I can read. So can you. Why, then, do speakers at conferences for CME professionals and meeting planners continue to read out loud from their slide presentations when we have the handouts in front of us? I've heard so much lately about the kind of education physicians want — self-directed learning, problems-based learning, just-in-time learning, small-group sessions — that I began to wonder why those formats aren't modeled at conferences for education providers.
I am tired of attending sessions where the speakers promise that they will leave plenty of time for questions, and an hour and a half later, they say, “Oops. Well, we still have time for a few questions.” I wish more speakers would do what our columnist Hank Slotnick recommends — and ask attendees what they want to learn — before starting their presentations. (Of course, if they then go on with their prepared talk regardless of what attendees say, that will only increase my frustration level.)
And, lighten up on the theory and go heavier on practical applications. I've heard CME professionals say that they attend conferences for the same reasons physicians do — to find solutions to problems they already have; often they learn the most from peers. The specialty society special-interest group at the Alliance for CME annual conference is an excellent example of peer-learning. After short presentations, each speaker moderates a roundtable. The discussions are timed so you can participate in several of them. The Alliance's communities of practice are a good example of using the Internet for peer support. A group of members formed a personal skills community, and discussed David Whyte's book via e-mail all year, in preparation for his keynote at the 2002 conference.
Physicians want point-of-care learning. How about developing point-of-problem learning for education providers? The CME community used to have an active listserv. What happened? Maybe CME providers can learn from the meetings industry. After several unsuccessful attempts at listservs, the MIMlist (www.mim.com) took off. It has a moderator, rules, and discussion threads. Perhaps the CME listservs need moderators who will initiate conversation about hot topics and encourage people to share opinions and solutions.
Meeting planners and CME providers are not any less deserving of quality education than health care professionals. If the CME community is going to help physicians practice a commitment to lifelong learning, let's look at ways to help ourselves do the same.