The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for virtual advisory boards across the global medical communications industry. At the Corpus, we can offer various technology and expertise to make virtual meetings effective and rewarding experiences for the presenters, organiser, and attendees.
Below we outline our eleven essential steps on how to plan, build and manage successful online advisory board meetings that comply with relevant national and regional codes of practice.
Before the meeting
1. Define the meeting’s purpose, goals and deliverables
One of the most important elements of a successful advisory board meeting, be it face-to-face or virtual, is clearly defining the goals of the event. Before you begin looking at any other elements, document the purpose and objectives of the meeting, and the key questions that it should answer. Ensure that all meeting presenters and members are aware of these objectives from the start, and continue to remind them of these throughout the event.
Also, clearly confirm any deliverables you want to produce from each meeting. For example, these deliverables could include:
• A flow-chart of the ideal treatment journey for specific patient types
• A list of physicians’ main concerns about certain medications
• New ways to provide potential solutions for unmet patient needs
• Confirmation about whether to investigate a new treatment indication.
2. Recognise and resolve any compliance problems
It is essential to ensure that any content you present to a medical advisory board will comply with all the national or regional laws, regulations and codes of practice of the country in which the event will take place.
In addition, the content also needs to comply with the regulatory codes from the country in which the hosting pharmaceutical company is located.
For example, according to the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code of Practice, medical advisory boards should not be used to promote a company’s medicines and must not be an inducement to recommend, prescribe, purchase, supply, sell or administer specific medicinal products. They should only be held to enable companies to answer legitimate business questions to which they do not already know the answer.
3. Confirm the meeting agenda and timing
Develop a written agenda and assign a speaker/presenter to each item. Make sure that each speaker is given enough time to make their point. Virtual meetings should ideally be no more than 90–120 minutes long in order to maintain online member engagement. Therefore:
• Break down your agenda content into manageable chunks of information so it can be easily discussed
• Assign a timekeeper from your staff to keep track of time. This can help the chairperson to adhere to the agenda
• Select a convenient meeting time that will suit all attendees, wherever they are based worldwide.
4. Select a relevant range of experts
It is the expertise of the attendees and the confidence of the chair that can make or break a successful virtual advisory board meeting. Therefore, all members of your board should primarily be invited based on the specific purpose and goals of your meeting. Each person should have a relevant role to play in answering the particular questions you will be discussing. The members of a medical advisory board tend to include leading scientists and key opinion leaders in bio-medical research institutions. Depending on your meeting objectives, you may also want to include:
• Patient experts and representatives of patient advocacy groups
• Professionals with healthcare communications or marketing backgrounds
• Legal, accounting or finance professionals
• Behavioural psychology professionals. An advisory board should ideally include no more than 10–12 people: eight is a good number. Inviting someone to simply sit in on the meeting as an observer or for political correctness is not recommended. The Corpus can provide a medical writer to take notes and summarise them in a concise report, which can be distributed to non-attendees after the meeting.
5. Recruit a confident chair and a proven facilitator
Selecting the best person to chair the group is essential. This person should be well-respected among their peers, and should be confident at running virtual meetings from both an authoritative and technical perspective. The most popular person is not necessarily always the best person for the job. An experienced meeting facilitator, such as The Corpus, can work closely with the chair, the presenters and organiser before the meeting to help them plan and deliver an efficient online meeting. The facilitator should also conduct tests with the chair and presenters before the meeting, using the specific technology platforms to check the presentations will run smoothly.
6. Circulate the goals, agenda and background in advance
If possible, give your advisory board attendees at least eight weeks’ notice before each meeting. Distribute the goals, agenda, expected deliverables and all background materials to them well ahead of the event. This notice should allow your attendees enough time to review these items in detail, and allow them to develop relevant answers to key questions before the meeting to save time.
7. Select the right online meeting platform
Recent advances in video conferencing technology now offer new opportunities for virtual medical advisory boards and it is important to select the right platform for each meeting. This decision should be based on the specific goals of the meeting. The selected platform will also depend on various things, such as: * • The technology that is most accessible to the meeting attendees
• The online group size and the number of presenters
• The level of interactivity and/or breakout rooms needed
• Required screen shares
• Whether all attendees need to be on camera. The Corpus’ platform is developed in house, allowing us to add or remove functionality depending on the specific meeting requirements.
8. Format your content for online meetings
Always optimise advisory board presentations for virtual/online use, rather than simply reusing a meeting programme designed for face-to-face presentations. Ensure your virtual content is both relevant and engaging to encourage participation from all your attendees. Vary the pace of the discussion with interactive question and answer sessions, polls, workshop exercises and video break-room discussions.
During the meeting:
9. Manage the discussion
During the virtual meeting, the chair should politely but firmly manage the online discussion in order to follow the agenda and finish on time. For example, the chair or meeting facilitator should:
• Mute all attendees during a presentation or speech to avoid interruptions, and then unmute them afterwards to allow a virtual group discussion
• Encourage virtual attendees to use the ‘raise the hand’ option where available to ask any questions
• Guide the discussion to focus on relevant topics, keeping it on track if it starts to wander off the agenda topics
• Politely remind attendees of the limited time available, particularly if an attendee is taking too long to discuss a point. In summarising each section of the meeting, the chair should also review the next steps and establish accountability (e.g. who will do what by when?).
After the meeting:
10. Distribute the meeting notes
Shortly after each meeting, aim to send the summary notes to the meeting attendees and to relevant people who were absent. These notes should review the decisions made, and list the action items and owners. Give all attendees easy access to the slides they were shown during the meeting, either by emailing these to them, or by referring them to a dedicated internal website.
11. Analyse the event
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Review what worked and what did not after each meeting with your internal staff, chair and facilitator, and note those points for the next meeting.
The Corpus can help you plan, arrange and manage a successful virtual advisory board. One of our team will be happy to discuss your needs and explore how we can help you get the most out of your next online meeting. You can reach us on +44 (0)20 7428 2903 or filling out the contact form below.