Nobody is going to make sense of a rambling 10-paragraph e-mail, with the true agenda hidden on line 137—especially not an "Eight Days A Week" faculty member (click here for our categorization of problem faculty types by their Beatles song titles). Call out tasks in a bulleted format, and use highlighting or bold type to quickly identify your request. One accredited provider uses a memo format that starts off with a bold line, stating “ACTION REQUESTED” right up front.

Absentee faculty members can remain elusive. After the faculty planning call, document their agreement to all critical deadlines, responsibilities, and deliverables. When a faculty member has agreed to these roles and responsibilities early on, you can remind him or her of this when reaching out to collect appropriate materials.

Deadlines should be set with as much flexibility as you can
afford. However, you can keep the true “drop-dead” date secret—due dates for external players, such as faculty, can always be padded for your own peace of mind.

There are multiple tools and methods for collecting faculty materials. You can use electronic methods to send automatic disclosure-submission reminders, and to be notified when the tasks have been completed—and you don’t have to worry about having to make assumptions when deciphering prescription-style handwriting.

Educational content can get stuck in cyberspace when large, file-sized slide decks cause e-mail failures. You can use Web links, and free Internet file-sharing services to take the guesswork out of sending and receiving large files. You can ensure you will receive the materials you need, when you need them, by using a secure FTP site that is checked daily and shared with the faculty, along with submission-deadline e-mail reminders.

All these steps take extra work and time that surely none of us can afford—why not lean on your resources to help? Your administrative staff are adept at following up with e-mail and call reminders; and your project coordinators can help to manage the timeline of content submission and retrieval of materials. When all else fails, a problem faculty member will often respond to a personal e-mail or call from the “big guns”: your company president, university dean, society committee chairperson, or CME committee leader.

It can also be very useful to ingratiate yourself with your faculty member’s direct assistant. We have had great success reaching faculty immediately following a quick “happy holidays” or “happy birthday” call to a course director’s executive assistant. These critical support staff can perform miracles in short order.