It can’t be said that meetings-industry veteran Beau Ballin shies away from professional challenges.
For more than 20 years, Ballin was on the agency side—he spent about 15 years at Carlson and MotivAction, followed by a six-year stint as a vice president and then global head of market development for CWT Meetings & Events. This past March, however, Ballin made the jump to the corporate side, taking the position of executive director, global meetings and events for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals based in Tarrytown, N.Y.
After about six months in his latest role, MeetingsNet caught up to Ballin to hear about his transition to focusing solely on one organization’s meetings operation, and the issues and challenges he and his team are dealing with in the present meeting and event environment.
MeetingsNet: What are your chief responsibilities at Regeneron?
Beau Ballin: I’m responsible for leading our global meetings team, the oversight of our third-party relationships, the build-out and evolution of our meetings program, and ultimately providing a disciplined event-management approach that provides solutions for our stakeholders and drives business.
There are 18 planners on our team, which includes dedicated external resources. We have about 200 events on our commercial calendar annually, but that’s a fraction of the actual number of meetings sourced and planned companywide.
MeetingsNet: What specific experience did you gain working for large independent-planning companies that benefits you in your new environment?
Beau Ballin: Two elements considerably aided my transition from agency to client. First, having worked on the agency side of strategic meetings management with outsourced and centralized meetings programs; and second, being a part of a global transformation on the agency side.
From an SMM perspective, it’s critical to understand the model, the resources required for success, and the commitment to the model the client must have to drive the expected efficiency and savings. I’ve seen SMM programs that never really got off the ground and others that flourished and evolved, delivering savings while also creating better events. That’s also my goal here at Regeneron: to continue delivering on procurement objectives while creating and enhancing event experiences to educate, motivate, and empower our people around the world to make a difference in patient lives.
As for global transformation, my prior agency experience saw a transition from services that were managed and delivered regionally to an operational model that was centralized globally. As Regeneron’s global footprint expands, that prior experience is proving invaluable to me in knowing the benefits of the transformation—while also understanding the need for local and regional nuances.
MeetingsNet: Is there a particular initiative you’re championing first for Regeneron’s meetings department? What has been your biggest focus thus far?
Beau Ballin: My primary focus has been building the meetings team, which has seen some transition through internal promotions. This has provided me an opportunity to recruit and onboard talent with a focus on being strategic partners to the business units we serve. With what is largely a new team, we also have the opportunity to edit and reinforce our meeting-process documents. This is a significant undertaking, and it remains a work in progress.
MeetingsNet: What are your team’s biggest pressure points when it comes to contracting for events right now?
Beau Ballin: Our main challenges are with availability of inventory and budgets versus costs. The availability issue was expected as meetings have come back strongly post-pandemic. However, we are seeing the lack of availability even for programs being sourced 24 months in advance. As for budget, it is being impacted across all areas: flights, meals, ground transportation, and supplier costs. In fact, increasing a budget 10 percent year over year often isn’t enough to deliver an event on par with the previous edition.
MeetingsNet: What is one thing you’d advise pharma and med-device planners to do, or to look out for, as they coordinate internal or HCP-facing events over the next 12 to 18 months?
Beau Ballin: The advice I would offer is mostly for planners who are operating in a model with outsourced planning. To the degree that internal planners can begin to release the tactical, day-to-day logistics and concentrate on being a strategic partner with their meeting stakeholders, the result will be a better product. The focus needs to be on the experience during the event and on really understanding the objectives. As an example, for an HCP engagement you want to build better relationships and collaboration between industry and healthcare professionals. So, you must continually ask, “What is it we are doing at this event to build those relationships, and what are the key things we could do better?”
MeetingsNet: If you did not get into the meetings and events industry, what else would you have done for a career?
Beau Ballin: Travel is in my DNA, so I imagine that travel would still be a core part of my career. I’d likely be on the supplier side as a tour operator for adventure travel, providing guided ski trips or designing courses for trail runs in far-away lands.