Taking a meeting to South America is part of the routine for Chris Pentz, CMP, President of Pentz Group Communications, in Philadelphia. She's taken pharmaceutical groups to Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Brazil — including trips to Santiago, Chile, last February, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November of 2002.

“The Rio trip was an investigators' meeting,” Pentz explains. “These are the physicians who help the pharmaceutical company conduct clinical trials, and we like to bring them together at the beginning of the trials and at the end to share information.” She chose Rio because “location is still an important factor in whether people will attend your meeting. We wanted all the investigators to come and participate, so we used the location as an incentive.” The group of 185 included South American researchers as well as those from the U.S.

The two-day program was kicked off with an evening reception, followed by a full day of meetings and an evening reception and dinner, with departure the next day. “The Sheraton Rio provided just the right meeting space and event space,” says Pentz. “They have a lovely, open outdoor pavilion, with a wonderful view of the beach and gardens. It was perfect for the final evening entertainment. Everyone just loved it.”

Pentz cautions that it usually takes three times as long to plan a meeting in Latin America as it would to do one in the U.S. — but she had only five weeks to put this particular meeting together.

“I found out we'd be going ahead with this meeting just as I was leaving for The Motivation Show in Chicago. But I was able to meet with suppliers and hoteliers at the show, and to find a DMC for the meeting. It worked out, but it was intense.”

Pentz is fluent in Spanish and can get by in Portuguese. “Most people in the large hotels do speak English,” Pentz says, “but knowing the language is a big advantage. It gives a different feeling to the communication.” She worked with Rio-based DMC Havas Creative Tours to arrange ground transfers, find translators, locate a printer, and choose the entertainment. “Magical” is how Pentz describes the last night's entertainment. “We themed the whole evening to represent different geographic areas of Brazil, so each stand featured the cuisine and decorations of a different region. And the entertainment involved 22 performers who did regional dances in regional costumes. I didn't quite know how people would react, but the dancers got even the most reticent investigators involved.”

There are many advantages to Latin America, she adds: “It is a new place for Americans to experience. If you host a meeting there and pay in U.S. dollars, there is no ‘plus plus’ tax. Argentina right now is very cost-effective. You'll get three times as much for your dollar,” Pentz says. “And it's so colorful and and beautiful, you can't imagine.”