Meeting Expectations

By Malcolm Fleschner

The logistical details involved in putting together a successful meeting can seem as complicated as planning the D-Day invasion, only with more hotel rooms. Because few individuals find their way into pharmaceutical sales management via the hospitality industry, any and all expert advice usually is accepted gladly.

Writing recently in Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine, meetings experts Melissa Dull and Lynnell Wakley from PS Solutions (www.pssolutions.org) offered the following suggestions for planning and executing flawless professional get-togethers.

1. What’s your budget? Getting approvals for meeting-related outlays can be a prodigious undertaking. While you’re waiting for approvals from upstairs, consider issues such as:

– Is a formal purchase order required?
– Will attendees be compensated for their time? Do these remunerations fall within PhRMA Code guidelines?
– Which expenses likely will require senior-level approval?
– Who’s handling the billing?
– Which preferred airlines, hotels and caterers does your company work with, if any?

2. Who’s coming? Once you are clear about exactly who you want to attend the meeting, you need to make sure your invitations reach the targeted individuals. The first thing you need is an updated database of identified attendees. Then choose your invitation medium – email, snail mail, telephone calls, singing telegram and so on. The better your database information is, the less time you’ll spend resending invites and tracking down potential attendees.

3. Where are you going? If physicians are interested in the topic they will make considerable sacrifices to attend your meeting, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it difficult on them. You can keep travel and lodging costs down by scheduling your meeting in a major hub city – the more centralized the locale, the less travel time for attendees. Once you’ve decided on a facility, conduct a premeeting conference with the site’s management staff to let them know what you expect. You’ll want a complete list of managers and their responsibilities, as well as their contact information.

4. How did it go? You want attendees to walk away from the meeting thinking about the execution and content, not the site and amenities. Once the meeting is over, get together with your in-house team as well as the site staff to talk about what went well and what could have gone better. This also is the time to discuss concerns that might affect billing. Use the feedback offered by the facility staff to improve your efforts for your next meeting.