It's never seemed quick or flexible enough for the vast range of meetings pharma companies need to produce, from physician events, such as advisory boards and investigator meetings, to international and domestic conventions to large sales meetings. And it has always been seen as interfering with— rather than aiding—individual or departmental efforts.
But pharma in 2005 is a very different industry than it was even a few years ago, and for many companies, consolidated meeting planning looks increasingly attractive, not just for its potential cost savings, but as a way to cope with heightened regulatory requirements.
Pharm Exec: What has been driving the trend toward consolidated meeting planning?
Becker: Much of the answer can be traced to three internal and external pressures that the industry is facing:
Rules and regulations The industry is under scrutiny from FDA, OIG, and even individual state legislatures, and sales and marketing spending—including spending on meetings—is on everyone's radar. To stay in compliance, companies need to set business rules for all types of physician meetings, including overnight events, such as advisory boards, speaker training, and investigator meetings, and speaker programs, such as dinner meetings sponsored by marketing or sales. The rules must cover logistics: How much is an appropriate expenditure, and what are acceptable events? They need to be enforced company-wide, and the company will need to be able to document its meetings activities in detail.
Cost control A few years ago, it was easier to overlook the cost savings promised by consolidated meeting sourcing. In today's highly challenging environment, costs are of much greater concern.
Communications needs On the other hand, meeting planners must develop new ways to ensure that information is effectively transferred among geographically disparate groups. Because as pharma companies strive to develop and market new medicines or new therapeutic applications for existing medicines to offset pipeline and patent concerns, increased global clinical and partnering activity is demanding face-to-face meeting alternatives, such as webcasting, or tele- and video-conferencing.
How can a company best transform its meeting procurement process?