While drug pricing is the main focus of many of these regulations, pharmaceutical events are also feeling the strain, with breach examples already highlighting areas in which companies must work hard to deliver code compliant meetings.
Planning meetings and events in strict alignment with compliance requirements protects pharmaceutical companies not only from scandal and litigation but also from the ill-esteem of attendees who - particularly if they are healthcare professionals - keep an eagle-eye out for decisions that contravene regulatory codes.
However, following compliance isn’t merely a matter of sticking closely to checklists. It also opens up new creative approaches to attracting attendees with what really matters - the content and atmosphere of the event itself.
A move away from extravagance
The most significant aspect of compliance regulations for healthcare conferences and meetings is a drive for transparency in terms of event costs. This means that organisers and venues need to be savvy when it comes to presenting any aspect of the event that may be interpreted as lavish or extravagant. The rule of thumb is to keep the scientific program of an event as the primary focus, rather than distracting attendees with the promise of a deluxe venue with on-site golf and spa facilities.
Future regulations will include limits on food and drink costs at events for healthcare professionals, meaning that companies can no longer rely on the lure of a gourmet buffet to ensure event attendance.
While these measures may seem at first glance to remove the fun and creativity from pharmaceutical events, there are benefits to be had from more focused meetings - namely the chance for pharmaceutical companies to attract core members of the healthcare community with a genuine interest in the topics discussed, rather than tangentially relevant attendees who are more interested in the free gifts than the scientific content.
The rise of content-based incentives
Instead of dangling carrots such as unlimited golf and champagne hampers in front of prospective attendees, the time has come to cut straight to the chase and focus on a greater incentive - the chance to learn, network, and be heard in a positive and professional environment. Promoting a relevant event that covers controversial topics and is driven toward real change will leave more of a lasting impression than one which glosses over the content with the promise of five-star accommodation.
In order to create a program that speaks louder than incentives, it’s important to first consider who it is that you want to attend your event. Whereas previously events may have been judged on the quantity of attendees, compliance regulations give you a chance to focus on the quality. Targeting your program and promotional message to a specific audience will ensure that guests choose to attend for reasons beyond the aesthetic.
Think outside the usual parameters of keynote speakers and discussion panels, and include some innovative interactive options that will make your event stand out from the crowd as a genuine learning experience. Relevant demonstrations, workshops and team debates can give your event an experiential edge, while remaining science-focused.
Boasting some big names can also grab attention and boost attendance. Think of your event as a small, subject-specific festival, and make sure you book a buzz-worthy headliner! Controversial speakers often draw crowds due to curiosity, but be careful that you don’t sacrifice your event’s integrity for the sake of celebrity - any guests present must be relevant to the target audience and the topics at hand.
How to promote an event in a digital world
While compliance seems to be making event promotion more difficult by the year, social media and SEO are here to make things simpler again. Rather than relying purely on mass-mailing, you can now tap into a number of online options that connect you specifically to your target audience, allowing you to get your message out inexpensively to the people who really matter.
Including targeted SEO and social media campaigns in your event registration practices allows you to promote your meeting or conference to specific audiences based on age group, geographical location, profession, and areas of interest. This will allow you to cut down time and resources spent contacting irrelevant parties.
Another huge perk of the social media world is its ability to engage your best promoters: your attendees! Once a campaign has been set in motion, social and professional networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn provide an ideal platform for healthcare professionals to spread the word on your behalf, speaking as a trusted voice to interested parties in their own networks.
With even tighter regulations predicted over the next year, the face of pharmaceutical events is certainly going to change. However, by employing modern tools and valuable content, we can ensure that it does so for the better, attracting the right attendees and giving them an event they’ll remember for all the right reasons.