Doing It Virtually: A Solution?
To combat the difficulty of attracting physicians to meetings, life sciences companies have started exploring the relatively
new option of virtual meetings. Virtual meetings have the advantage of allowing attendees to attend from any location with
Internet capability. Doctors can now stay home, saving travel time and inconvenience, but still have exposure to the educational
experience, just as if they had attended in person.
Some survey respondents doubt that physicians stay as focused in a virtual meeting as in a live one. Several pharma
executives noted that they never truly know how engaged physicians are in a virtual setting. For example, many executives
said that physicians were checking e-mail or attending to other paperwork while logged into a virtual meeting. These scenarios
detract from a virtual meeting's effectiveness.
Coordinating Global Compliance
Not surprisingly, meeting locations typically follow the global markets; companies generally plan more meetings in larger
markets than in smaller markets. As the largest market, the United States has, by far, the most scheduled medical meetings
yearly. The United Kingdom leads the international markets, with 88 percent of life sciences companies reportedly having scheduled
meetings there in 2007. The next most popular destinations are South America, Canada, Germany, and Spain, all of which hosted
meetings for 71percent of surveyed companies, followed by Italy and France, with both hosting meetings for 65 percent of companies.
In 2007, Asia and Japan served only 59 percent and 53 percent of companies, respectively. However, with strong growth in the
two markets, companies expect that their meeting numbers in both regions will likely climb in several years. (See figure 4)
Meeting Spend in 2008
As meeting costs, especially hotel fees, continue to increase, life sciences and healthcare companies are searching for less
expensive options and more economical locations to host their meetings.
European countries and other international locations are not as popular in 2008 as they were in 2007. The United States hosted
the most medical meetings in 2007, with 70 percent of meetings held there. Surveyed companies forecast that they will hold
74 percent of their 2008 meetings in the United States. The increase in US-based meetings comes at the expense of other destinations.
European meetings, for example, will decline from 12 percent in 2007 to less than 10 percent of all meetings scheduled in
A four percent gain in the US market may not seem like much, but even such a small increase translates to a great boost in
revenue for the American hospitality market. Between site reservation, catering costs, technology fees, and rooms for overnight
attendees, meeting planners spend millions of dollars annually. A pharmaceutical company can easily spend $200,000 or more
on one meeting. With that in mind, the American hospitality market is champing at the bit to host any increase in US-based
Meeting spending is coupled with the fact that meeting planners prefer to work with vendors they have already worked with.
Preferred hotels and vendors in the United States will see significant revenue growth in 2008, thanks to the pharmaceutical
Meeting Planners' Future
Companies across the industry have implemented compliance policies to cover as many countries as possible. These policies
apply to medical affairs groups and marketing teams as well as to meeting planning departments. Companies generally customize
their compliance standards to meet the strictest guidelines that affect their meeting planning efforts. By adopting these
policies, meeting planning departments have streamlined their activities, a process which has proven easier than adjusting
the planning process for every new scheduled meeting.
Many life sciences companies have structured their meeting planning standard operating procedures around EMEA guidelines,
having found the EMEA to be the strictest regulatory body they regularly deal with. Also, many Asian countries have adopted
the EMEA guidelines as a model for their own, instead of looking toward North America. Since the life sciences industry is
holding an increasing number of meetings in Japan and China, it follows that companies would try to implement a baseline set
of policies based on EMEA rules.
In recent years, the rate of regulatory change has grown nearly exponentially. Each European country adds its own regulations,
in addition to EMEA regulations and non-pharma-specific regulations, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. All of these
regulations have prompted businesses to establish stringent compliance guidelines to prevent any appearance of impropriety.
Most surveyed companies agree that most of the regulations are beneficial to the pharmaceutical market, but the overly cautious
operating procedures are damaging efficiency.