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We recently published our Science Of Meetings white paper. This is an insight-led formula that identifies the educational needs of healthcare professionals (HCPs) and addresses them in the most effective and personalized way.

It’s a fascinating read, detailing how pharmaceutical companies must adapt to the ever-evolving educational wants and needs of HCPs. It puts the onus very much on pharmaceutical companies to challenge conventional norms whilst remaining adherent to the strict codes of conduct that govern our heavily regulated sector. By developing a better understanding of HCP behaviors, and considering them as consumers with choices and preferences, they can provide more impactful and engaging events.

My recent background includes a strong focus on strategic meetings management (SMM) and healthcare compliance; most notably EFPIA transfer of value (TOV) and providing robust client solutions. From my recent interactions I believe that the theory behind our Science Of Meetings approach is intrinsically linked to SMM. I’ll explain why.

Firstly, as a result of TOV disclosure, pharmaceutical companies have been assessing their marketing and medical programs; delivering a return on meeting objectives has never been so crucial. Secondly, HCPs have told us unequivocally that scientific content is king and we are seeing fewer, but more specialized, scientific meetings and events. Having to collate and report all this data has effectively afforded companies the opportunity to review spend, HCP engagement and participation patterns to help shape future strategic meetings management programs (SMMP).

So how is this linked to SMMP? If HCPs are saying that they are finding it increasingly difficult to attend face-to-face meetings, whether that be due to more stringent regulatory guidelines or simply the inability to find time away from surgery and clinics to attend, then a shake-up of meetings and events policies and programs is surely on the horizon.

The focus for the pharmaceutical industry will be to provide solutions to these challenges and inventive SMMPs will be an enabler. The SMM function should ensure that the needs of HCPs should shape how pharmaceutical companies conduct their meeting and events programs. Our survey data clearly states that HCPs face challenges right from the very beginning of the event lifecycle; from the point of being recruited, through to on-site attendance and the post-event accessing of event materials. Our Science Of Meetings approach to HCP interaction, engagement and meetings management clearly defines this HCP journey and maps out potential blockers.

It might be as simplistic as to redraw existing policies. For example, if HCPs are telling us the ideal amount of time away from their practice is 2.17 days, we could use this information to shape procedures and policy. I appreciate that this seems an unsophisticated, maybe naive, suggestion, but are we not looking for effective and efficient event delivery with maximum information in minimum time?

HCPs are also telling us that they want alternative meeting formats, particularly virtual. Would having flexibility to determine the most suited meeting type and format not only improve the delegate experience but potentially reduce the event outlay and increase the return on objectives?

Smart SMMPs should identify these HCP preferences and potential blockers and put systems and processes in place to provide an innovative-yet-collaborative approach. It will mean sourcing a network of experts to deliver events that ultimately provide commercial and educational impact. Procuring these best-in-class vendors and solutions becomes part of a successful HCP-orientated SMMP. Consolidating the supply chain will not only drive fiscal efficiencies but also business consistency across brand teams and functions – a step towards a gold standard program.

It’s very easy to see SMM as a procurement-led initiative, leveraging relationships based on volume, avoiding spend leakage by consolidating suppliers, using data capture and analysis, risk mitigation and the creation of regional and global frameworks and policies. But when you break down SMMPs, you are essentially looking to deliver high impact events (commercial and educational returns) at fair market value whilst conforming to policy. Successful SMM should provide event stakeholders with all the tools and governance necessary to achieve this.

The strategic part for me comes when devising event concepts, formats, learning environments and technology personalized to the attendees to maximize their experience. You need to ensure they are at the center of your meeting objectives and that how you achieve and deliver the experience becomes integral to your meetings management strategy.

I am by no means understating the significance or business need to adopt robust and meaningful SMM. The evidence is generally there for all to see as to its merits; a strong program will harness sizable benefits to any organization.

I am just challenging what constitutes SMM and suggesting that allowing HCPs to shape a small, but significant part of your SMMP might be a good idea.

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