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Surround Sound Meetings


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-03-02-2006
Volume 0
Issue 0

THE OLD FORMULA IS TRIED AND TRUE: GET YOUR reps informed and excited at a launch meeting, and you'll have a positive impact on the success of the drug. But too many pharma meeting planners forget that sharp PowerPoint slides and fancy dinners no longer impress sophisticated sales reps. Reps want more than a fresh presentation. They seek a new experience. They want to be wowed.

THE OLD FORMULA IS TRIED AND TRUE: GET YOUR reps informed and excited at a launch meeting, and you'll have a positive impact on the success of the drug. But too many pharma meeting planners forget that sharp PowerPoint slides and fancy dinners no longer impress sophisticated sales reps. Reps want more than a fresh presentation. They seek a new experience. They want to be wowed.

And you should wow them. It's a great way to ensure that your audience really hears what you are saying—and remembers key informaton you want them to retain. How do you do it? With memorable presentations that employ surprise, drama, intriguing themes, a focused use of entertainment to create an experience that will carry through the entire week. Your only limits are budget, time constraints, and imagination.

Create and Capture

But let's be realistic: It's tough to capture people's attention in these media-crazy days. And it's especially hard to impress pharmaceutical sales reps. They're well-traveled, and they've been to a lot of meetings. They expect a high-quality, innovative presentation. And pharma launch meetings present a double challenge: winning over an audience that sometimes reaches thousands of people while getting across material of great complexity. Meeting planners constantly want event producers to think outside the box—if this is what has been done in the past, what can we do different? This is an occasion when pushing the envelope is actually encouraged.

Flexible presentations Create an element of drama right up front. The energy you present at the start will pay dividends all week long.

Education in Entertainment

Remember: If you want to get people excited about your new product, you have to do more than talk about how excited you are. Your reps already know this: The bland, low-energy salesperson is quickly forgotten. A high-energy presentation at the launch meeting sends an unambiguous message to your reps: Get out there and generate that same energy on sales calls.

You need some drama, something that will keep your audience wondering what surprises are in store. You want to convey the sense that your launch is a special event, and not just another business meeting.

Frodo's Fantasy Incorporating some pop culture and themes into events helps sales reps keep the message in mind. Here, a replica of Fangorn Forest from "Lord of the Rings."

In the event industry, we use the term "edutainment" to express the union between education and entertainment—the two crucial elements of a great meeting. It's important to use both of those elements. Take the message that you want to impart to your team and turn it into a theatrical presentation, for example. This can include a storyline that carries a theme throughout the course of the week. It is much easier to tie together a message presented in an engaging way as opposed to presenting information in a traditional classroom setting.

Driving the Message Home

One good way to create a sense of drama is to use a theme that runs the whole length of the event. A theme lets you get away from the conventional speaker-only type of event. It helps you build an entire unified experience that ties in the evening social events. Try and incorporate as many engaging elements as you can, keeping in mind the content of the information that needs to be presented. Ask yourself questions like, "What kind of stage do I put them on?" "What medium do I use to present the information?" "How do you maintain the attention and focus of these people?" Asking and answering these questions will help you form a solid presentation and keep people entertained and excited, anticipating what comes next. With that anticipation you will have their undivided attention and your event will become memorable for them.

Pyramid Scheme Background changes are a good way to re-awaken your audience and help them focus on the most important part of the product-launch message.

Here's a tip: Sales reps are young these days, some as young as 22 years old. If you want them to respond, try making use of pop culture. And try to be ahead of the curve, not behind it. If you know in advance that the new and final installment of the Indiana Jones movies will be released in the coming year, you can piggyback on all the advertising that or will be going on out there. If you can tie in a launch to the talk and hype of a growing trend, sales reps will want to be part of something that is gaining popularity instead of following along with an overexposed product. Maximize the elements of pop culture to keep reinforcing your message throughout the course of the year.

Outside the Conference Room

Themes are especially effective when they provide opportunities for teambuilding and motivation. Some currently popular choices include:

Castaway To build on the popularity of television shows like Survivor and Lost, planners can create a memorable environment that is fun and adventurous. For the welcome reception, take guests out to the beach for a dinner under the stars and then turn them loose to use their own survival instincts. Planners can set up search-party or scavenger-hunt events to encourage team building and unity, and to get the group moving toward a common goal. A theme of this sort plays into the reps' competitive instincts. The goal is to get them energized about winning the prize—and then translate that feeling into more aggressive selling .

Lord of the Rings J&S recently produced an event that had the popular book and movie franchise as its theme. The entire week's product launch was set up around "Fangorn Forest," which was created with a backdrop and several three-dimensional trees. Each day, the backdrop scene would change, and the reps would be presented with a different challenge. It was fun and engaging, but it also had a serious subtext: Just like the characters in the books, the sales reps had to learn that no matter what the circumstances, and no matter what the odds, they had to push forward as a team.

Your Attention, Please

If it's necessary to keep sales reps in a room for two to three hours at a time, how do you make sure that there is some different level, a charge of energy that moves them from one topic to the next? Meeting planners need some transitional elements to encourage sales reps to switch gears when the presenters do. Set changes are a good way to recapture attention and re-engage the participants. It's a chance to re-awaken your audience and help them focus on the most important message you're trying to deliver. But if you really want to have an impact, consider incorporating live entertainment.

With tighter budgets and a tougher regulatory environment, many companies have grown leery of using entertainment at meetings, but it can be an important tool to get attendees comfortable and relaxed. That's important, because someone who is at ease is likely to be more receptive to a new message or a new idea. Entertainment can also help re-energize people as they come back from their breaks. Be sure to think about ways to target the message specifically for the group. Bands and music are fun, but especially valuable is a performer who can do an entertaining skit or act directly related to the message being imparted.

Another hint: Structure break times around game shows like Jeopardy, Family Feud, or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? This is a wonderful way to get people involved—and discover what they know and what they think about certain subjects. The resulting answers can later be used to create personalized programs for the participants.

Location, Location, Location

Meeting planners today tend to shy away from properties with "resort" or "spa" in their names, but location is still crucial for a successful product launch. A hot destination is a strong incentive to attend a meeting, and it also helps create opportunities to deliver a message. Pharma companies need to stop looking at the name, and concentrate instead on what's in the hotel amenities: How can the venue keep sales reps entertained? Does it provide a activities that help make the event memorable and enjoyable?

The key consideration, though, is the presentation itself. The audience needs to be comfortable, and the presentation needs to go off without a technical hitch. So do some research. Make sure all your partners and suppliers can deliver. You have just a few hours or days to present your product. Make sure they are worth the time and money you spend.

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