When CEs Provide More Than Credits

Strategically choosing which continuing education events you attend can leave you feeling invigorated about the industry.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Have you ever showed up to a live CE event and gotten WAY more than you bargained for? I’ve attended my fair share of full-day sessions to quickly bank continuing education hours — most of them are mediocre, some of them have attendees fighting to stay awake, while others are refreshing.

Two CE events that I’ve actually been invigorated by were ones that I co-hosted. So, I did have a bit of influence into how the dynamic played out, but nonetheless, the attendees were all similarly enthusiastic about each course and presenter. Both were virtual and used the same format, standing out from a typical webinar. 

The Speakers Brought the Vibe
The speakers at both of these events are well known in the industry for being subject matter experts, and I appreciated the mix of optical “Yoda’s” who were curated. What made these presentations unique was the fact that these educators don’t usually come together on the same stage, which allowed participants to hear from a range of specialists that you wouldn’t often find in one educational program.

Part of what makes these speakers great is the enthusiasm they have for the courses they created and presented. Regardless of what the presentation was about, each speaker provided fresh knowledge, giving attendees something new to hear, rather than something that they’ve heard before. A few courses pertained to optics, which rarely has new information or formulas, but the innovative speakers were able to present in a way that left many attendees saying, “They described this concept in a way that I have never heard before, and it is much easier to understand!” and “Because of how they explained this, it finally clicked for me!”

Attendee Engagement
Attending a live, virtual CE instead of watching a recorded webinar puts you on the same platform as other ECPs who share your interests and will be watching and learning at the same time as you. As with most live online events, the ability to chat with other attendees was available and widely used. Nearly all of the conversations in the chat were directly in response to the presenter at the time, with attendees saying things like, “I wish I had heard this years ago,” and “I’m going to start doing that in my office,” amongst many others that similarly acknowledged the subject matter was truly helpful and informative. These types of comments continued throughout the entire event — I couldn’t count them if I tried —and it was uplifting to see how many people were appreciative of the subject matter.

Some particularly tech-savvy speakers managed to scan the chat feed while presenting, allowing them to respond to comments in real-time — providing a particularly ‘VIP’ experience. In addition to the live attendee chat, at the conclusion of each session, there was a designated period for attendees to pose questions, to which the instructor could respond. 

Rarely in live presentations do you have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions, nor do you want to because you’d have to stand up in front of all of the other attendees and put yourself front-and-center. Whilst not being on camera while wearing pajama pants, having the opportunity to directly ask the presenter a question about their course was a stand-out benefit of the event. The Q&A period had heavy participation — attendees did not take the opportunity to leave early for a break — and the whole time allotted was filled with eager learners asking questions.

This Fuels the Industry
I know you know the feeling… When optical is buzzing with patients and they start to feed off of each other — they WANT to buy — they happily and patiently wait their turn for an optician to write up their order. That is what these events remind me of. Speakers fueling the fire with knowledge while attendees soak it up and give back by asking even more questions. These events rekindle the desire to learn because they are engaging and provide a neutral space for camaraderie and idea-sharing.

Not only are the speakers teaching hundreds of people at once, they’re learning how they can improve or deliver their course better to hundreds more. These experts are real go-getters, and they want the feedback — they want to hear which topics are interesting, what ECPs need help with, and how participants will implement their learnings. There’s no better way to get educators this feedback than by putting them in real-time contact with their students, in a comfortable environment where feedback and questions are encouraged and plentiful.

Up-Level Your Practice
The point of continuing education is to continue learning with subject matter that is on the forefront, but, this doesn’t limit learners to accreditation-specific continuing education courses. Consider going outside of the typical CE box and attend some lectures simply to learn more on the topic — even if you don’t acquire a CE from attending. Many educational days offer discounted or free registration to those who do not need CE’s — this opens up opportunities for your staff to attend lectures with you or as a team! Think of the possibilities — your practice offers or will be adding new specialty services, having an all-staff educational experience can get everyone on the same knowledge plane so your full team can truly be experts in that specialty market.

In your journey of lifelong learning, elevate your knowledge in more ways than just getting a credit. Rather than being complacent, find different ways to learn, such as events like this. Learn not just from the speaker — hear the feedback, ask questions, see different perspectives, build ideas, and fuel your passion for what you do.

  • Carissa Dunphy, ABOC

    Carissa Dunphy is an ABO-certified optician who has been working in eye care since 2008. She is a Marketing Specialist at PECAA and founded Optician Now. Carissa is also an expert contributor for INVISION Magazine, co-hosts the OWA Talks Podcast, and is a Vice-Chair on the Communications & Website Committee for the Optical Women’s Association. In 2022, Carissa was named an Innovator in the Most Influential Women in Optical by Vision Monday Magazine and was awarded the Leadership Scholarship Award from the Optical Women's Association.

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