Participants in the First Annual Leadership in Continuing Medical Education Conference, held September 21 to 25 at the R. David Thomas Conference Center on the Duke University campus in Durham, N.C., walked away with more than just a boatload of know-how—they had the opportunity to experience a great small meeting model in action.

Here’s what they said made it work:

  • The number of participants was kept small (under 30).

  • The faculty-to-participants ratio was very high.

  • Participants were asked to send in ahead of time a challenge they currently faced in their work environment.

  • Participants were asked to keep daily (sometimes hourly) tabs on how they could apply what they were learning to resolve their challenge.

  • The format varied: lectures, Q&As, case studies, small groups, large groups, formal and informal mentoring--and everything was highly interactive. Also, the faculty used films and music to keep things lively.

  • Faculty members constantly used daily evaluations and verbal feedback to adapt the program as it progressed to make sure it continued to meet the learners needs as they assimilated information.

  • At the meeting's end, participants summed up how they were planning to use the information they learned to meet their challenges and move forward in other areas they identified during the course of the conference.

  • Faculty members will check in with participants periodically over the next year to see how they are progressing with their challenges, and to offer advice and feedback as needed.

  • Meeting organizers are setting up a Web site where they can post additional information, pose questions for discussion, and have alumni chat about the progress they're making in incorporating what they learned into their daily work processes.

Most of all, what made it work was an intense commitment on the part of faculty and participants to take strategies for change from concept to reality.