Solvay Conference

In 1927, a small group of Physicists and Chemists were invited to Brussels to discuss larger problems in both physics and chemistry. The first conference was held in 1911 and scientists attended by invitation only.

I was not aware of this conference until a few years ago but it has been on the top of my mind ever since. One interesting perspective about those who attended (made by Seth Godin) is that people weren’t invited because they won’t a Nobel Prize – no, people won a Nobel Prize because they were invited (attended).

Within most Pharmacy conferences, you sit and listen to a speaker. Occasionally, there is interactive learning but often this is limited to pressing a button to answer a question, disguised as interactive learning. There isn’t a framework similar to Solvay currently.

A significant gap is finding a place to work on the big problems, to brainstorm and test. While there may not be a Nobel Prize at the end, you just might be able to improve healthcare along the way.

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Bad Weather

It’s always a concern when planning a conference that speakers will get stuck flying in. Interestingly, sometimes it can be equally challenging flying out!

Several years ago, we were holding an Annual conference and two speakers flew in without issues – unfortunately, their flights to get out were cancelled.

Terrible weather was hitting the East Coast and there were no flights. We were two-thirds through our conference when a small group started diligently working on how to get people back home. Two kind and patient gentlemen might be stuck in Connecticut for some time…

One speaker was flying back to DC and we were able to find the best Amtrack schedule to get him there before his next presentation at 7am the following day…with a few hours of sleep to spare and some recommendations for pizza in New Haven, CT. This apparently was the easy the case.

Who knew how challenging it can be to fly out (and back in) of Arkansas? Well apparently, it was quicker to drive there than wait for another flight. After driving from CT to Philadelphia only to find out the flights were cancelled there too and then fully booked because everyone else was trying to get out too – he decided to drive back to AR.

It was a bit of a nightmare for them. We haven’t dared asked either to come back yet – maybe we’ll plan a webinar 🙂

We all have our own horror stories – I’d love to hear about your favorite.

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An Artful Gathering

A big part of healthcare education are the live conferences. A place for like-minded people to convene, connect, and learn from each other.

There’s a great book to read on this topic – The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.

Some of the key concepts from the book are:

  1. Embrace a specific disputable purpose
  2. Cause good controversy
  3. Create a temporary alternative world through the use of pop-up rules

The first item cannot be stressed enough – creating a purpose for the gathering. A few ideas to help you are – drill down why you are meeting – utilize the 5 whys; ask your group – “what problem might it solve?”; and start with the desired outcome (similar to Steven Covey’s Begin With the End in Mind).

Happy Gathering!

Additional Resources (with Priya Parker):

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Post Conference Questions

Next week is an exciting time! We have a post-con meeting to discuss what we thought about our conference.

In preparing for the meeting, there are a host of questions to ask and work through.

One key step is the posture – bringing curiosity and generosity to the conversation. Being able to hone in on what’s it for and who’s it for will make a big difference as you make forward progress.

First, it’s important to celebrate the wins, small and large. Some questions to bring out those ideas are:

  • What worked well?
  • What did attendees enjoy?
  • What was the “best” part of the conference?
  • What would we include again next year that you wouldn’t want to miss? Or alternatively;
  • If we removed “x” next year, would you still attend?

The second piece, which most of us focus on primarily, is what could be improved. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • If you could improve one thing next year, what would you improve?
  • What part of the conference did not work?
  • Is there something from the conference this year, if included next year, would stop you from attending again?

Start off looking at the big picture will be helpful. Then you can zoom in on specific areas, such as:

  • Planning committee & responsibilities
  • Speakers & topics
  • Venue
  • Food/beverage
  • Breaks
  • Marketing
  • Attendee feedback
  • Attendee interaction

What other questions would you explore? Please let me know in the comments.

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Key Takeaways and The Forgetting Curve

Part of creating an educational conference is to help attendees learn.

However, it is well documented, from Herman Ebbinghaus in 1885, that we forget a significant part of what we learn. Between days 2 to 7, we’ve already forgot upwards of 80% of what we learned!

Work that was completed in Australia shows that just small increments of time over the first 2-30 days after learning something new can have result in a significant improvement in content retention.

One of the key pieces to add to your communication with learners, specifically after a program, is sending bite size takeaways within 7 days of the conference and then at 30 days.

Even better is to get key takeaways from other attendees and share them with everyone. This adds connection between attendees and adds some status to those that get to share their takeaways.

For additional info on The Forgetting Curve, you can find it at Wikipedia:

(The original uploader was Icez at English Wikipedia. – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., Public Domain)

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