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Host, Erin Schwarz: Hello, and welcome back to The Alliance Podcast, Continuing Conversations. I'm Erin Schwarz, editor-in-chief and chair of the Almanac Editorial Board. I've worked in healthcare education since 1997, in a specialty society setting first and now as a consultant. And as healthcare CPD professionals, we're usually planning education with clinicians in mind. But when it comes to the Alliance Annual Conference, our colleagues are planning the education and content, but with us in mind. So there's immense value in learning about the ins and outs of planning a meeting for educators and thinking about how can we translate this into what we do for our own learners. And that is why I'm so excited to sit down with the Alliance 2024 Annual Conference Planning Committee chair, Chris Keenan, to learn more about her experience bringing our upcoming 2024 conference to life, and hearing what lessons she will apply to her own day to day work. Chris, welcome to The Alliance Podcast.
Guest, Chris Keenan, RN, MSN: Hi, Erin. It's so great to be here. And first and foremost, I appreciate you as editor of the Almanac. This is kind of your side hustle, and it's quite an undertaking. So from one member society staff to another member society staff, well done. We appreciate you.
Erin Schwarz: Thank you. It is a joy and a pleasure to volunteer in that role. I really do love it so much. Speaking of volunteering, even before the 2023 Annual Alliance Conference, you were planning and volunteering your time for the Alliance 2024 Conference. And that's going to take place February 5 through 8 in New Orleans. So I'm wondering how you got involved in this volunteer leadership role, and maybe what drove you to take it on.
Chris Keenan: Yeah, so I had the fortune to be on the Membership Committee with Pam Mason as the chair for a number of years. And a couple of years ago, Pam McFadden, the incoming president of the Alliance, happened to be the Board of Trustee liaison on the Membership Committee. And I admit that I was very surprised when Pam called me about a year and a half ago. So in March of 2022, I guess and asked if I would consider being chair of the annual meeting. And so as far as what path led me to have this opportunity, it was the involvement of the Membership Committee. As far as what drove me to take it on, I'll admit, there was a little bit of a perfect storm. I had just read Priya Parker's book, ‘The Art of Gathering.’ And I don't know anybody listening out there, if you haven't read Priya’s book, it is remarkable. Particularly for our space, I think it gives us a little bit of a different perspective about how we gather ourselves and our own community of learning, but those of our customers and our learners. And so I had just read that book. And when Pam called, she asked if I'd be interested. And the next thing she gave me was the space to do what I wanted and to be innovative. And so that's really what led me to kind of accept the role.
Erin Schwarz: I think a take home from what you just said, then is for those of us who are planning education to figure out who we want to be on our committee or involved and ask them. Because people don't always come up and say, 'Hey, I want to be the conference chair,' right? They need to be identified and asked.
Chris Keenan: Yeah, and it's funny, you should say that, Erin, because the first thing I said was, ‘What, why me? What did you see in me that I bring?’ You know, when you work for a member society like you and I do, we're very aware of how our chairs pick other chairs or pick their faculty. And the processes or organizations have to fill those roles. And there was something in the way that I thought about gleaning more members on behalf of the Alliance, that she thought I could have a little bit of a different perspective on planning the meeting.
Erin Schwarz: Well, that leads me to my next question, which is what is your role in healthcare CPD? And what was the professional experience that maybe brought you that curiosity because I hear that that's what you have, a bit of a curiosity about what does it mean to be a healthcare CPD professional? And maybe what is that background bringing to your planning for the Alliance Annual Conference?
Chris Keenan: Yeah, and I am mindful to say that I'm as well an accidental educator, as many of us kind of find ourselves in. I am an open-heart ICU nurse by background. I have formal teaching in a number of schools of nursing in the D.C. area, and had worked at the bedside in and out of grad school. And I would teach for a while and go back to school, and then I'd work at the bedside, but I was teaching and back and forth. But I'm currently a learning architect. I'm the team lead for innovative design team at the American College of Cardiology. And in that role, I basically design, develop and implement education across our portfolio every day. So what led me into this role is similar to all of us, that we kind of stumbled down a little bit of a lane, but the idea of, you know, helping people be better at what they do. And I always say, learning architects have two jobs here at the college. Did they learn anything, and did our design function well? So yeah, that's kind of what landed me here at the ACC.
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Erin Schwarz: Well, as you're thinking then about putting together this 2024 event, and you have the kind of blank slate and the freedom, what is different about 2024? And how did you develop the vision to put that together?
Chris Keenan: So again, I think Priya Parker’s book really influenced me. And in the beginning, the idea of solving question number one was why we gather, why are we having our annual meeting in the first place? I don't know that I did anything unique. I did, I think what are just best practices. I did an analysis of the last five years of the evaluations in our annual meeting. I read a lot and looked at the literature. And then I did form a group that's kind of what's called the McKee group, McFadden and a little bit of Kenan, and that was McKee. It was what consisted of KOLs in our space. And I posed that question to them. It's people who have been former presidents of the Alliance, who are strong teachers at our annual meeting, and we gathered last year in 2023. And I said, ‘What's the purpose of this gathering? You know, what's my moonshot here?’ And they helped some. And then we formed our planning committee, and we looked at the needs as well. And the committee came up with some critical needs with a big dose of Priya Parker's voice in my head. And we came up with one simple concept. You know, the Alliance, the job or the function of our flagship educational offering, is to teach us how to offer our teaching skills, our design skills, our evaluation skills to other people, so that they can do their job better. Right? You know, my ability as a member society designer, to reach to patient care, I have to help the provider be better at what they do. So we have a simple promise this year, our tagline this year internally was that the annual meeting, how to help people be better at what they do, not their job, just be better at what they do. And that kind of led us to this. Unlocking your potential. We want to amplify capabilities. We want to explore interesting ideas and solutions. And make sure when people leave, they feel like they have grown both personally and professionally. Yeah, that was our promise. We want to help you be better at what you do.
Erin Schwarz: I'm gonna go a little off script. That's amazing because it helps to have that focus as you're going into the planning process. How do you apply that then to submissions when we ask for members and non members alike to submit ideas for the conference? And you don't necessarily know what you're going to get when you select a submission. So how do you apply that process, that intentionality to submissions?
Chris Keenan: So we had the PDC Committee of the Alliance prioritize our learning domains. We said, ‘What are the top learning domains that our Professional Development Committee within our own community ranked?’ And so they ranked basically, our national competencies, measurement and evaluation, first. Ed design, ed theory. I kind of coupled education principles and ed design together. Accreditation, emerging trends and research. And then we looked at the needs, and we developed eight learning objectives. And when we put our call for abstracts out, we said, ‘We need content that meets these learning objectives.’ Certainly the primary author, the submitter, could select amongst the other learning domains that the Alliance had, but it was a very clear message that this is our goal. This is what we're trying to accomplish this year. We had learning objectives for each one of those domains. We also asked submitters to do level proficiencies. So we're bringing back levels one through five. A small committee decided on what those levels would be. And so this year, every session will be identified within a learning pathway, as well as a level of learning from one, which is basically beginner to five being an expert, we tried our best to ask for submissions that followed those learning objectives.
Erin Schwarz: And did you receive the content or the submissions that you were hoping for?
Chris Keenan: We did. I mean, thankfully, the level of learning, as you know, I started to solicit membership committees. I was very mindful to go to the Research Committee, to go to the Membership Committee, to go to the Professional Development Committee to say, ‘Hey, this is what we're trying to accomplish this year.’ I suspected, which ended up being true, that we would get a lot of level two or three. I basically encouraged people to really stretch to get to that four or five, or to teach to the beginner. And we did okay, Erin. We really did okay. I'm not surprised. Again, we have a lot of content and design. That's probably because our community feels most comfortable teaching that. Right? But we did fine. I was a little disappointed in the amount of research abstracts we got. But we did okay, we did okay.
Erin Schwarz: Well, it is interesting, because a lot of us that are accidental CPD healthcare professionals don't necessarily feel confident when you put that big term ‘research’ on our shoulders. And so I have appreciated over the years, especially because I do like to go to sessions that stretch me a little bit and so more into the research sessions and trying to ask myself, ‘How could I potentially take what I'm hearing and learning and apply it to what I'm doing?’ So I'm glad to hear that you have some. And I hope people will take up that challenge for the next submission process.
Chris Keenan: Yeah, I think I'm really excited that in measurement, ed design and emerging trends, we have expressions as far as level four and five. We didn't hit a level four, level five in accreditation, but that's okay. Right? And I'm not sure who would be coming to this meeting to have that level of accreditation.
Erin Schwarz: Well, this kind of leads me to my next question, which is, you're used to planning cardiology content. And then here, you're planning for the teachers of content. So for you, how has that been different, or has it been the same? What would you kind of say to draw that out a little bit?
Chris Keenan: I would challenge the notion that teaching an adult is any different, regardless of that content. We, in the ed design team, have a north star. That's our ed principles. It's the eight adult learning principles that all of us use. Right now we're really focused on relevance. Does what you want to teach match with what they want to learn? To be problem-centric, to have emotional connection, the idea of connecting with the binary relationship between the teacher and the learner and creating that emotional connection in any setting is so critical right now. And one last one is fun. And so we are really committed to the neuroscience. There are, you know, self-regulation and other principles of those eight, but right now for us? Is it relevant? Are we helping people solve a problem? Are we ensuring emotional connection? And is it going to be fun? And I did, I pulled all of those things into the work here.
Erin Schwarz: Well, and to me, that is so much better than just saying it's going to be interactive, because that explains what people mean when they say make your session interactive, because what they really do mean is those things, right? They want to connect with the learners and make sure that you're holding them as experts in their own standing, right? They know their profession, they know their organization, they know their own experience. So you're not necessarily just a sage on the stage. How do you draw that in and make that emotional connection with each other so that learning can take place?
Chris Keenan: Yeah, I think one of the things the needs assessment uncovered, and this was one somebody on the Planning Committee that the statement was, ‘When you go to the annual meeting, people feel like it was built for somebody else than themselves. Oh, it was built for the medical education company, it was built for the medical society. There's no accreditation content, there's too much accreditation content. And this idea that everybody feels like it was built for somebody else. So I'm just going to warn everybody, anybody who looks at the agenda for the first time, there's a lot of content. And I'm often called a ruthless content manager. I hate fire hose education. But in our space, we had to go across a breadth in our member sections from the advocate for global education to the manager of a CME program at a large, you know, healthcare system. And when you have that breadth of need, you really have to think about these learning domains and ensuring they have a house built for them that then when they look at the agenda, they can see how is this going to help me do my job better? So this year, we'll have something called conference consultants. We’ll have a session in the morning where you can go have coffee with experts from the Planning Committee and from our wonderful community. And they're going to help guide and personalize your learning path. We're having each planning committee who represents our member sections create a persona and you're going to be able to walk into this room and at registration it’ll say ‘A Path Built for You: Measurement.’ It will say ‘A Path Built for You: Advanced.’ And so what we have is a learning blueprint and what this breadth of content is allowing us is to customize those learning experiences. I got tickled, a shout out to Kenny Cox at ArcheMedX. Kenny sent me two personas, he created personas, and he created a learning path for a five-year manager of a CME program at a hospital. And he created a learning path manager for a supporter who had been in the business for 10 years. And he just took his lens and figured out what content he thought would benefit them. And so our goal is to help you be better at what you do, to leave aspirational, not inspired, to have aspirations of where your profession can take you. Our job was to think about the content and learning new needs to get you there. And we're hoping to take that first step in New Orleans, which is a wonderful place to take it.
Erin Schwarz: That's so exciting. I just imagine the benefit of this intentionality that will bring to participants. You know, you're giving so much, but I'm wondering what you have gained, because I know that when I volunteer, I often benefit tremendously from that as well. So I'm wondering if you can share any key takeaways or lessons that maybe you or other Alliance members can apply in your own work?
Chris Keenan: You know, that's so curious, because when I'm working with a clinical chair here at the college, about two years ago, instead of asking them what they need to teach, I've started to ask them, ‘What's the common misstep?’ I mean, people aren't learning things for the first time, right? They're most for the most part, we're in the unlearn, relearn, part of the equation, you know, you learn you unlearn, you relearn. And so sometimes we're on the unlearn part. A new guideline came out, can't do it the way you used to. And the relearn part, we used to do it this way. Now, we're doing it another way. So I've started to ask the chairs, ‘What's the common misstep? If you could fix one thing, what would you fix?’ And so for me, you know, I want to be part of solutions. And I want to think to ourselves, ‘How can I help people be better at what they do? And where do I see common missteps?’ What I've learned is intentionality takes work. I'll agree with you with that. But I love what I do. I love designing, I love designing. And I love to see if I hit the mark. I don't mind. You know, someone said, ‘Oh, are you worried if people won't stay on Thursday?’ And I said, ‘We're adults.’ If they don't see value in Thursday, you know, I would love to hear. I'm creating a how to day on the last day, so that you get practicality that we move that intention into action on the last day. But this is a house I hope you find, you know, comfortable and the first day is called kind of let's be bold, and the second day is learning in the pause, let's just take a breath, take a moment, you know, you have an opportunity to take time and space to absorb one thing. And I hope right? Not 50 things, just one, just one. So I love what I do. I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity.
Erin Schwarz: Well, I just want to acknowledge how powerful one thing can be. If I've learned anything in my career, it's that that one thing can actually be transformative. So I don't think that that's a low bar. I think that is actually quite bold, as you say.
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Erin Schwarz: Thanks so much for joining today, Chris. It’s been a delight. And I just want to ask if you have any hints about maybe what attendees should do as they're thinking about attending or any hints they should do as they go about, you know, arriving in New Orleans and getting ready for the conference.
Chris Keenan: Oh, well, thank you for that. First and foremost, I don't know if anybody heard was at the Alliance last year. I have a sweet spot for New Orleans that runs deep. I've been to New Orleans every year for 37 years in a row to attend the Jazz Festival. So the idea that we're in New Orleans is just this wonderful, magical place for me. First and foremost, the Alliance meeting on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is the week of Mardi Gras. Now, if you know about Mardi Gras, the biggest parade is actually on Saturday. In fact, Tuesday the city closes. This is a very spiritual, right, you go into Ash Wednesday. The partying closes at noon on Tuesday. So that week of celebration and decadence a little bit. So just a quick shout out if you've never been and you have an opportunity to stay, that's one thing. The next thing is that the schedules should allow you to find something to help you be better at what you do. To find joy and well-being, you know, the second day is about the restorative power of education. And as educators, we need to help our providers lean into the restorative power of education. And so we encourage you to, you know, take advantage of the opportunity to be bold, become a learning titan, to pause. And then at the end, we're going to make you kind of take a pledge. I pledge to change X,Y and Z. So we're going to try. We're going to bring all of our best strategies to ourselves for a change, right? And see if we can't make learning a little bit more sticky for us in this sweet city called New Orleans.
Erin Schwarz: Well, it just seems serendipity that you are the conference chair in New Orleans. Thank you so much for joining us.
Chris Keenan: You’re welcome.
Erin Schwarz: For all of our listeners, we really can't wait to be together, February 5 through 8 in New Orleans. And thank you, Chris, for sharing your insights. We so appreciate your time and your volunteerism.