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Med-Event Pros to Gather for Specialized Learning, Collaboration

More than 600 managers of life-sciences meetings will be tuning in to the 17th annual Pharma Forum starting Monday, March 22. Here are some highlights from the program.

The second virtual Pharma Forum goes live March 22, and the event’s planning team has upped its game. Taking lessons learned from producing the June 2020 virtual event, which replaced a March in-person conference, this three-day Pharma Forum promises to be interactive, effective, and compelling. 

One lesson that will be implemented: “This year, almost every session will be live,” says Tracey Kimball, senior conference producer for Informa Connect, which operates Pharma Forum. “Over three days of main-stage sessions and breakouts, only two presentations are prerecorded. That is going to make for more dynamic interaction across the entire conference.”

For breakout sessions in particular, there will be real-time Q&A through a chat feature as well as the ability for attendees to view on screen as many as 20 fellow participants at one time, “so it will feel much more like a group dialogue,” Kimball notes. 

One other change: All breakouts will be recorded and available to registered attendees 24 hours after they are conducted live, and they will be accessible for 30 days after the conference ends.

The Heart of the Matter
The latest virtual version of Pharma Forum is happening at a truly interesting moment for the meeting, convention, and trade-show industry. With the rate of vaccinations in the United States at more than 2 million a day, the return to in-person events is on the horizon. As a result, much of the content to be presented at Pharma Forum 2021 will focus on the issues related to transitioning back to face-to-face internal meetings, HCP events, and patient-focused gatherings. 

For instance, the opening general session on Monday, March 22 is a panel discussion titled “Assessing the Meetings Industry’s Response to the Global Pandemic.” The panel features the directors of meetings from Merck & Co., Genentech, and Alcon discussing not only how their firms adapted to the virtual medium in 2020 to continue their meetings program, but also how they are deciding which events will be conducted in person this year.

Later on Monday, another panel discussion titled “Hotel-Planner Collaboration: Moving Forward Together to Redefine the New Meeting Experience” will address the contractual and logistical concerns of the altered in-person meetings environment. On the panel will be five senior medical-event managers along with two group-sales executives from major hotel chains.

A highlight of the agenda on Tuesday is that “we have six tactical and strategic breakouts geared towards each planner’s depth of experience in this niche,” Kimball says. For instance, one session titled “HCP Perspectives on Meeting Preferences Going Forward” will have two veteran doctors and a director of meeting management for Bayer reveal what HCPs like most about virtual meetings—and what HCPs miss most about in-person meetings. A panel session on creating effective hybrid events, featuring five medical-meeting managers and an event-production expert, happens later in the day. 

MMinformatraceykimball.pngOne other Tuesday session that Kimball says will be popular is “Coffee and Conversation” with time-management and productivity expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders, who will focus on the remote work environment. “So many planners have told us that coordinating with team members and getting everything done while working through all the distractions of home has been pretty difficult,” says Kimball (pictured here). “Elizabeth will aim her talk at those who manage teams, who are challenged to create a cohesive culture in unusual and stressful conditions. I think that there are going to be a lot of audience questions coming at her.”

To create strong peer-to-peer connections, both Monday and Wednesday mornings at Pharma Forum will offer one-hour “impromptu table topic” discussions, where planners can join small groups and hear different perspectives on how to handle their most pressing work issues. On Wednesday, those small gatherings will be followed by a nuts-and-bolts panel discussion about hotel-contracting trends and tips for post-pandemic in-person events. One of four breakout sessions happening after that panel discussion will address compliance-regulation changes in different countries, while another will cover how planners can ensure health security for attendees of the in-person meetings soon to come.

One other indication that the restart of physical meetings is near: Pharma Forum is set to resume as a face-to-face event in late September, allowing pharma- and healthcare-meeting professionals to come together at a not-yet-determined meeting venue in the Northeast to learn and collaborate during the unique “renaissance” period for the meetings industry. In fact, convening in the fall season will be a one-time-only happening for Pharma Forum; the 2022 Pharma Forum will happen in its traditional March time frame.

Next week’s virtual Pharma Forum is free for corporate, third-party, and association planners in the pharma and medical-device field who agree to take three or more appointments with suppliers during the event. For additional information and to register, visit

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