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From Post-Pandemic Uncertainty to Breakneck Speed

Over the past 18 months, Cadent’s Becky Cavanaugh has seen several elements of her event-planning work change, along with others that stubbornly remain the same. Here’s her perspective from the department manager’s desk.

When Becky Cavanaugh, HMCC, became program director, global medical meetings and events for Cadent, powered by Syneos Health, in mid-2022, she was moving forward on uncharted ground. The Covid pandemic had finally waned, and in-person meetings were necessary and expected in the pharmaceutical and medical-device field.

But nobody knew whether healthcare professionals would want to travel for investigator meetings after two-plus years of heavy patient caseloads. In fact, MeetingsNet interviewed her at that time to hear about her job challenges.

Fast forward 18 months, and some things have become clear. One is that life-science firms are indeed getting HCPs to attend in person as they move away from virtual options for investigator meetings. Another is that the cost of various meeting-related elements remains high and difficult to budge.

Ahead of Pharma Forum 2024, the planner-focused event happening March 24 to 27 in Tampa, Cavanaugh—a co-chair of the event—provides the view from her perch as she balances planning duties with improving the skills of her department’s planners and interacting with her firm’s executive team.

MeetingsNet: When we spoke in August 2022, you were newly promoted to program director of global medical meetings. What’s different in how you spend your time now, and what are you enjoying most?
Becky Cavanaugh: After more than 20 years in this field, I can confidently say that change is the only constant. My main focus has always been delivering high-quality meetings and events within budget and on time, but it’s expanded to include more training and mentoring of staff, and streamlining programs and processes. It’s a big part of my job to help train the newer team members well, while refining what we do day-to-day to make the work easier on all of us.

t has been a highlight of my work in the past few years to ensure the team members are comfortable, confident, and knowledgeable as they are planning and when are on-site with clients. The thing I enjoy the most is teaching our new team members while also learning new things from them.

MeetingsNet: In our conversation last year, you mentioned staffing difficulties. Have you been able to staff up sufficiently since then?
Cavanaugh: Back then I was referring to staffing challenges from an overall meetings-industry perspective—all my peers were facing these challenges too. Based upon the number of people who’ve left the industry and the newbies that have joined, I’d say that nearly all pharma-planning teams are having to scale up their experience levels and teams.

We are fully staffed here, and we are lucky in that people who joined us in 2019 stayed on and are no longer rookies. They’ve learned medical meetings and understand the joys and frustrations of the work through their experiences. We approach challenges using a multi-generational mindset; as a result, the frustrations seem to be fewer and shallower.

There are also several great tools and resources we’ve used, like the Medical Meeting Professional (MMP) certificate, the Healthcare Meetings Compliance Certificate (HMCC), and the MPI-MD planners community, that have helped bridge the learning on our staff. And Pharma Forum’s programming keeps expanding and helps less-experienced planners and seasoned planners alike.  %3

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