Notes from the Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum

So far, the 3rd Annual Pharmaceutical Meeting Planner Forum, which started today at the convention center in Philadelphia, has been pretty interesting, if I do say so myself (we co-organize the show with The Center for Business Intelligence).

For example, the session I attended this morning on planning and executing R&D and investigator meetings was an excellent case in point on good educational formatting, I thought. The session leader gave us a case study that, she said, was based on actual things that happened at four investigator meetings. Each table in the room spent the next hour or so gasping, sighing, and railing at all the stupid things the organizers did (what, they didn't know there was going to be construction going on at the hotel? The lead guy adds six breakouts, with full AV, F&B, laptops and flipcharts, at the last minute?), and then devising ways to keep those stupid things from happening. While a lot of what we came up with was of interest only to pharmaceutical meeting planners, some general takeaways for any meeting planner are:

-Set up a pre-meeting with all the meeting stakeholders and rough out meeting goals, objectives, rough agendas.

-Define the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, from in-house planners to third parties to those in charge of calling the meeting to be held in the first place.

-Site selection has to be based on what's important to achieving the objective, not where the internal stakeholder has relatives he wants to visit, has a daughter who is the social chair of her sorority and "corporate party planning is something she would like to explore," etc., etc. (and that party planner thing got everyone at my table's ire up big time—"someone has to explain to Leonard [the fictitious internal stakeholder] that what we do is not party planning," said one irate tablemate of mine).

-Ensure that the facilitator can control the discussion. If not, have a staff person who can step in if the meeting starts getting off-topic or stuck on someone's personal pet peeve.

-Hold a weekly or biweekly call with all the stakeholders. "I dread these calls," said one participant. "But things come up, like AV requirements, that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. You need to know what they need to set your budget."

-Have a standard contract addendum that deals with construction at the hotel over your meeting dates, competitors holding meetings concurrent with yours, and other critical issues.

After a break, we had roundtable discussion on various different topics that ranged from technology to tools and tips to meeting registration challenges, to partnering with legal, compliance, strategic sourcing, and procurement. I took it as a good sign that the room was just as full after the break as it was before. Our table got a little off topic, but we ended up having some best practices to share with the room at large once time came to report out, so we must have done something right!

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