Rapiergroup Pharmaceutical

Pharmaceutical events: 10 common mistakes

Topic: Insight / / by Paul Denny

To use a well-worn metaphor, a corporate event is like a machine: a series of moving parts which need to be aligned perfectly for it to work properly.

From pre-planning and strategy, to the logistics of the day or weekend, to the drinks at the bar: running a successful operation takes grand thought and granular focus. In a tightly regulated sector like pharmaceutical, the details are more important than most.

We’ve been involved with pharma for the last 15 years, and in that time we’ve come across and tackled every challenge you could imagine. So what are the common pitfalls of running a pharmaceutical event, and what can you do to avoid them?

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    Pitfall 1. Not including your legal experts as early as possible

    Why? You can waste a lot of time and resource developing ideas that can’t be approved. A good idea is only a good idea if it’s compliant. That means appropriate for that particular use and for the specific country you’re hosting in. There are restrictions in the US which would not apply in the UAE or the UK.
    Second to that, the legal team’s time is precious. Involving them at the early planning stages avoids wasting their time; speeding up the initial approval process overall and potentially avoiding a full second review. Confirming the necessary elements and format required to gain approval up front can save a lot of time working up visuals when a storyboard with screen grabs and a few notes of explanation may suffice.

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    Pitfall 2. No pre and post-marketing plan

    Pre and post-marketing are sizeable investments, but the two or three days of face-to-face activity during the event is only part of the story. A great deal more value can be leveraged by reaching out to the audience much earlier and following up post event.
    The overall communications plan is as important as the event itself and a cohesive plan replete with content, email communications, videos. Create an editorial calendar, start building buzz early, and have follow-up communication primed for the days and weeks after.

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    Pitfall 3. No personalisation

    Healthcare professionals are time poor, and they only want information relevant to them and in a time frame of their choosing. The default position is often “this is too difficult because of data protection regulations”, but there are ways. Even if you only segment your attendee list by job title, you can focus your comms before, during and after the event. The retail sector has already embraced personalisation; pharmaceutical is lagging behind. But therein lies the opportunity.

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    Pitfall 4. No robust contingency plan

    An event is finely tuned and planned, but as we all know, the best-laid plans often go wrong. What happens when a competitor makes a challenge, and you’re legally required to make a drastic onsite change? What if it’s a holiday weekend in the middle of the summer and out of business hours where local suppliers may be unreachable? These situations are where your agency should be ready to support you, so it’s worth asking what their contingency plan is in these hypothetical situations.

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    Pitfall 5. Not having real-time metrics

    We can’t bang this drum loud enough; assigning metrics to your event is essential. If you decide you need an event, the immediate question you should ask yourself is ‘why?’ Once you know this, you can begin to set metrics to determine how you will realise and measure success.
    But if your data isn’t available until the close of the event or even later, you can’t react quickly enough to make immediate improvements. Having a method to access your dashboard at the end of the day can allow you to plan changes for the next day, maximise your return on investment and improve the experience for attendees.

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    Pitfall 6. A lack of flexibility

    Pitfall 6 is intrinsically linked with number 5: having real-time data is only a benefit if you have the flexibility in your staffing plan to change things up. If day one attracts three times as much traffic as you’d anticipated but people were leaving because all your representatives were busy, can the engagement plan be adapted mid-event to accommodate? Performance management plays a crucial role here.

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    Pitfall 7. No end of shift huddle

    It might be a simple thing, but an end of shift huddle to share learnings, common questions, mistakes and other unanticipated points can make dynamic performance management and management reporting much easier. The event is live, why not make the feedback loop live as well.

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    Pitfall 8. Not tracking your materials

    In a packed venue with 25,000 delegates, visitors, speakers, and staff, keeping track of materials can be tricky. Make sure you have all the contact and tracking information for deliveries to hand, especially those that you did not deal with directly. These are inevitably the things that people request last-minute, and end up the most important.

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    Pitfall 9. Not checking the calendar

    A lot of events happen at the weekend and clash with other unconnected events. Do you have visibility of external influences happening at the venue or somewhere else in the city? Being launch-ready, only to discover the local city is holding a marathon and the whole road network will be gridlocked for the weekend or completely closed for a public holiday shouldn’t be unforeseen. Sometimes these things are unavoidable, but transport and logistics need to be planned to work around disruption.

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    Pitfall 10. Ignoring the welfare of your customer facing team

    Events are high impact environments and often long days. Investing in rest periods, cool and quiet break areas with healthy refreshments and facilities to secure their belongings can be the difference between a motivated and energised interaction and a tired, less successful one.
    It’s important to note; you can’t plan for every eventuality. Challenges can still happen no matter how tight the plan, or how detailed the itinerary. That’s what makes events such highly charged and exciting affairs.
    But with a well thought-out strategy,a truly collaborative, well trained and motivated staff, and an eye on event design from the get-go, no challenge will be without contingency. And the only impact on the attendees will be a positive one.

To see some of the pharmaceutical clients we’ve helped, head to our case studies page.

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About the author

Paul Denny
A Board Director since 2004, Paul specialises in client service and currently leads the exhibition division of the agency following 20 years’ experience across the turnkey delivery of high profile, face to face communications. These include launch events, exhibits, conferences and internal communication deliveries in the financial, automotive, technology, medical, infrastructure, and aerospace, defence and security sectors. A business communications thinker with diverse experience, Paul confidently directs in-house and external teams to develop, articulate core value propositions and promote tactical campaigns. A gregarious natural leader and motivator, Paul is recognised in the industry for an excellent track record in delivery, innovation and ensuring the team has fun at all times. Paul is adept at pairing the right people with the right tasks – securing a reputation for excellence delivered, every time. He also once appeared on Magnum PI.

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