Every event has nuance. Every event has specific needs. Every event does not, however, have unique needs related to regulatory compliances and the need to adapt event experiences based on who an attendee is. What would that even look like?
It may be hard to imagine, but in the pharmaceutical meeting and event space, understanding the unique (and detailed) requirements of this type of event is very real. It is more than nuance. Finding an event planner who understands pharmaceutical meetings is vital.
- What Makes Pharmaceutical Meetings Different?
- Types of Pharmaceutical Meetings
- How Event Planners Can Create Great Pharma Events
What Makes Pharmaceutical Meetings Different?
Not all corporate events are the same. This is especially true for pharmaceutical companies and their events. While all events are different in purpose, theme, and even attendees, what makes pharmaceutical events different is that this type of program may offer attendees differing experiences depending on who they are.
At standard corporate events, attendees share meals, participate in the same excursions, enjoy the same entertainment, receive similar swag bags, and have similar accommodations. When it comes to pharmaceutical meetings, there are attendee types across the spectrum, but among them are healthcare providers (HCPs) and HCPs have different requirements than other guests due to Open Payment regulations.
Open payment regulations, formerly called the Sunshine Act, require that HCPs be tracked and monitored for all the goods and services they receive from a pharmaceutical company during a program, regardless of the type of event. That means no swag, caps on food and beverage spend, and other guidelines dependent on which state, or country, the HCP is employed.
As you can imagine, this adds an additional layer to the overall event logistics and requires a keen understanding of the rules and regulations surrounding pharmaceutical events.
Types of Pharmaceutical Meetings
What makes these meetings even more interesting is that each type of pharmaceutical program has different types of attendees. Sometimes the event includes only a handful of HCPs while others may have them as the predominant audience. Again, this can alter the meeting logistics and the reportable data.
Of the various types of pharmaceutical meetings, here is a snapshot of three meeting types that help to guide the way from research and development through post-launch:
Investigator Meetings - These events are held during the research and development process and occur in three phases. The first phase is a smaller event as a new product is introduced to clinical trials among a smaller group of medical providers. Gradually, as the treatment succeeds, new clinical sites are introduced, and pharma teams (as well as HCPs) meet to discuss results and observations.
In the final phase, these meetings may be quite large and include HCPs from all over the world. This means event staff and teams may be dealing with complex regulations, in addition to the logistics of a large group of attendees. In other words, pharmaceutical companies and their event planners must work together to meet client goals while ensuring compliance with strict guidelines.
Product Launches - While there are practical goals to product launch events, they are largely celebratory and often company wide. These events typically include live event production elements, off-site events and excursions, speakers, and fanfare in general. In order to create buzz for a new product, launches must excite and delight guests to help drive enthusiasm and engagement while also recognizing and rewarding the teams who assisted throughout the product development process.
Sometimes, the research and development process is shared between two companies. In that case, these product launches are co-branded, meaning teams from two companies are coming together, which can sometimes make travel arrangements difficult. However, of all the meetings, pharmaceutical product launch events are the most relaxed as they tend to be more focused on celebration and fun.
National Sales Meetings (NSMs) - Post-launch and into the sales and marketing phase of new products, pharmaceutical meetings turn toward gathering people from various internal departments, ranging from research and development to the entire national salesforce. The goal here is to get alignment on how the new product will be positioned in the market and to achieve clarity for the sales team on what the product does and how it works.
While NSMs are largely internal, the inclusion of clinical data means these events may also include external HCPs. And that’s where things can get tricky as the event planning team must be prepared to accommodate HCPs alongside other attendees. That may mean two parallel experiences with all facets of Open Payments regulations in play when it comes to the HCPs. Additionally, NSMs are often quite large given the event purpose and audience. For example, at one NSM, Bishop-McCann had 15 program managers, 8 event planners, and over 300 staff.
How Event Planners Can Create Great Pharma Events
If you’ve been to a pharmaceutical event and had an amazing time, you likely never noticed all of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering. That’s thanks to an event planning team. So, exactly what is it that an event planner can do to help create great pharma events?
1. Know the needs of each type of pharmaceutical event
As noted above, understanding the type of event and who will be in attendance is essential to the planning process, especially when HCPs are involved. This understanding will help shape not just the event itself, but how you begin the planning process.
2. Be familiar with the compliance requirements for HCPs
Working with a compliance team from the pharmaceutical company will be important, but being familiar with what aspects of the event will be subject to rules and regulations is vital. This becomes more complex if you have HCPs coming from multiple locations (states or countries) as rules and regulations will vary. Additionally, you’ll want a clear understanding of the caps a pharma company has put in place for HCP attendees.
3. Understand that all attendees are not alike
Pharma events are not simple, but the biggest mistake you can make is treating all attendees as if they have the same guidelines as HCPs. HCPs are the exception, not the rule, and other attendees should still have all the opportunities and experiences that make for a spectacular and memorable event.
4. Know the importance of venue and vendor selection
From travel logistics and HCP guidelines, finding a venue or vendor willing to work within regulatory parameters is essential. When you work with an event planner who has experience in the pharmaceutical industry, you’ll likely find one who also has an established network of vendors and venues with the kind of knowledge and experience necessary.
5. Create a clear HCP process
In the same way that you would outline a process workflow, you’ll want to create something similar for your HCPs. You want their experience to be streamlined and hassle free. That means from air travel logistics and event registration to event experiences like meals, you’ll want a consistent procedure for all HCPs, regardless of where they’re from. Imagine the experience for them, step-by-step, and be prepared for record keeping and reporting requirements, as well as being mindful of creating a frictionless process for them.
Pharmaceutical meetings and events are an amazing opportunity to connect, align, and celebrate wins, whether it’s research or launch focused, and making sure your pharma events adhere to the regulatory requirements is just as important as making sure your event is memorable. That takes proficiency in pharmaceutical event planning and a rich history of continued success.
If you’re looking for a team that has significant experience and expertise – in not just event planning but also the pharma event space – then look no further! We have a history of successful pharmaceutical events and are ready to ensure your guests have a seamless and enjoyable experience. Get in touch with our team today, and let’s start planning your next event!