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Keeping Internal Stakeholders in the Loop

During March’s Pharma Forum conference, life-science event planners discussed how they keep their executives apprised of the most important details for upcoming meetings, which makes the planning process far less bumpy.

At a recent industry conference at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, roughly 25 corporate planners from life-science companies large and small shared some of the ways they conduct “stakeholder management”—also known as keeping the bosses happy.

Among the best advice offered during that session was this from Jessica Weller, senior director, life sciences for CWT Meetings & Events: At the start of the planning process for a large meeting or series of meetings, deliver a “road-show presentation” to executives that builds their confidence in the planning team’s approach, which in turn heads off late-stage changes to an event.

Weller said that the presentation should come during a project-kickoff meeting, providing executives with goals for the upcoming event that connect clearly to the division’s or company’s larger business goals. The objectives and the key performance indicators for the meeting should be laid out, as should the areas of meeting-related responsibility for each executive along with timelines for when the work in each area must be completed. The simplest way to get executives to stay on their timelines as they weigh in on elements of the meeting: emphasize the contractual obligations to vendors along with the financial penalties for not meeting those obligations on time.

The kickoff meeting is also a prime opportunity to manage expectations about different elements of the event at a time when inflation has ballooned every on-site cost. “If your presentation addresses the fact that the event will not be the same as the 2019 version despite having the same budget—and you provide some comparative figures to back that up—you won’t be expected to deliver the moon,” Weller said.

By developing this type of presentation, planners can eliminate some of the most maddening aspects of their job as a meeting approaches. For instance, “justifying to the CFO why we need a certain number of planners on site—and even why we need to rent a printer—can become overbearing,” she added.

In short, the kickoff meeting manages executive expectations right from the start, which reduces the potential for interference. Said Weller: “If you have executives pricing wines and décor for the gala dinner, you have problems.”


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