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Table For 11

cancelled.jpgDr. Ross McDonald, who invited a number of us to come and speak at his third annual Edinburgh Lecture program, took all the speakers to dinner last Saturday evening. Sitting down to an incredible meal (that lasted four hours) with others who share the seminar “circuit” is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a chiropractic gypsy.

I happened to find myself situated in a most wonderful place at this table of 11. To my right, Dr. Dennis Perman. To my left, Dr. Troy Dukowitz. Sitting across from me were Dr. Janice Hughes and Dr. Guy Riekeman.

As I said, sharing a meal with others who endure the glamour of cancelled flights, lost luggage, taxis and the time away from home, is one of the most pleasurable aspects of enduring the cancelled flights, lost luggage, taxis and time away from home. You might be wondering, “What does a high octane group like that talk about over a four-hour dinner?”

You might be surprised.

Actually, I don’t remember much of our dinner conversation. (Ross is a wine aficionado and generously shared his recommendations with us.) But I do remember one subject that didn’t come up: chiropractic. And it’s not because we have major differences in our interpretation of chiropractic and were attempting to preserve some sort of social goodwill. In fact, it is our love of chiropractic that prompts us to sign up for the cancelled flights, lost luggage, taxis and time away from home. It seemed like most of our conversation centered around two subjects: our families and our experiences on the road.

Only those who share the road can fully appreciate the agony of some of these stories. Tell your spouse about the delayed flights and luggage arriving after your presentation and the response can be an unsympathetic, “Sure, but didn’t you get upgraded to first class?” Yes, I got the upgrade, but frankly, first class isn’t what it used to be. Plus, it’s still 1752 miles (or whatever) regardless of what seat you’re in. Again, something that only fellow road warriors actually understand.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the opportunity to share my ideas with chiropractors and their support team around the world. I love it. And wouldn’t be doing it if my fellow change agents and I didn’t get a whiff or two from time to time that we were actually making a difference. Which is something we talked about. More specifically, why is the attendance of virtually every chiropractic gathering shrinking?

It may surprise you that eroding attendance bothers the speakers even more than the various sponsors of these chiropractic gatherings, whether associations, consulting groups or private entrepreneurs. Sure, it can make it less profitable for the sponsors, but more fundamentally, it reduces the possibility of significantly touching someone and inspiring change—the real motive for getting onto airplanes.

Based on my dinnertime research, plus drawing on some conclusions of my own, here are a couple of theories about why attendance may be down. In no particular order:

Been there done that. Apparently, many chiropractors believe that the purpose of attending a seminar is to be in a room in which they agree with the ideas and point of view of the speaker. So, why pay to listen to someone you may never have heard of before or whose opinions you disagree with?

Irrelevant. I’m guessing that many seminars don’t address the issues that are meaningful to the typical chiropractor. The exception to shrinking seminar attendance seems to be the rare state association that delivers the mandatory HIV training, risk management or some esoteric diagnostic X-ray course required by some governing body.

Other priorities. Let’s not forget that most seminars take place on Saturday. The same day as weddings, gymnastic competitions, piano recitals, hockey games and the call of lawn work or the golf course. While for some, a seminar would be a wonderful diversion (depending upon the weather), for others, a seminar competes with key family activities.

Poor return on investment. Whether you’re investing your time or money or both, many seminars may no longer deliver a sufficient benefit. Seminars that are still teaching ways of exploiting the third party reimbursement system or teaching abusive patient management strategies (“I just can’t see myself saying that to a patient!”) just don’t seem worth the trouble.

Seminars don’t work. Perhaps after a couple dozen seminars, audiences are wising up to the idea that the outside-in approach of a one-size-fits-all seminar just doesn’t produce real change. The stack of unimplemented ideas from previously attended seminars could be an annoying reminder.

Poor marketing. Getting the word out about an upcoming gig is one of the biggest expenses of holding a seminar. Inundated by direct mail overtures for a variety of patient building aids, many of these overtures never get past the front desk staff who sorts the mail while standing over the garbage can.

The chiropractic profession is in the midst of significant change. Poor seminar attendance is just one of many symptoms. Seminars can, and will, go by the wayside if they no longer serve the profession. Some believe that what will emerge is more reliance on webinars, teleclasses and other technologies. Yet, it’s unlikely that technology will be able to capture the electricity of a crowd, the burst of shared laughter or deliver the nuances of body language so critical to effective communication.

But that was never the purpose of these gatherings. Seminars seem like a holdover from another time. I think one of the doctors around the table summed it up correctly when observing that the profession has become too complacent. “We need to have a couple of chiropractors thrown into jail every year or so. That would keep chiropractors more focused!”

If you know why seminar attendance is down, would you post it as a comment?

Comments (10)

Bryan Siegel, DC:

What i have taken notice to in regards to Chiropractic seminars and related patient management principles is that becoming a robot is the outcome. Many of these seminar leaders wish to sell products and services, many of which are equivalent to a mortgage payment. Not that the money is the issue, rather, there seems to be no authenticity in many of the seminars and their originators. Many of these seminars are packaged quite well, however, their core essence doesn't truly reflect it. However, you, your seminars and your company and it's representatives are some of the most authentic I have ever seen in this profession. You and your services offer a refreshing hope to the future of this wonderful healing art.

Todd Hackney:

What I've noticed in my 11 years of practice is that some of the "leaders" in Chiropractic are nothing more than leeches, who claim that they can take a practice from 50 visits a week to 300 or more AND THEN have the audacity to want a PERCENTAGE of that doctor's increased revenue! That's like buying a stove and having the salesperson come over for breakfast, lunch and dinner, ENDLESSLY! Still there are other "consultants" who, instead of actually BEING in practice, misrepresent their past practice "success" to those who truly need help and guidance but are sold a pack of lies by someone who's lucky they're not in JAIL, because the "system" they promote is ILLEGAL and unethical! I'm so tired of seeing consultant or "coaching" or management ads; Reminds me of the phrase, "Those that can, DO. Those that CAN'T, teach but change the word TEACH to "coach" or "consult" or "manage".....If their systems were SO good, WHY aren't the doctors still doing it themselves?!?! Especially when they haven't even been in practice more than 20 years....

Pack Miracle, D.C.:

Chiropractors thrown in jail to improve our focus?

The genius that spouted that nonsense is the poster child for why seminar attendance is down.

We need real seminars presented by real chiropractic leaders who actually practice what they preach and are wise and humble enough to tell us what they know and perhaps more importantly what they don't know.

Nicky Kirk:

My partner and I both live and practice in the Uk (she's a Parker grad, I'm a British grad). We feel seminar starved in this part of the world and were very grateful to have Bill provide a one day Wednesday seminar here in London last week, and was I think almost full. Some concepts are very challenging for British-trained chiropractors and the profession here is in danger of going the same way as Osteopathy did in the States (the use of subluxation is almost taboo in a lot of practices). Speakers like Bill help to keep the flame alive for us over here and even just experiencing a non-chiropractor talk with that level of knowledge and passion for chiropractic is enough to make many of us look in the mirror and question our beliefs and actions (and hopefully inspire hunger for growth and more learning).


I've only been in practice for 10 years but the content hasn't changed much. The only thing that has changed is there are more "coaches", more technique "gurus" more "magic bullets" to build a "practice of your dreams." When I was in school I use to listen to chiropractors talk about practicing chiropractic in their basements before the state's granted licenses. They didn't seem to need a coach or constant motivation or the new technique to stay passionate about chiropractic. Tell people what your about, give good care at a fair fee and give it time. Maybe chiropractors are starting to realize that there is no "magic bullet" to practice. That's all seminars seem to be about, the next best thing.

Tony Russo:

Mirtha & Dan, right on! Brandon, you haven't seen enough yet, but you will. Why would I want to drive to a seminar some 300 miles one way, pay on the average $425 (Bill you're cheaper), buy implimentation tools that sit in your trophy case, and see the same thing going on in your Office? Instead of spending around $650 to attend a seminar that won't change a gosh darn thing, I'll spend $00.00 and be more concerned with the patients I'm seeing. Again, very good exerpt, Bill.

Dr. Dan Hestera:

I have learned far more about chiropractic and how to build a practice from non-chiropractic entrepreneurs and most importantly from my patients. Chiropractic seminars need to contain relevant and inspiring information. Tools delivered from men and women who have integrity and honesty and a true desire to help fellow chiropractors grow for the right reasons and in the right direction. Thanks Bill for being one of those people. A bit of advice to the "nearly-graduated" blogger. Technique skill and confidence is a must, but don't be fooled to think that it is simply find it, fix it, and leave it alone. Chiropractic practice building is about human relationships. Sometimes you have to hold someones hand, laugh with them, cry with them, challenge them, encourage them. You get to find out about who they are and who their families are, what are their likes and dislikes, what their hobbies are, and sometimes gross stuff like what their current bowel movements are looking like. It has very little to do with technique and a lot to do with love and intent.
As it pertains to DC's going to jail, I don't think that will do any good. There are definitely some chiropractors and chiropractic leaders who need to be taken out to the wood shed and have some inter-professional poison beaten out of them, or at least an accountability roll-call taken.
With regard to CBP technique, it is a misfortune that many have, for lack of a better term, bastardized Harrison's work. I am certain he never intended for chiropractors to use only a small piece of his work to scare the crap out of patients in an attempt to control their commitment to a particular care plan.
Thanks Bill

Dr. Mithra Green:

After 9 years in practice, three consulting groups, countless seminars, webinars, podcasts etc. I have found that the majority of presenters are espousing shortcuts to the doctor/patient (chiropractor/practice member) relationship.
Do group ROF's, invoke the spirit of Jesus, ways to evoke an emotional response, don't talk about money at the ROF, and on and on. I still remember one presenter who compared closing a patient on a year long pre-paid plan to hooking up for a one night stand. Good idea at the time, but kinda awkward next time you see them.
The best chiropractors I know build relationships with patients and with their community. There is no short cut for this. It takes time and effort to find the opportunities to help people with what they want, not what I think they need.
The noteable execptions I have found in the seminar world are "The Conversation" and most of the CBP stuff.
I think that DC's are realizing that they have more to learn from listenting to their patients than other chiropractors.

Dr. Brian Deal:

The world has become a time conscious place. I have spent countless thousands of dollars on seminars and one size fits all meetings. If you are on this side of the fence you are wrong and if you are on that side of the fence you are wrong. The leaders of our profession need to lead. "Complacency"? I dont think so. The powers that be in our profession tell me I need to be 'compliant'. Compliant with who? Insurance? My Alma Mater? My technique guru? My 'My my way or the hiway coach'? The internet has changed the way we educate. Sitting in a room for a day no longer interests me. Get me the info. No fluff, no BS. Be relevent to chiropractic instead of the dollar. Do not force me to pledge allegiance. Maybe a few of the 'leaders' need to be thrown in jail.

Brandon Schultz:

Hi Bill,
I'm a nearly-graduated student and I will share why I have lost interest in many seminars.
1) Too much 'guru' hype - big name speakers don't mean quality content
2) Too much 'feel good' stuff, not enough current practical and functional business related materials - no amount of catchy phrases and sayings will build the business
3) Not enough 'core' principles: far too many DC's have lost track of the basics, especially their adjusting - they are not nearly as proficient as they think they are - when was the last time they "slipped and checked" they location, analysis and correction of vsc? Why aren't we reinforcing the basics?
4) Too much like a carnival: A little dab of this and little smidge of rehashed that, and a "see our wonderful vendors" after every presentation - this is not a drawing point.
5) In my opinion we have gotten far too far away from our central core - Location, Analysis and Correction of VSC - too many technique and nutrition conflicts of interest that are built into our entire profession. No longer is it "enough" to adjust and be amazing at that and educate our patient through the process of life in an ADIO way. There are very few vendors to sponsor the simplicity we need to get back too. Not enough money in it, apparently.

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From July 29, 2008 4:27 AM

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