Introduction: The Impact Factor

Meetings need more than exotic locations and cocktail parties to boost your brand. Here's what works.
Apr 01, 2007


Beth Herskovits
The last medical meeting i covered was held in San Diego, a city of luxury apartment buildings, trolleys, palm trees, and docks for boats big and small. The meeting was held in a modern and imposing convention center, next to the historic Gaslamp Quarter—and the starting point for thousands of conventioneers who visit each season.

This prime location was not lost on the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring this particular meeting. One went as far as to raise flags on the downtown gas lamps, welcoming visiting surgeons to the city. That same company rented out famed Balboa Park to host a cocktail party for physicians who attended a scientific session on some of its newest products.

The marketing efforts were artfully done—who, after all, would turn down a cocktail party in Balboa Park—but did they guarantee more sales the following quarter? Did it build long-term relationships that would open doctors' doors—literally and figuratively—to its drug reps the following week?

Only the company itself knows whether it made the most of its investment. But for the rest of the industry, Pharma Meetings offers a tactical and strategic guide to achieving impact. (Hint: you don't need to throw a party at Balboa Park).

After a downturn in interest after 9/11, pharma meetings are once again hitting their stride. Budgets are increasing, travel fears are ebbing, and attendance is up almost 14 percent over the past five years, according to a decade-long study conducted by the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association. (Flip to page 8 for more results—we think you'll be surprised.)

But meeting managers agree that the very fundamentals of event planning have changed. It's no longer enough to lure participants to meetings with tropical beach locales and exciting urban centers. Instead, engagement is the new measure of success, content is king, and the order of the day is impact.

And that's what we're serving up: Based on original research, the Cadient Group's Stephen Wray offers a convention hall survival guide, including step-by-step advice on how to get noticed. MedPoint's Bill Cooney and BI's Kevin Crowley cover the growing and changing interactive beat, and discuss ways to use that medium to engage, excite—and of course, extend—the impact of the event. We've also heeded your request for help with where to hold your meetings, and included a piece designed to help you rethink site selection called "It's Easy Being Green." (And for a bit of fun, check out "Meeting Minutes".)

Meetings are back because they are the best way to connect with audiences. With advance planning, they can also be a big boost to your brand's bottom line.

Beth Herskovits is Pharmaceutical Executive's news and online editor. She can be reached at