What’s the Plan? Preparing for Your Next Medical Conference
An interview with medical leverage Director of Meeting Management, Robin Jennings
By Michele Lashley
When it comes to getting your company or your client prepared to attend a medical conference, it’s all about the 5Ps: “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” But what does that look like?
Make Reserving Space a Priority on the To-Do List
“The first thing I do when planning meetings for clients is to work with them in determining which conferences they should attend,” said Jennings. “We look at the entire year ahead and map out which ones are the best fit for their strategic goals and objectives. This allows us to book all of the conferences upfront, which can take a lot of stress out of the planning process.” This is particularly true when it comes to space.
Space is a hot (and finite) commodity at every conference—from meeting spaces to hotel rooms to exhibit spaces. “One of the most important things we can do to help our clients have a successful conference is to start working immediately to lock in all of spaces they’ll need—and to do this as far in advance as possible,” said Jennings. “This is one of the huge benefits of planning out conference attendance for the entire year instead of trying to book spaces one event at a time.”
Put Key Interactions on the Calendar
Making connections and engaging with KOLs are top priorities for our customers. To help ensure these interactions happen, implementing a strategic approach to scheduling is key. It is usually much too late to try and schedule meetings upon arrival at the event.
“We’re seeing less and less interaction happening in the exhibit halls,” said Jennings. “Instead, the focus now is trying to schedule time for a quick conversation—like 15 minutes over coffee. The KOLs are busy and there are a lot of people who want to speak with them at these events. So, the more convenient we can make it for them to meet with our client, the better.”
“The more convenient we can make it for them to meet with our client, the better.”
Getting on the schedules of KOLs who will be attending a specific conference needs to happen as early as possible—but not so far in advance that the appointment will be forgotten. “We try to find that sweet spot between when the conference program is first published and the first day of the meeting,” explained Jennings. “We know that the KOLs will want to review the program and decide which sessions they want to attend. So, we give them time put those items on their schedules, while also not waiting so long that their schedules completely fill up.”
But what if you’ve put a meeting—even a brief one—on a KOL’s calendar and they forget? “It’s one thing to get on their schedule,” said Jennings. “It’s a whole other thing for them to remember. That’s why it’s always a good idea to make sure they’ve confirmed any calendar invitation you might have sent prior to the conference. Also, ask for their mobile number so that you can text them a reminder once the conference has begun. It can be something simple as, ‘Welcome to the congress! I’m looking forward to seeing you in the hotel lobby at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Here’s my contact information if you need anything.’ It is also a good idea to share an image of yourself so they know who they are looking for.”
“It’s one thing to get on their schedule,” said Jennings. “It’s a whole other thing for them to remember.
Location, Location, Location
In addition to scheduling and confirming meetings with KOLs, Jennings said it’s also important to make the meeting locations as convenient as possible for them. “Try to find a space in the convention center. Or, if it needs to be a private or confidential conversation, reserve a hospitality suite or other space that’s nearby.” Restaurants or coffee shops can be great options as they are usually easy to find.
Keep the Client Team Connected
“If the client has a large presence at a conference, it’s not just important for them to be there for their own poster sessions, symposia, or other events,” said Jennings. “It’s also important for them to be able to attend events that others are putting on and then have a structured way for them to share the information they learn with others on their team.”
medical leverage fulfills this need by going through the conference program ahead of time and tagging everything that’s related to a client’s business and needs. “This makes it much easier for the client team to divide and conquer,” said Jennings. “They can decide who’s going to attend which events, what information needs to be gathered, and when that information will be shared with the entire team.”
The benefit of this approach is that it helps prepare a client’s sales representatives, marketing team members, and/or medical professionals to have more substantive discussions with KOLs and others. They’re not just bringing their own perspective to the conversation. Instead, they have a greater understanding about the perspectives of others who are working within the same areas.
Make the Most of the Conference
“Not only are conferences good opportunities to have one-on-one interactions,” said Jennings, “but they’re also great opportunities for clients to hold advisory board or investigator meetings. If the individuals who would be at those meetings are also planning to be at the conference or could benefit from being there, this makes things much more convenient for them. They don’t have to set aside two different times to travel. They can do it all in one place at the same time.”
To help facilitate this dual use of a conference, Jennings suggests sending a “save-the-date” to participants as soon as possible. “Don’t invite them to something three weeks before the conference,” she explained. “This is particularly true for investigators. It’s hard to get on their calendars because they’re often booked up months in advance with their patient loads.” Jennings also noted that, by sending out an invitation far in advance of a conference, you can have a better idea about who can attend and who can’t. This lets you know if the meeting will be a viable option for the group to gather.
“The other thing I’d suggest when it comes to scheduling an advisory board or investigator meeting around a conference is to plan on having the meeting on the front side of the conference—preferably a day before it starts,” said Jennings. “Don’t do it on the backside because then you start having issues with travel—as well as with participants being overly tired and ready to go home.”
After the Conference
Planning for post-conference follow-up is also essential to success. “Always reach out with personalized thank-you emails asking if there are additional materials, contacts, or anything else they need related to the conference,” said Jennings. “This gives you an opportunity to stay connected and to keep adding value—even after the client team has returned home.”
While there are many moving parts that make up the meeting planning process, there are two tenets that stand out for Jennings. “First, our clients have goals for each conference they attend and it’s our job to make sure they reach them. Second, timing is everything when it comes to planning. The sooner you start, the better off you are.”
Thinking about your conference schedule? Need help with planning? medical leverage can help! Contact Carl Roselle at CRoselle@medicalleverage.com to discuss your needs and to learn how we might be able to work together.