Medical conferences are known to be extremely straightforward, somewhat boring (HEY, who said that?), and not very engaging. But all that is in the past if you spice up your event by making it more interactive!
Ronald McDonalds House Charities Curaçao Foundation's 4th Family Centered Care symposium: “Advancing FCC in the Curacao Medical Center - A path forward” is an excellent example of how interaction gets people to get to work right away.
Here are 3 ways to get conversations started and change happening far before the end of your conference, event, or presentation.
1. Not-so-ordinary Happy Hour
Start your conference with a social event and not just any event, one where participants are actively working on something, together.
💡Have your participants solve a challenge that requires: collaboration, communication, and creativity. Followed by a group reflection, mocktails, and cob grill!
Reflecting on the challenge and how this translates into their day-to-day work, makes them relate better. The following questions can help:
What happened during the challenge?
How did you work as a group?
What did you learn about groups? What did you learn about yourself?
How can you apply today’s insights and challenges to your work?
2. Create a safe place to share
Implement dedicated sessions in your program where participants can reflect by themselves, in duos, in small groups, and as a whole group. A safe place allows participants to feel at ease as much as possible: resulting in open and emotional conversations and different perspectives - without having the feeling or need to defend or justify themselves.
We showed a video testimonial of parents who recently lost their 7-month-old baby. After the testimonial, nurses & doctors -some of whom were present during the tragedy- had a moment to reflect with the whole group and talk about the situation. The video testimonial was used to get the conversation started and some of the questions asked were: What did you notice during the video? What would you do differently in the future? What are areas for improvement?
💡Create a safe place by:
Sharing what a reflection is and is not:
“After the parent testimonial, I will guide you through a personal reflection. This way we can talk about your personal experience during the video/specific event. The goal of this reflection is to learn from the situation, in order to improve similar/future situations. This is not a moment to bash or blame yourself or others.”
Setting clear rules/expectations:
“Raise your hand when you want to share something and I’ll pass you the mic.”
Have enough time for participants to warm up and feel comfortable to start sharing. It usually takes about 2-3 people (often seniors in the group) to kick off before the whole group feels comfortable enough to open up;
Allow moments of silence to happen, people will not jump to share at first and rushing them will not help either;
In our case, we had tissues at hand as it was a heavy and emotional topic.
3. Interactive check-in
Have participants check in when they arrive. A fun way to do this is by drawing selfies (on your phone) and showcasing this on a screen at the start of your event.
This is a good conversation starter and a fun way of getting people to interact with each other from the get-go. This leads to laughter, unity, fun, and creative selfies (and countless pictures of the selfies)! If you have any technical issues that need to be sorted, this will also be a good distraction for your audience!
💡Use a tool such as Piccles and fun drawing prompts could be: Draw a selfie, draw what you had for breakfast or dinner, draw your favorite purchase of the month…
Get creative and interactive, it makes a difference!
The result of our interactive symposium? Increased awareness and open conversations about the importance of Family Centered Care, instantly extended visiting hours for families in the NICU, ongoing conversations for lasting projects, and many changes continue to happen as I’m writing this!