Meetings: Meetings 101

When it comes to pharma events, the devil is in the details.
Dec 01, 2004

Melissa R. Dull
Remember the meeting that started at 8 a.m.—without any coffee? Or the one at which a speaker's presentation was ruined by substandard audiovisual equipment? It seems like loose ends always unravel during live events, but they can be minimized by paying painstaking attention to detail during planning. The more lead time and information the meeting team and vendors have, the smoother the planning will go and the easier it will be to take care of the details.

But for those who are short on time—or experience—here's a refresher to help keep the basics top of mind.

Lynnell R. Wakley
Budgeting It can take weeks or even months to get the approvals necessary for meeting-related expenses. In the meantime, executives should review the company's meeting policies and take note of the following:
  • Is a formal purchase order required?
  • How are attendees compensated by the corporation? Do remuneration policies fall within PhRMA Code guidelines?
  • What types of expenses require senior management approval?
  • How is billing handled?
  • Does your company have preferred or selected providers for air, hotel, or catering? (See "Premeeting Checklist.")

Invitations Companies must define their target audience and establish how to invite attendees—e-mail, snail mail, phone calls. It is well worth the corporations' time and expense to ensure the accuracy of their attendee databases. Current contact information offers companies a fighting chance of reaching their audiences in a timely way. Without it, invitations may be mailed out blindly, wasting critical time and money, especially when they must be resent.

Site Selection Many physicians will overcome significant obstacles in their crammed professional and personal schedules to attend meetings that are of interest. That being said, there are a few "deal breakers" that can leave your meeting in the dust.

Keep it reasonable. A meeting can't be a success if the participants are priced out of attending it. Companies often can keep the highly variable costs of airline travel down by scheduling their meetings in hub cities. Major airports usually offer frequent and cheaper flights. Similarly, large cities offer a wider selection of lodging venues, which usually leads to more competition, and often, lower prices.

Reduce travel time. It might seem like a good idea to conduct a meeting in a remote mountainous area, but that can be a logistical nightmare. Not only will the extra transportation burden the budget, but a long flight compounded by a two- to three-hour bus ride is a recipe for short tempers and short attention spans.

Premeeting Checklist
Hold a premeeting conference with the facility's management staff to communicate your expectations. Be sure to get a complete list of managers and their direct contact information.

Contract Negotiation Here are some pointers:

Establish attrition and cancellation policies ahead of time. Facilities can charge hefty fees if they have to release rooms and cancel meals. The contract should include a clause offering the opportunity to conduct the meeting at a later date or at a sister property, or allowing another division within the company to use the space, should the event have to be cancelled. No fees should be charged if the hotel is able to resell the rooms, as cancellation fees should be calculated based on lost profit, not on lost revenue.

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