In 2017, we set out to deconstruct what we believe are the most effective ways to achieve meaningful change. To that end, we have presented series focused on Collective Creativity and The Power of Immersive Experience. Below is our third installment in our final series, “Learning in a Modern Age,” in which we shift our attention to learning and development.

Emily Demarest is responsible for designing trainings for physicians and care teams to successfully run clinical trials. Recognizing the high-stakes and incredible opportunity in front of her, Emily has introduced a series of innovative approaches to her company’s (IQVIA’s) training design. In her capacity as Director of Event Design and Production, she has abandoned endless PowerPoint presentations, favoring the strategic use of visuals and interactivity to maximize the learning experience.

Marsha Dunn: Let’s start with the basics. What is an investigator meeting?

Emily Demarest: Investigator meetings are trainings to teach physicians and care teams how to conduct a given clinical trial in their care setting.  We cover everything from scientific rationale to operational protocol.

Marsha: What were some of the challenges you tried to solve for in rethinking what the shape that an investigator meeting could take?

Emily: We needed to go beyond checking the compliance box that we had “told them everything they need to know.” We needed to focus on the human side of the equation – for both the physician and the patient. When you have a group of doctors meeting face-to-face you have an opportunity, a responsibility, to create a highly engaging experience in which content is communicated as effectively as possible and in which professionals can interact with and learn from their colleagues. We want knowledge transfer and collaboration. Both have to be intentionally built into the event agenda.

Marsha: So where do you start?

Emily: First, you want to develop a set of high-level goals for the meeting; the training objectives and format flow from there. You don’t want to arbitrarily set a meeting length or format and have that dictate your approach.

Marsha: How does starting with high-level goals impact your meeting design?

Emily: We abandoned an approach of “just teaching” everything through PowerPoint and began to bucket content into meaningful categories: 1. Material you must memorize; 2. Material you need to know how to reference; 3. Material you need to talk about with your peers.

Marsha:  On that last point, why is it important for some material to be discussed with peers?

Emily: According to social multiplier theory, the trajectory for human improvement is growing exponentially because of increased opportunities for us to share information. Basketball provides a great example. Once the game began to be televised, people got a lot better a lot faster. They would watch something on TV and then try it on the court with their friends. Investigator meetings provide a venue for just this kind of social multiplying. We do this at the beginning of a study at an investigator meeting, and then later in the study life cycle at booster meetings. Booster meeting are opportunities for those conducting studies to get together and resolve challenges – and regain momentum.

Momentum and will-building are an important part of this puzzle. Physicians experience a high burnout rate; they need their batteries recharged, often best achieved by peer-to-peer interaction. It would be short sighted not to factor that into a meeting design. By affording opportunities for interaction, you allow for human connections to occur, by which physicians are able to help one another and be helped.

Marsha: How do you facilitate this type of interactivity?

Emily: A recent example is a tabletop exercise we developed with Collective Next aimed at helping physicians manage conversations with patients on the verge of dropping out of a study. The exercise prompts physicians to discuss things such as, “what would you say next to make sure the patient feels heard?” or “what are your best practices around building trust and rapport with a patient?” Terrific peer-to-peer learning occurs this way.

Marsha: You mentioned a tabletop exercise. What other modalities have you introduced?

Emily: Working with Collective Next, we have focused on increasing the use of visuals. We use large format poster boards, infographics in a variety of mediums, and videos. It is no longer a day of PowerPoint. For example, we created a series of large format boards to bring the patient experience to life. A combination of imagery and narrative powerfully conveyed their stories and transformed them from “Participant #22” to Mary, a mother of three, working two jobs, managing care of her aging parents, etc.

Marsha: We are huge fans of employing visuals, why do you believe they are important?

Emily: Studies show that the brain craves novelty. When we encounter things that look, feel, or sound different it sparks our curiosity and makes us pay attention. When you enter an investigator meeting and the room is full of color and imagery, you perk up. It’s efficacy via enticement.

There is tons of data out there on the effectiveness of visual learning tools. They help us take in more information faster, retain it longer, and stay more engaged. We often take tons of slides and put them into a single infographic. For example, we frequently create a study design single frame (number of patients needed, inclusion and exclusion criteria, randomization strategy, etc.). This infographic replaces multiple slides plus we distribute it as a reference tool and display it as a conversation piece in the common areas.

We have also found that infographics allow us to better communicate  how parts of a system function together. For example, after training physicians about each data input platform, we can then step back and use the synthesized view created by the visuals to talk about how these technologies interact with one another.

This goal of more effectively sharing the big picture is huge. Behavior change requires an understanding of the why, not just the how – and clinical trials are requesting behavior change from many different people. So learning modalities that help us explain big systems and big change in a palpable way – they shift our meeting outcomes from “yes, I understand my to dos” to “yes, I understand how I am an integral part of this clinical trial.”

Marsha: You mentioned videos earlier.

Emily: There are certain messages that are absolutely critical and can’t be buried on slide 205. With the right video, a message sticks. For example, we have something called “lost to follow-up” which is when a patient just stops showing up and doesn’t respond to outreach. This poses a safety concern for us and for regulatory agencies. We had presenters talk about this important topic in dynamic and not so dynamic ways… It needed to be a powerful and consistent message every time. So we scripted it, shot it, and layered in visuals to further underscore the message.

Marsha: What is your advice to other organizational leaders planning meetings with similar learning goals?

Emily: Allow your excitement and passion to come through in the pitching and planning process even when it might be uncomfortable or scary. I often think of the Kano Model, which talks about customer satisfaction and contrasts baseline “must-have” items with “delighters”, which happily surprise customers. The kinds of changes in training design that I have described are delighters now, but soon they will be must-haves. We have a chance to be the founders of this new approach to learning.