Build It and They Will Come - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Build It and They Will Come
As the No. 1 destination for medical meetings, Orlando now has another resource to draw physicians—a new ­biocluster that includes the Burnham Research Institute, a medical school, and a new hospital all developed in last four years


Pharmaceutical Executive


PE: Over the past 13 years Orlando has hosted more medical-related meetings than any other destination. What is the secret to your success?

Tammy Runzler: It's really very simple—hospitality. There is a lot to be said when a city has been built around hospitality. The guest experience was what Disney brought with them when they first came on board and started all this in 1971.

PE: So, the guest always comes first. How does that apply to medical and pharmaceutical meetings?

Runzler: Our hospitality community has made it a point to be knowledgeable about the pharmaceutical industry the options we offer are meaningful and relevant. Throughout the year we send out team members to healthcare industry meetings to ensure we keep up-to-date on the ever-changing regulations and issues of the moment. This leaves us not only well informed but also makes us even stronger. Clients know we can be trusted to do the right thing. And in this strict regulatory climate that is crucial.

PE: Does the healthcare community have other special needs that have to be attended to?

Runzler: Medical meetings typically need a very high number of breakout spaces and/or concurrent session opportunities. We also know that they need space for one general session and then the ability to branch out. We have certain team staff members that only work with and attend to the needs of medical and healthcare meeting planners. By attending Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association events, sitting in on sessions, and listening, they learn what is important to meeting planners and physicians. It enables us to be better partners to them.

PE: You mentioned regulations, the big bugaboo for pharma meeting planners, especially as it pertains to the financial interaction between physicians and the industry. How has that impacted your business?

Runzler: As a destination and as a business partner, we realized very quickly that we did not have to become specialists on all of the regulations themselves. Instead, we needed to know how those regulations impacted our client, the meeting planner, and the meeting attendees. By putting their needs first we were able to customize and adapt the meetings.

For instance, in the past, pharmaceutical businesses were able to offer sponsorships. Those opportunities have, of course, been cut or limited drastically. We knew then that going forward we would have to help the medical meetings planners to adapt to a much tighter budget. We had to show them that we could incorporate value; help them find different and creative ways of doing their programs and still be able to execute the quality they were used to and needed without the pharmaceutical sponsorships and support.

PE: What steps towards that goal did you take?

Runzler: Orlando has been the only destination that goes beyond a typical Client Advisory Board to have a Healthcare Advisory Board. The board is under my direction. It is made up of 14 meeting planners—and they may have used Orlando, they may have not used Orlando. They may represent medical associations, or they may be more on the corporate side. But they come together two times a year in Orlando to provide us guidance, input, updates on what we need to know to be a better partner to our medical clients, to evaluate Orlando, to keep us in the know and to evaluate how we're doing.

PE: What trends are you seeing now?

Runzler: We are seeing that the medical and healthcare industry booking pace is very positive right now. We are seeing some increase in activity of some of those meetings coming back, so that's been very good. Also, pharmaceutical meetings are very stringent on the green codes and green standards. As an industry they have really taken the lead as far as not being so willing to compromise there. They want green facilities. They want to have green meetings.


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