The Value in Virtual - Three Reasons You Must Consider Virtual Advisory Boards Post Covid

Our World Before

It’s pretty wild, right? We thought (or we hoped) we’d know where we were headed with this pandemic. A vaccine. Some cities and states open, many of them not. New strains of the virus. Boosters being developed. Different metrics used dependent on the desired outcome.

It makes it very hard to plan… anything. Will things be open in 6 months? Can we plan for an in-person congress in Q4? A dinner program? A live advisory board in August?

Our World Now

The truth is, we don’t know. We hope. But what we’ve all had to learn time and time again since last spring – we just don’t know how things are going to go, as hard as we may try. One day at a time.

For the last 5+ years, I’ve been predominantly supporting clients in medical affairs. We’ve done everything from publication planning, Medical Affairs Receptions, and Investigator Meetings to MSL onboardings, congresses and many advisory boards.

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The Value of Live Events

I’ve always loved a live event. The months of preparation - working with clients to determine meeting objectives, building an agenda that would deliver upon them, cultivating an invite list that would provide voices from the right people, incorporating interactive ideas that would get advisors thinking critically about the topic at hand via:

  • breakout rooms
  • live polling
  • games
  • 1:1 touchbases

The welcome dinners, the breakfasts, and the lunches – were all opportunities to engage. One meeting that may have been about getting consensus on one class of therapeutics might lead to an advisor being invited to a clinical development advisory board on a new trial in planning stages. So much work went into cultivating and executing a successful event – and so much richness and goodness for my clients came out of them. I truly enjoyed all such projects.

In that time, and in the years prior when I worked for other companies – we talked about virtual meetings. But it never went beyond “talk.” The value that came out of the live meeting could never be replicated in a virtual setting.

Or so we thought.

Transition to Virtual

When March 2020 hit – a full pipeline of global live meeting work for the year – advisory boards, leadership committee meetings, congresses and more – went dark. We all wondered what we were heading into. In Boston for TedMed in early March, I took some meetings with companies and clients. We were all trying to be productive and talk about needs and service offerings, but let’s be real. We were all in a state of shock over what was happening (travel bans, lockdowns, etc.). I flew home from that trip wondering what was coming.

In April I was asked to help a client with a virtual advisory board. I was glad to do so! We incorporated and adjusted live meeting best practices, did a lot of preparation, and had a very successful meeting that felt just as impactful and joyful for me as the live meetings. That one meeting turned into another, and another, and new clients asked for virtual meeting support, and I ended up having a very full and busy year of virtual advisory boards.

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Three Benefits to a Virtual Advisory Board

The important question – were they valuable for my clients? A resounding YES. In my experience, there is much to take advantage of with the rise in virtual meetings:

  1. Cost. A traditional live advisory board can cost well into the six-figures, taking into account travel, transportation, hotel, meeting space, food and beverage, and honoraria. A virtual advisory board is going to cost a fraction of that. There are no hard costs – hotel and food & beverage (unless you are delivering something to the advisors – which has happened! But is out of the ordinary). The only costs to the pharmaceutical client are the honoraria and any logistics support you need for your meeting.
  2. Time. A live advisory board takes months to plan and organize and is usually run over a weekend. Arrivals on Friday evening for a welcome dinner and then 8 hours of the meeting the next day, with departures Saturday night or Sunday morning. A virtual advisory board is usually 3 – 4 hours in length and are scheduled from 6 – 9pm on a weeknight or on Saturday morning so there is no clinic time lost. No travel time. No ground transportation. Easy! Plus, advisors find it much easier to accept an invitation to something that only takes a few hours out of their day as opposed to a whole weekend.
  3. Value. If something costs less and takes less time, you can do more of it! The resources that cover one live advisory board can cover multiple virtual advisory boards. I’ve worked with clients over the last year that did multiple advisory boards with the same group (pre- and post-approval, pre- and post-trial protocol, etc.), nationwide roundtable series to get guidance from different parts of the country, and series with advisors at different stages in their career (young and rising star vs. established and tier 1) or at different levels (physician versus RN, NP, or PA).
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This value differential is enormous. Best Practices™ found that physician advisory boards will increase in virtual format from 10% in 2019 to 46% post COVID. While the engagement factor of being face-to-face cannot be replaced and in some cases should not be, it is certainly important to think back to that initial and most important question one must answer at the start of planning for an advisory board – WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES – and whether these can be achieved in a virtual setting.

We have incorporated and designed numerous best practices for virtual advisory boards – from breakout rooms, to polling, slide reviews and pre-meeting touchbases – and have had incredible results for our clients.

In Summary

By thinking in terms of value and segmenting your advisors in different ways than previously thought, I hope you can see the value in considering a virtual approach to your advisory boards going forward.

If you're needing help with this process or would like to discuss the benefits of virtual versus live, reach out to us today. We can help you build a highly valuable, productive, and successful virtual advisory board for your business needs.

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