By Aiysha S. Johnson, MA, IOM
As we embark on our continuing education efforts in 2014, I want to share a few key discoveries on staying laser focused on your audience. I had a chance to reflect at the close of the 2013 American Dental Association (ADA) annual meeting in New Orleans. While our overall registrations were lower than expected, the CE courses exceeded expectation. In past years, meeting registration provided a fair indication of course performance. However, the numbers weren’t as closely aligned and I wondered why. After several post meeting conversations I realized that the common theme was about knowing the audience and providing content to meet their rapidly-changing needs.
For the past few years, I’ve attended meetings with dental leaders to address a wide range of member issues. At the core of these discussions included quality, pricing, and marketing, to name a few. In a roundabout way what we really needed to identify was “Who is our audience and “How can we best meet their needs?” I urge you in your next planning meetings to ask those two questions and see the response. Whether you are in a community -based, higher education or association setting the balance of programs requires that you throw out status quo and stop doing great things for the wrong audience or vice versa.
At first glance, the answer may appear simple but with the onset fierce competition, many of us are fighting for relevance among the competitors. When staff and our dental leaders evaluated the questions, our obvious answer is dentists are the audience. Seems like an obvious case and point, but after a deeper dive into the questions we identified a complete matrix of content among target audiences. For example, we considered the needs of new dentists (out of school for ten years or less) while balancing the needs of the established dentist with more than 25 years of experience. We also considered the data that shows that females are graduating from dental school at record levels compared to previous years. In addition, dentists want new learning opportunities beyond the standard lectures. These are just a few of the observations as a result of these overarching questions.
Once you identify all of your audiences that you are impacting now, consider those that you want to attract that do not immediately seek your programs. The key is to prompt a moment of pause and really think about the question before proceeding with business as usual. With more than 300 courses at the ADA annual meeting in 2013, and a significant number of courses no-fee (free courses) it was imperative that we spend some time addressing these questions to deliver the right portfolio of programs.
When you compare what you are doing, ask yourself does it make sense to expand on anything that you are currently providing or to sunset programs /courses that have lesser and lesser value. If so, I recommend starting with obvious opportunities to grow programs such as working with other organizations to build consensus (if feasible). I worked closely with my leaders to gain support for innovation in programming and collaborative efforts to programming as year-round efforts which allowed me to identify new growth opportunities. As we navigate 2014 and put the first quarter behind us, I encourage you to ask what may be the obvious question. I hope that the outcome will lead to tangible opportunities to do what you do best! I also look forward to hearing your success stories despite our common challenge of doing more with less.