A field guide to CME

We have survived (perhaps the wrong word) the fall season of CME. It can be exhausting trying to amass the number of CME credits required to stay registered before the end of the calendar year, but I trust that most of us made it. In this most recent season I spent more time assessing the audiences and participants at these meetings than I did trying to learn something new, mainly because I never feel that I can learn much at these events; I am wired to learn more from reading articles and reviews than from listening to pundits. Nevertheless, amassing CME credits and socializing with colleagues is an appealing combination for most, and the busy fall CME meeting schedule is likely going to be with us forever.

My recent observations confirmed that the characters at these meetings haven’t really changed over the few decades in which I’ve been attending. It’s a rogue’s gallery, and I think most of us will quickly recognize them. Herewith a brief catalogue of the characters you are almost certain to encounter at the bigger CME events:

The rock-star speaker: These speakers are rare birds and attract standing-room-only audiences and fulsome introductions. They are at the top of their game and generally are worth the price of registration. Pity the speaker who follows them, because they will inevitably have to begin speaking as the bulk of their audience is noisily exiting.

The definitely-not-a-rock-star speaker: You have to feel sorry for these speakers; they often have reams of data and some nuggets of ideas, but they haven’t been able to put it all together. Their slides all look the same and consist of black-and-white tables in type that is far too small to read. They keep apologizing throughout their presentation.

The audience member with the overlong question: This questioner resents not being invited to speak at the meeting and is determined to make their presence known. They usually ask the first question, prefaced with a monologue. They are rarely satisfied with the answer they receive and will continue with supplementary questions until the adjudicator stops them. 

The apologetic audience member: It’s difficult to understand the motivation of this questioner; they are clearly uncomfortable in the limelight, but are not so uncomfortable that they can’t ask for clarification of something the speaker has said. They usually must repeat their question because no one hears it on the first attempt. The question is usually short and the answer the same.

The audience member who goes to the bathroom at a critical point: You do not want to be this person, who asks for clarification of something that the speaker has spent time elaborating. The audience sighs and turns to look with contempt at the questioner, who wonders what the problem is. They usually do not stay for the next presentation.

Naturally, smaller regional meetings have their own characters: the person who has never chaired a session before, the speaker whose projected slides don’t show critical pieces of information, the speaker who misreads the audience’s sense of humor. Spotting these characters is rewarding and keeps me alert. I think that identifying them warrants extra CME credits, but curiously I can’t get organizers to agree with me.    
—TCR

Timothy C. Rowe, MB, FRCSC, FRCOG. A field guide to CME. BCMJ, Vol. 58, No. 2, March, 2016, Page(s) 62 - Editorials.



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