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Meeting & Event Planning

Four Fundamentals for Pharma Meeting Planners

Posted November 7, 2018 By Hilary Braseth

Pharmaceutical and medical industry meeting planners are under more scrutiny to stay compliant with the latest codes of conduct from authorities such as PhRMA, AdvaMed, and the The Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The stakes for non-compliance are increasing—from fines of up to $1 million and in some circumstances, even jail time.

In addition, medical professionals are not enjoying the time they spend at conferences as much as they should. A survey of 237 physicians across 11 global markets showed that 95 percent of them expected engaging and impactful meetings, but 39 percent said that they didn’t have a positive experience at the meetings they had attended recently.

To help the industry cause, we’ve outlined several meeting planner fundamentals that help address common pain points associated with successfully executing meetings, trainings and events in the pharmaceutical industry.


Fundamental #1: A Desirable Location

Industry collaboration is more than just organizing attendee logistics from one or two states away; it’s often a worldwide planning endeavor. Choosing a meeting location that’s readily accessible with direct flights and public transportation for guests is crucial. Also, setting up near local restaurants, shopping, cultural institutions, and landmarks is beneficial for out-of-town attendees that want to experience the city.

Downtown New York City not only offers a large concentration of health care professionals (nearly 2,000 medical professionals are in the New York BioPharma Networking Group alone) but is also close to three major airports and offers a plethora multiple public transportation options, numerous hotels, top restaurants, and tourist attractions.

Downtown Los Angeles also fulfills these requirements, particularly for events that draw attendees from Asia. Los Angeles offers world class entertainment, expansive (and growing) transportation options, and year round weather that is ideal for events of all types.


Fundamental #2: Maximum Group Privacy

With new research to share, important ideas to exchange, and complex problems that need to be solved, the last thing any medical meeting planner wants to confront is having a tourist strolling in wearing flip-flops, a wedding party raiding the buffet, or competitors snapping photos or recording research findings.

Group privacy within a reasonable budget is critical. Look for buildings and venues that already include lobby registration or security as part of their standard operating procedure. In addition, a simple digital registration process at check-in and within meeting rooms allows attendees to bypass complicated check-in lines while also maintaining the security standards needed at each door.

Meetings with strict compliance policies like investigator meetings (when healthcare professionals get together for training on participating in clinical trials that will move their drugs and devices forward) require maximum privacy. Venues that offer “full buyouts” is a common solution that Convene’s clients ultimately choose, especially when content is sensitive or confidential in nature.


Fundamental #3: Informative and Engaging Segments

Pharmaceutical and medical meetings often feature a variety of well-accomplished participants (not just speakers), which provides the perfect opportunity for planners to spotlight each of them not only for the professional accomplishments but their personal ones too.

Inclusive, social-first activities within the programming should become part of the agenda. Whether the format is focused on listening to a presenter in a traditional conference setting, introducing a new product line, or sharing patient stories, each of these activities needs a specific social setting to be more interesting and engaging.

Therefore, it’s important to consider a minimum of three separate spaces to complement your programming: presentation space, networking and/or meal space, and exhibitor space. This allows all of the participants to maximize the number of “casual collisions” that make for successful meetings.


Fundamental #4: Find a Partner, Not a Vendor

Avoid headaches by spending time upfront searching for a conference partner, rather than just a vendor. A conference partner offers integrated solutions to common and complex problems unique to planners, especially if they are familiar with your industry.

  • Branding and design: Conference partners should offer “white-box” design capabilities, especially when it comes to product launches and road shows. The right partner should allow planners to design for your brand only, and not let that be overshadowed by the host space itself. Dedicated yet flexible breakout and gallery space for exhibitors are needed to ensure that attendees are able to experience the best of what your brand or your sponsors can offer.
  • Food: Conference partners should ideally offer their own on-site chefs and kitchens to maximize your program’s food quality and freshness. The best partners will often help design and create custom menus branded to your event needs—particularly when it comes to meal caps.
  • Technology: Conference partners should have the latest on-site technology built-in or within their own inventory. This minimizes the chances of day-of problems and helps ensure that your confidential content is fully secure. The best partners often have their own AV/IT staff on-site and are available at a moment’s notice.
  • Planning and production: A planner’s life is already hard enough. Your conference partner should provide highly trained day-of staff to make your life easier when planning and executing your sales training, district meeting, investigator meeting, or town hall.


Purpose-Built for Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings

“With food and beverage guidelines at the forefront for so many pharma planners, Convene’s meeting packages make it incredibly easy to work with these budget requirements,” said Caroline Foley, former pharma meeting planner and current Account Manager at Convene. “Convene’s rooms include the latest technology, so meeting budgets doesn’t have to be blown away with tech setup, breakdown, and equipment rentals that often apply when planning with a hotel. Working with a partner like Convene that integrates all meeting planning touch points—from breakouts to dietary restrictions and more—into one package makes a planners life so much easier.”

See more of Convene’s purpose-built, full-service meeting and event venues in other cities here.


This article was updated on November 7th, 2018 to provide new information.


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