With the annual Pharma Forum conference happening March 19 to 22, several hundred pharmaceutical, medical-device, and other life-science event planners are preparing to learn and network with one another at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.
One longtime life-science planner who’s raring to go is Amy Quigley, key account director for EGG, an international event-communication agency with more than a dozen life-science firms on its client list. Quigley is also one of three co-chairs for Pharma Forum, along with Brittany Smiley of McVeigh Global and Tom Tolve of Beigene.
In early March, MeetingsNet caught up with Quigley to hear about the challenges she’s dealing with as she coordinates events for her life-science clients, and what she likes most about attending Pharma Forum.
MeetingsNet: With more than 27 years of experience in the life-science event sector, what element of your job do you find to be most important to meeting your clients’ needs, and to be most satisfying for yourself?
Amy Quigley: One word: Listening. It’s the only way to gain a solid understanding of a client’s needs and then designing creative options based on those. And while that might sound like a fairly basic thing, it’s really not—we get so busy that sometimes we lose the notion of creative and critical thinking and end up simply “order taking.”
We must strive to educate each client of several options for each event, which helps a client know what they need or might like even before they realize it. Getting them to feel fully understood sets the groundwork for trust and a healthy long-term relationship.
MeetingsNet: What are your clients asking for these days that they were not as focused on before the pandemic hit?
Amy Quigley: Six months ago, I would have still maintained that safety was paramount. Although that will always be important going forward, now I’d say with confidence that clients want innovation and interesting, even sexy, ideas. Everyone seemed to come back to live events energized for new and exciting experiences. Fortunately, there are so many amazing options to enhance an event these days. We are lucky our vendor partners work so hard to create innovative nuances for meetings and events. I also feel fortunate to work with a company that makes staying ahead of industry trends a central tenet.
MeetingsNet: What are your biggest issues as you coordinate employee- and HCP-facing events for 2023 and 2024, and how are you adapting?
Amy Quigley: I am generally a very positive person, but I find that everything feels a little harder these days. Staff levels are down, response times from vendors are long, and overall availability of vendor services feels limited due to high demand. It’s thrilling that the events industry is vibrant again, but it’s making the process harder than before. We have finally adjusted to post-pandemic contract terms, so that does not feel as strange as it did when we first went back to doing in-person events. But it wasn’t easy.
In another vein, everyone went through the pandemic bearing a lot of stress and worry both professionally and personally. I am finding that showing a little extra kindness and empathy is key when dealing with attendees, meeting stakeholders, and vendor partners.
MeetingsNet: Is there any other significant challenge you think the life-science event industry as a whole must contend with over the next 12 to 18 months?
Amy Quigley: I don’t see much coming down the pike that really concerns me—except that budgets seem to be floundering. Shortly after meetings went live again, budgets were large and flexible. Now, though, we find that organizations are taking a closer look at the financials and lowering many budgets or even cancelling some meetings. No matter where the budget lands, however, it is still possible to execute a meaningful event. I encourage planners to stay creative in making that happen, and figure out ways to get their stakeholders to go along with it.
MeetingsNet: What are you most looking forward to when you attend Pharma Forum?
Amy Quigley: There is no denying the amazing energy in the room during Pharma Forum, and that is a strong draw for me every year. Especially at this moment, everyone is so happy to be together that the buzz is palpable. I am thrilled to be chairing the event with Tom and Brittany; we have some plans to encourage deeper connections among everyone on both the planner and exhibitor sides. And related to my role at EGG, I am happy to spread the word about our dynamic agency that spans the globe and specializes in logistical, creative, and technical/production services.
MeetingsNet: If you had not become a life-science event planner, what other type of work would you have done?
Amy Quigley: I was on the food and beverage side of the industry early in my career, after graduating from Johnson and Wales University. I thought I would stay there, but once I fell in love with the planning world, there was no going back. I just completed my MBA in hospitality from Johnson and Wales, so I think that I will spend some time teaching event-management classes on the collegiate level at some point.