Rebooting the Medical Meeting – 9 lessons from TEDMED

A few things that medical meeting organisers could learn from the organisers of TEDMED.

1. Most presentations at TEDMED are 18 minutes long. This allows for large numbers of presentations with fine tuned ideas to presented in a polished digestible format to an audience.  George Bernard Shaw said. “I’m sorry this letter is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” Even the most excruciating presentation is bearable if you know it’ll be over shortly.

2. Give speakers guidance on their style of presentation with specific suggestions; e.g. “think big,  make the complex plain, connect with peoples’ emotions, don’t flaunt your ego, don’t read your talk, finish on time” etc. Check their slides well in advance of the talk and offer guidance. Speakers need to be guided and managed.

3. Introduce talks which stimulate thought, innovation and creativity rather than didactic hard data. It’s not always essential to have the answer or solution to make a presentation interesting.

4. Introduce an element to your meeting with speakers from disciplines outside medicine. At this TEDMED the innovative dynamic is generated by bringing together people from all sorts of disciplines passionate about healthcare; Some of the most exciting conversations / commentaries that took place this year at this years were with Architects, Climate Change specialists, Neurobiologists, Experts in Social Networks, Plant Biologists, Technology Entrepreneurs, Gamers, Military personnel, Poets, Musicians and dancers.

5. Broadcast to remote locations so people don’t have to attend. TEDMEDlive broadcast to 100′s of institutions around the US this year allowing exposure of a much larger number of delegates to presentations. Certain delegates will need to attend for a more immersive networking experience but many delegates could gather in groups around the world creating smaller, more intimate and manageable communities to allow meaningful local discussion.

6. Introduce Social Media to the event to allow two way discussions between delegates (those present and remote) and speakers. This could be by using Twitter  but the use of a mobile App for registered delegates would allow questions to be collated and filtered by the chairperson for the session. Put an end to the usual suspects hogging the mike from the floor. This also means that organisers will need to use high quality free Wifi and recharging facilities for mobile phones and laptops.

7.Using crowd sourcing to ask the questions that physicians most want the answers to – those questions could then be answered by experts based on data gleened from novel research presented at those meetings. These questions could also be used to prompt areas of research deemed to be relevant by the broader medical community. A novel tool presented at this years meeting by management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton allows crowdsourcing of ideas at a conference allowing the most popular sugestions to percolate to the top of the list.

8. The most moving, insightful and powerful presentations at this years TEDMED meeting were presented by patients (some of whom were physicians) or by their carers. The patient perspective introduces an essential element and the ultimate stakeholder in to the conversation. The power of the patient narrative should not be underestimated and reintroducing some humanity into a tsunami of medical data reminds us why we’re here.

9. Introduce an element of fun into the meeting. Make people laugh, make them angry or make them cry. The impact of a creative element from the Arts in the programming (apart from presenting a pleasing distraction to complex medical data) contributions from poets / artists /comedians may allow us to create fresh perspectives and imaginative leaps. We need to be inspired by people who are real risk takers.

What do you think?

Dr. Ronan Kavanagh is a rheumatologist from Galway. Follow him on twitter @RonanTKavanagh and at his personal blog where this post first appeared.

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