Pharmaceutical and biotech companies depend on advisory board meetings to accomplish a number of important goals, from gaining strategic insights to strengthening key opinion leader (KOL) relationships. Whether they involve healthcare professionals (HCPs), payors, or patients, these meetings inevitably rely on bringing people together to collaborate, exchange information, and obtain valuable feedback.
What if you need input from your thought leaders but can’t meet face-to-face? Recently, COVID-19 and social distancing have prevented people coming together. But other issues, such as scheduling conflicts, distance, or cost constraints may arise. Since it’s important that you consistently connect and engage with your thought leaders, you’ll need to consider alternatives.
The ideal solution? Host a virtual advisory board.
At MeetingPlay, we’ve helped our top 20 pharma customers deliver successful virtual ad boards that create high value for both the company and their attendees.
Read on because we’re going to tell you how to plan effective virtual ad boards that provide an awesome attendee experience and drive real results for your company.
What is a Virtual Advisory Board?
But before we dive into how, let’s start with what.
Simply put, a virtual advisory board is an online collaboration forum between your attendees and key representatives of your company. Much the same as a face-to-face ad board, participants are presented with some content, and then asked to provide feedback or give their opinions. Participants may be KOLs, HCPs, specialists, payors, nurses, or even patients. The main difference is that instead of coming together in a physical location, everyone participates from their own devices.
What are the Advantages of Virtual Advisory Boards?
A virtual meeting is not a substitute for meeting face-to-face. Needless to say, there are some distinct advantages:
- Speed - You can organize an advisory board in mere weeks instead of months. This is particularly important if you need to quickly pivot your meeting from face-to-face to virtual.
- Flexibility - Unlike a face-to-face meeting, a virtual ad board gives you flexibility with format, length of sessions, days/times, and more. That being said, avoid scheduling your virtual meeting on weekends since it has become unpopular with participants.
- Recruiting the right participants - With no travel, fewer scheduling conflicts, and the ability for advisors to participate from anywhere, you’ll be more likely to recruit the right people. Seek passionate, committed advisors who understand your goals and have a real interest in adding value to your group.
- Cost - No venue, flights, or hotel expenses means lower costs.
How to Plan Effective Virtual Advisory Boards
How are our top 20 pharma clients achieving awesome attendee experiences at their virtual ad boards?
Here’s how to plan for a great experience...and success!
Identify Clear Goals, Expected Results, and Communicate Them
Create a clear list of goals and tangible results that you want to take away from your virtual meeting. Do you need advice on a clinical trial protocol? To discuss appropriate messaging? Or maybe you want to understand coverage issues and regional differences in payors. Whatever your goal is, clearly communicate it with your chair, faculty, internal stakeholders, and your virtual platform provider.
When creating your goals, be sure to balance your company goals with the needs of your advisors. Remember, their reasons for attending may be very different from your reasons for inviting them. Understanding and balancing the two will help you create the best virtual experience possible.
Choose a Format
With virtual advisory boards, you have options on what format to choose and how to deliver content to your advisors for the ideal experience and results.
For example, you may want to hold your ad board over an entire week instead of one or two days. Your participants can securely sign in and out, review content on their own, answer polls, participate in Q&A, interact via group chat, or meet face-to-face in small, roundtable sessions.
Or, you might want to bring everyone together for a live collaborative session, with screen sharing, voting, polling, chat, note taking, and discussion, all within your live workshop.
If you do decide to bring your audience together, you’ll still want to make the most of the time. If you are including international and US participants, be considerate of what time you are scheduling live sessions. Consider combining both asynchronous and “synchronous” interactions to maximize the attendee experience and the insights you want to gain.
Select the Right Advisors
Finding the right participants is critical if you want to gain insights with real value. Seek passionate, committed advisors who understand your goals and have a real interest in contributing to your group. Strive for a mix of published experts and frontline providers who have a passion for helping patients.
Meet with Participants Beforehand
Before your meeting takes place, it’s valuable to have a personal meeting with your participants to get to know them, set goals and expectations, and give them time to consider what unique ideas they can bring to the table?
With the right virtual event technology, such as MeetingPlay’s Virtual Engagement Platform, you should be able to have one-on-one virtual meetings with each participant, host collaborative sessions, and offer self-paced content discovery and feedback, all with one tool.
Hold a Virtual Presenter Training
Unfortunately, you won’t always have the option to choose a chair and presenters who are tech savvy. So, it’s more important than ever to do a training session so that your presenters understand how to navigate the technology effectively. Your chair and speakers are busy and it can be challenging to schedule training. But, when your Ad Board is successful, you’ll thank yourself for the effort. Work with a knowledgeable virtual technology partner, like MeetingPlay, to hold an effective presenter training.
Create Secure Log-in and Check-in
The sensitive nature of the information discussed during advisory boards demands a secure virtual platform. Provide SSO log-in for any internal attendees from your company. Send each of your advisors an encrypted link and unique password to log in with.
After each participant logs into a live session for the first time, be sure to obtain their digital signatures for your company records, just like you would at a face-to-face event.
Keep Advisors Engaged
An advisory board is much more than a forum to collect data and gather feedback from your KOLs. It’s your chance to develop and leverage strong relationships over the long-term. To achieve this, focus heavily on your attendee experience. Here are some of the ways our top 20 pharmaceutical customers are doing things differently to keep advisors engaged during virtual sessions:
Shorten your live session length
Create more compact sessions and build in time for networking breaks, just as you would at a face-to-face meeting.
Focus Your Agenda
Narrow your agenda to the most critical information you need to share and feedback you want to receive.
Provide Robust Engagement Opportunities
Maximize feedback and prevent attendee boredom with ample opportunities for them to interact with the presenters and each other.
Your advisors should have the ability to:
- See, speak to, and get acquainted with each other before your meeting starts
- Complete surveys after each session
- Chat with presenters and participants
- Answer open-ended polls and surveys - we recommend increasing the number of polling questions beyond what you would have in a face-to-face meeting
- Vote and see results in real-time
- Take notes that correspond with information that is being presented
- Raise their hand to notify presenters when they have a question
- Optionally send their questions anonymously
- Navigate between live slides, agenda and resources at any time
- Seamlessly complete confirmation of hours to get credit and receive their honoraria
Your presenters should have the ability to:
- Share their screen and slides
- Easily take over screen sharing from other presenters
- Send real-time polls and surveys
- Hold impromptu voting and Q&A
- Answer public and private questions sent by your participants
- Optionally show attendee questions to all participants or just the moderator
- Optionally display polling results to all participants
It’s a good best practice to record live sessions. This will be helpful for any advisors who are unable to participate and if need to review or reference the discussion after your session concludes.
How to Find the Right Virtual Platform and Partner
Your technology partner and virtual platform will make or break your ad board’s success. The platform you choose should be flexible, offer ample opportunities to collaborate, and have robust engagement tools, like MeetingPlay’s Virtual Engagement Platform. It should have the ability to record live sessions for later viewing. It should also take some of the administrative burden off your team by digitally capturing confirmation of hours, etc.
Work with a partner who is experienced with advisory boards. Your partner should provide a dedicated account representative to support you during every step of your planning. During your meeting, your partner needs to be available to quickly provide technical support that your advisors may need.
Finally, your virtual platform partner should be able to provide you with detailed analytics on your participants' feedback interactions. It’s essential for you to be able to easily evaluate whether you’ve achieved your goals and make improvements for next time.
How to Keep Participants Engaged After Your Advisory Board
Don’t let the sharing stop just because your meeting is over. Our pharmaceutical clients know the secret to building long-term relationships is to keep their experts involved.
Reach out to your participants personally after your meeting concludes and ask them for feedback and suggestions. Keep them informed about your results. This will go a long way in making your advisors feel important and valued by your organization.
Do that, and you will pave the way for long-term success.