Since late March, everyone in the meetings and events industry has been obliged to adapt on the fly like never before. The overnight shift from live to virtual has inevitably forced us to ask the question, which meetings and events are easily transposed in the virtual environment? Which will prove more difficult? Which might be put on hold indefinitely for the foreseeable future?
At MGME, we have long supported Life Science meetings. Our Business Development Director, Michael Schaumann, and our Life Sciences team monitor the evolution of specific meeting types within that umbrella to best gauge what is stagnant and what has kept pace in our current climate. Larger format programs such as Global Congresses, Investigator Meetings, Product Theaters and Symposia have naturally slowed as 2D and 3D virtual solutions for such scales involve a complex variety of factors. Conversely, it comes with little surprise that smaller scale, higher iteration meetings such as Advisory Boards took to the virtual landscape most seamlessly. The most prominent of these meeting types being Medical Speakers’ Bureau Programs.
Speaker Programs feature a form of peer selling whereupon pharmaceutical companies compensate Healthcare Professionals such as Physicians and Nurse Practitioners to meet and discuss the benefits and risks of prescribing companies’ drugs. 2019 saw over 300,000 Speaker Programs in the U.S. alone. As these meetings typically see 10 – 20 attendees, the shift from what was the private room of a steakhouse to the virtual space is easily navigable with the right partners in place.
“In early spring we saw the volume of Speaker Programs sit idly,” notes the Director of Speakers’ Bureau at a leading pharmaceutical company. “Since, we’ve seen these volumes skyrocket. We are approaching 1,000 programs a month moving toward fall and the numbers continue to rise unabated. What’s more, the shift to virtual has effectively consolidated compliance monitoring, making Aggregate Spend and Transfer of Value reporting much more transparent.”
While these smaller, easily portable meeting types have seen more prominence than any other in the shift to virtual, the rebound of Speaker Programs does not come without challenges. Maintaining a spirit of engagement is the litmus test for many Medical Meeting Planners. From something as simple as tracking how long a Healthcare Professional stays in attendance to ensuring the design of a virtual Speaker Program is inviting to attendees; creating an engaging experience boosts attendance and sets apart one program from the next. The most effective of these programs employ various tools to promote interactivity and attendee retention – all while keeping an eye on modesty and the level of professionalism required in the Life Science meetings space.
It is going to take baby steps, but the meetings and events industry has proven apt to adjust thus far. Hybrid meetings are growing in prominence. Industry specific webinars continuously provide us an opportunity to develop new ways to learn and observe what others find successful. As we see these small and medium sized programs regain their meaning in the virtual landscape, we hope to see other meeting types and larger scale programs follow suit.