How to Optimize Your Advisory Board Meeting

It is no secret that advisory boards are important. Between 60 and 70% of pharmaceutical companies maintain clinical and physician advisory boards with around half also convening marketing boards while payer advisory boards are still somewhat of a novelty.

From small to large, (bio)pharmaceutical companies rely on their advisors for strategic input and insights on a broad range of topics including research opportunities, guidance on trial protocols, patient stratification, future clinical strategies, product extensions, unmet medical needs, input on how to manage side effects, or discussing the competitive landscape – to name just a few. Successful advisory board meetings create value for the company by generating actionable deliverables.

Advisory Board Meetings: The Benefits Come at A Cost

Anybody who has ever planned an event with busy professionals knows, that planning such a meeting is no small feat. Increasingly tighter regulations add an additional challenge for those organizing advisory board meetings for pharmaceutical companies. Diligent planning and great execution are the only way to make sure that the meeting delivers the deep medical insights and valuable recommendations from the expert panel.

Plan Your Advisory Board Meeting for Success

At Monocl, we work closely with a range of leading pharmaceutical, biotech and medical devices companies. For this post, we have worked closely with them and condensed their recommendations down to 4 Don’ts, 7 Do’s and 1 Must that will help you optimize your meeting with your advisory board.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t procrastinate – this is neither new nor surprising advice but important nonetheless. A number worth keeping in mind: the average advisory board meeting takes four months to plan. Can it be done more quickly? Probably, but short-term planning virtually guarantees scheduling problems.
  • Don’t forget about your colleagues – internal stakeholders in departments such as regulatory, market access, clinical, or commercial also rely on expert input. An advisory board meeting is their opportunity to pick the brains of key opinion leaders. Early internal communication helps shape the agenda and determine the list of “must have” internal attendees.
  • Don’t forget about the participants – to make the meeting a success they have to arrive prepared and ready to engage. Sending out briefing materials before the meeting doesn’t suffice, a personal (virtual) meeting with every participant beforehand gives you the opportunity to discuss expectations and goals and each participant the chance to think concretely about what they can contribute to the meeting.
  • Don’t forget to collect feedback – a three question survey that the participants fill in before they rush to the airport is not enough. Seek honest feedback from participants in personal conversations a few days after the meeting and take suggestions and criticism seriously.

The Do’s

  • Define a clear objective – this, too, is not unique to advisory board meetings but one of those topics that might not get enough focused attention. Sure, on a high-level the objectives are clear: “Get input on clinical data”, “Understand unmet clinical needs”, “Discuss how to manage side effects” - the challenge is to narrow the objectives down so they are specific and achievable.
  • Appoint a great chair – ideally your chair is a highly respected professional with great communication skills who excels in driving discussions and keeping them on topic.
  • Brief your chair and clarify expectations – the temptation to say “we know how this works, let’s not waste time discussing it” is great, but briefing the chair about your carefully crafted objectives isn’t just a Do, it’s a Must. It’s the chair’s responsibility to ensure that the objectives of the meeting are met: an impossible task if they are flying blind.
  • Brief the speakers - they, too, need to understand the meeting objectives to avoid going off on a tangent. Nobody particularly likes dry runs the evening before an all-day meeting - but it is time well spent!
  • Add a bit of variety to the meeting - nobody expects to be entertained discussing clinical trial data, but it doesn’t have to be a bore either. There are only so many hours people can focus on Excel tables and Powerpoint slides before they tune out. Shaking things up a bit by using different presentation formats, videos, or interactive workshops, will keep participants engaged.
  • Turn information into insights - the meeting is done, notes and recordings are taken and now the task of boiling all that information down into actionable insights summarized in a report begins. Sharing what you learned with internal stakeholders across the organization is what ensures concrete outcomes.
  • Keep the experts involved – sharing insights and keeping the participants informed about outcomes after the meeting will make them feel like valued members of a team, more willing to engage and lays the groundwork for a successful next meeting.

Nobody ever claimed that advisory board meetings are fun. But they are crucial information gathering events and – despite modern communication technologies – are unlikely to go away any time soon. Diligent, long-term planning, the willingness to learn from prior mistakes paired with an eagerness to listen and learn are key to running a successful meeting that leads to real actionable insights for the company.