I heard it at the Pharma Forum

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Business event attendees all want the same thing: ideas and relationships that help them do their jobs better. Pharma Forum, which wrapped up two days of in-person training for life science professionals on September 22, went in spades.

While the content was broadly tailored to the unique challenges of planners in the highly regulated medical field, lessons for planners of all stripes came from the scene at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Here’s a taste of what was discussed:

On the engagement of virtual events
The root of the engagement problem for virtual events comes down to the idea that attendees are “invisible,” said Meredith Shottes, CMP, North America Experience Manager, Miller Tanner Associates. In a roundtable on hybrid meetings, she noted that “the voice of the public must have an impact on the agenda presented. Polling can be effective, but only if it changes what you are presenting. And when comments and questions come in, presenters can boost engagement by highlighting their impact on the conversation, letting attendees know, “It was our plan, but your contribution is so important that we’re now focusing on that,” and we’ll get back on track later.

While this is not possible on all virtual platforms, Shottes is a strong believer in finding ways to have participants’ voices or faces heard or seen when asking questions.

On estimating the cost of hybrids
One of the challenges of the hybrid event format is that it typically costs more than a meeting in person or virtually. How much more? Marriott International, which has been hosting virtual conferences since last November, had estimates to share with the Pharma Forum audience.

Michael Clarke, director of marketing and B2B events, US and Canada, Global Sales Organization, at Marriott, told the group that hybrid events will likely cost 25-30% more for AV and digital technology, 15-20% more % more for food and beverages due to increased service and packaging, and 10-15% more for wellness protocols, such as signage and on-site testing.

On annual business reviews with suppliers
Considering the cancellations and postponements of the past year, what should planners do for the trade reviews they typically hold annually with their preferred supplier partners? A panel of seasoned planners from the Pharma Forum were unanimous in their opinion: Drive them anyway. “Even if you’re using data from 2019, don’t shy away from conversations just yet,” said Tori Mercun, associate director, Infinix Global Meetings & Events, noting that the meeting should be a safe space to understand how both parties can. to improve.

Panelist Lillian Schaff, HMCC, PCA, DES, Associate Director, Head of World Congress, EMD Serono, added that her department has not only retained its larger annual business reviews, which involve purchasing and other departments, but has also added a smaller monthly record. meetings with supplier partners. And the results of these audits are being fed into quarterly reviews. “As we adjust to the new normal, we wanted to give them a chance to react a little faster. These have been very well received because the vendors feel they have a chance to log in and fix.

It was noted that records are useful on the supplier side as hiring is often based on forecasting. With the uncertainty of events at this time, any information that providers can get about their partner’s plans is an advantage.

On today’s hiring priorities
Common wisdom says that those who join the meeting profession today must have a solid foundation in technology. While these virtual meeting and data skills are in high demand, two seasoned planners shared their priorities when asked if what they’re looking for in a new hire is different now than before the pandemic.

For Wendy Ashmen, HMCC, Executive Director, MJH Events, MJH Life Sciences, the watchword is resilience. “When we bring in candidates, I want to find someone who will be able to mentally change with the unexpected and who is open to learning new things,” she said. “My God, a year ago, how many of us thought we knew as much about platforms and creating virtual environments as we do today? The goal is to find people who are “willing” to make this kind of change “and embrace it”.

Shottes from Miller Tanner Associates added that the qualities of an empathetic coach are also important today. “More than meeting professionals, event professionals or design professionals, our key skills have been as therapists and educators like never before.” Shottes also said conversations about dropping out of a favorite face-to-face event were akin to “grief counseling” followed by a lot of education about the alternative virtual experience. “How do you help a client and your own internal team get through the ups and downs of this time? In terms of skills, the humanity of our industry has never been so important. Be prepared to take the time to accompany someone through this process as an educator and sometimes as a counselor.


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