Meeting Planning: We're Not in Kansas Anymore - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Meeting Planning: We're Not in Kansas Anymore
Meetings expert James Montague explains why the industry needed an independent program to certify medical meeting managers—and what he did about it


Pharmaceutical Executive


Does CMMP have a curriculum?

The program teaches principles that cover CME-meeting and medical-meeting specifics. Again, it addresses such things as: What are the pitfalls? What are the things to look out for? When do you have certain conversations? What is acceptable at a CME program? And then there's a third module that includes basic meeting-management materials to round out the curriculum.

What is the status of the program now?

A year ago, we finished our first pilot program. We drew on some of PMPN's internal meeting planners. Of the 23 participants, 18 passed the first time. Then we sat everyone down and got feedback. We asked such questions as: Was all the material needed, or was some unnecessary? Did you get anything out of these certain modules? We've spent the last eight months tweaking the program and refining the body of knowledge. It's now at a point where we are ready to have kind of a Phase II pilot, a little bit bigger, probably about 30 people this time. And later this fall, we'll be ready to open it up to any of those external people who would like to take it.

You mentioned you were looking for someone to take over the program. Why is that?

As a profit company, we can't give it the accreditation that it truly needs to become an industry standard. Our intention was just to start the pea at the top of the hill, push it off, and let it gain some momentum. Hopefully, at some point, a nonprofit or independent accrediting body will take this to the next level and make it what it should be—a true certification for medical meeting managers. If we do it, it's going to look biased.

Why does your company need 1,500 meeting planners?

We're not the typical meeting-planning company, where you bring us a drug to launch or some series of programs and dinner meetings you want us to plan and put together. We're more like an outsourcing model for that. So if you need to bring people in-house to work on a big bid you've won, we can place people with you. If you can't or shouldn't be sending people around the country to go to dinner meetings, we have those 1,500 people scattered all over that can staff local events for you. They just drive in, do it, and then head back home. We handle small audiovisual setups for dinner programs and things like that. We can be a local resource for site selection, because our people are, in fact, local. They know the best places and best haunts to have meetings, as well as the staffs and the sales people. They know what to do with physicians. And they can handle the program for you, so you can keep your staff in the office. It's so much more cost-efficient. A majority of our business is handled directly with medical-communication companies and medical-education companies, but we also have direct relationships with some of the big pharma companies.

Each state has its own set of compliance issues to watch out for, too, right?

They closely mirror the federal mandates, but, yes, every state does have its nuances. And, since our people are already locally based, they know what's a little different about the procedures in their state and what they might be in a state next-door. These are veterans too. They've been doing these other programs for 15 to 20 years.


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