As a veteran of the pharma industry, I’ve been to my share of conferences, and the experience always helps me understand perspectives other than my own on industry issues. Unfortunately, most conference sessions I attend are pretty formulaic:
- Speaker advises the audience that they “want this to be an interactive session”
- Speaker runs through 30-40 minute slide presentation (which always begins with the stock ‘declining R&D productivity’ slide), but never pauses to ask for questions or engage the audience
- Audience gets 10 minutes of time to ask questions and conduct peer discussion
I understand the need for this type of presentation - speakers want to share their experience with the audience, so that the audience can go back and potentially replicate whatever success is being described. Its a noble goal but I do not believe the presentation ‘status quo’ is the only way to get others to understand and spread the news of success. When I received the opportunity to speak at the 2012 CROWN conference on site feasibility, selection, and startup, my co-presenter and I planned a session that would break from the norm and truly engage the audience to participate and share ideas with each other.
The Session Rapport
When planning or session, Christy Gilchrist and I first determined what ‘style’ of session we wanted to deliver. We considered the ‘traditional’ lecture + Q&A, an ‘improvisational’ approach where we’d drive content based solely on audience input, and an ‘audience panel’ approach. We settled on the audience panel, in which we planned to engage directly with audience members of different types (sites, sponsors, CROs, IRBs) at pre-planned time points in the presentation. Our hope was that this fostered additional thinking and discussion amongst the entire audience as well as kept their focus on the content and ideas being presented and suggested by peers.
We also wanted to bring a little bit of drama and entertainment to the proceedings, so we decided on a ‘CSI’ theme and followed through with full-on CSI apparel (my old jacket from a consulting project called the ‘Clinical Systems Initiative’ came in handy), aviator sunglasses, and all the (fake) seriousness of a police/FBI ‘briefing’ – we addresses the audience as ‘agents’, told them we were going to send them back into ‘the field’ ‘armed’ with the latest and greatest knowledge.
Also, in an ideation portion of the session we went out into the audience to ask what people might do if they had a magic wand – and of course before they spoke, we handed them a ‘real’ magic wand (with sound effects) which they had to wave before offering up their idea. It sounds silly, and of course it was, but once the first person waved the wand, others wanted to follow. We wanted to create a presentation environment that welcomed people to share ideas, and I think we accomplished that during our talk.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a recording of the session, but below you can peruse our presentation slides to get a sense of the ideas that Christy and I offered to the group as starting points to share successes and challenges with using clinical site intelligence to improve site selection, study startup, and even study closeout. If you’ve got more ideas to share, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Todd Tullis is a Senior Director of Product Management at goBalto. He has twelve years experience helping pharma, biotech, device, CRO, and research site organizations identify, select, and implement clinical development technologies and operational innovations.