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Ensuring a box office success

Peter DommettHealthcare professionals have found it increasingly difficult to attend conferences and pharma-supported events over the past five to ten years.

Time constraints, partly due to staffing pressures and increased patient numbers, mean that today’s HCPs need convincing reasons to reach for their diary and commit to attending.

Has this reduced the value of organising events, or has it acted like a filter, forcing pharma companies and supporting agencies to improve the quality of their offerings?

My vote goes for the latter. Poorly planned and executed events will now simply play to empty rooms. But well-organised meetings that are relevant, balanced and convenient, with high-quality content will still appeal to customers.

What makes a successful meeting?

The same factors that entice the public to the cinema apply to HCPs and events:

  • Great cast
  • Engaging story
  • Good publicity
  • Convenience (location/timing/public transport etc)
  • Positive feedback from others.

If all these ingredients are in place, you are well on the way to a highly successful event.

Clear objectives

When you plan your activities, you need to define what your objectives are. It is important that those objectives are realistic, appropriate, code compliant and aligned with the overall brand and corporate strategies.

It is all very well having a ‘great cast’ but if the meeting is not structured then the quality of the presenters is irrelevant. For example, are learning objectives and topics for discussion clearly outlined? Is a Q&A session appropriate and is there adequate time allocated?

Based on what you hope to achieve, what are the outcomes that you can then measure to fully evaluate the overall success of the event? Has it performed to your anticipated levels?

For example, to gauge the success of an educational symposium you might want to focus on:

Number of attendees. If there are many empty seats either your agenda was uninspiring or your publicity lax. If attendance is good, it helps to have a good idea of delegate profiles. But are all delegates the same? Rarely, so the onus is on establishing whether the symposium was pitched right. This is where feedback comes in.

Attendee feedback. This is essential but does the post-event information tell you enough? Does the feedback mean attendees are actually going to change their behaviour in any way? Was that the intention?

Attendee behavioural change. The objective of the symposium may have been to transform standard practices but how are you going to measure this?

Opportunity cost. How much would the delegate experiences have cost if done through another route? How much money has been saved/lost when compared to this other route?

Knowledge gain. Has the symposium been educational? Was the programme challenging and is it likely to inspire action?

Leading lights

Having the right people is naturally top of the list for attracting delegates. Is the information being delivered and discussed by the most eminent leaders in the field? Securing the services of these experts may necessitate a great deal of preparatory work.

For a product launch, it makes good sense to anticipate early on which person and agenda would provide the perfect fit and develop relationships to make this feasible.

Once the combination of agenda and speakers has been decided, it is time to match the meeting’s objectives with the event format.

For instance, could increasing interactivity between the audience and speakers assist with information exchange and assimilation, or could it be counterproductive, even distracting?

How much content needs to be didactic, and could a more case-related approach enhance the relevance of the content to the audience?

A high-tech approach?

If used wisely, technology can greatly enhance the learning experience. However, it is important not to let technology become more important than the meeting content itself.

Technology might take the form of a webcast - a practical solution for an audience geographically spread and a faculty with limited availability. With trusted platforms now increasingly available, this approach may provide multiple benefits, from a participation and logistical points of view, as well as from a cost perspective.

However, webcasts have difficulty achieving the networking factor that still drives many thousands of HCPs to travel to national and international conferences.

Some high-profile pharma companies have stepped back from financially supporting HCP attendance, and some countries prevent it from being an option in the first place, especially as international codes of practice have changed in the last decade. However, congresses and events of real quality survive and still provide great opportunities to connect on a more personal basis.

Peter Dommett is managing director of mXm Group,

In association with

mXm Group

23rd October 2017

From: Sales



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