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| Written by the M&IW Team

4 Key Trends in Medical Meetings

Originally published on May 2, 2017. Updated on February 23, 2023.

Meeting management professionals have a unique role when it comes to the planning and execution of medical meetings. From ensuring the compliance of the healthcare professionals (HCPs) to staying on top of reporting guidelines to incorporating new and engaging trends, there are many complexities. The world of medical meetings can be hard to absorb, especially when the landscape is continually changing. Below are a few trends that the M&IW team sees as particularly important in the world of medical meetings.

1. Content is King

Yes, content is still king. However, content can get complacent. That is why many pharmaceutical companies have a renewed focus on delivering the right content in the right manner to HCPs. Ensure content is relevant and interesting by allowing HCPs to help shape the agenda. As part of the registration process before the event, ask attendees what topics interest them most, and after the event, ask what they hope to learn from future events and incorporate their responses next year.

It is also important to note that the way content is being received is changing. Healthcare meetings are now becoming more engaging, encouraging the attendees to be more than spectators. Instead of sitting in a lecture hall all day, HCPs prefer formats like live or interactive demonstrations, discussion groups, and breakout sessions. This trend is making the consumption of content more desirable for the attendees through interaction and delivering more value to the organizations.

2. There’s an App for That

Mobile apps are now commonly used across all events, including those in the medical industry, and they continue to be popular with attendees. No longer are attendees subject to waiting until the day of the event to network. Mobile apps allow them to view the attendee list, send direct messages, or post to activity boards. This is also beneficial for sponsors as they can also view the attendee list and even schedule meetings directly through the app.

Other popular app elements that add value and elevate the attendee experience include customized agendas, speaker bios, gamification, and polling. Gamification and polling both help increase attendee engagement with the content in an interactive way, tying back to the first trend.

3. Mergers and Acquisitions

Before the pandemic, we started seeing an increase of mergers and acquisitions for companies within the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry, and that trend continues today. At times, these changes within the structure of organizations create a gap which third-party meeting planning agencies can help fill. Some of the complexities in how medical meetings come together within the new organization include determining who will manage the compliance aspect, how the meetings will be reported, and who is in charge of HCP data as the companies merge. No matter how the change ultimately plays out, planners must be in the loop in order to plan for the right attendee types and collect the correct compliance-related information.

4. Bars are Barred

In August 2022, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) updated their ethics guidelines to include that “companies should not pay for or provide alcohol in connection with speaker programs.” This is a big change from the past, and while it may seem beneficial from a budgeting perspective (alcohol is one of the most expensive ticket items, after all), it won’t make for happy attendees. In fact, many HCPs pushed back at the addition, saying that they should be able to make their own decisions about beverages at program. Unless PhRMA changes their guidelines, however, events will be dry. But dry doesn’t have to mean boring—make the most of the restrictions by featuring fun mocktails or local non-alcoholic specialties you won’t find elsewhere.

Bonus! Ramped-Up Reporting

Compliance regulations and reporting are nothing new, but that doesn’t make them less of a pain. From food and beverage meal caps to transfer of value reporting to grant and sponsor transparency, guidelines around the world and across the industry continue to get more and more stringent.

M&IW’s former Sr. Director of People Engagement & Operations and current Event Experience Consultant, Susan Arts, CMP, HMCC, once shared the following tips to make keeping up with regulations a little simpler (or less painful, at least):

  • Always go into a meeting preparing for an audit. Planning from the forefront can ease any pain on the backend.
  • Understand the reporting requirements when it comes to transfer of value verses aggregate spend for a meeting.
  • Document, document, document. Look toward new technologies to help streamline and automate documentation.

Looking Forward

It is important to have a constant flow of knowledge, education, and peer support to help balance unprecedented changes, tackle tough regulations, and stay on top of trends. With the changing landscape in this highly-regulated niche industry, working with professionals who specialize in the nuances of medical meetings can greatly alleviate challenges in the long run and create successful, engaging, and effective outcomes.

Interested in learning more? Contact us.