Approximately 40 senior planners from more than 20 pharmaceutical companies conducted a closed-door summit, facilitated by Barbara Taylor Carpender, CMM, Chief Alliance Officer, Taylored Alliances, Denver, during the first morning of the Third Annual Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum. The participants, who each had at least 15 years of experience in meeting planning, shared their top concerns. Here are a few highlights.

Follow the Data

“Business has become totally data-driven,” said one planner, who added that while planners are born with that “service gene,” they are now required to become analytical. “It's all about ROI — a lot of tracking of data, a huge focus on metrics,” said another.

While increased attention to financial information is understandable, planners find themselves in the role of answering to more than one master and juggling multiple relationships. “We're grappling with three departments,” said one planner, citing the medical department, which has rules to follow; financial, which watches pennies; and marketing, which wants to spend.

All agree that planners should not only manage the budgets but report up to management “first [costs] to final costs, all cost savings, and cost avoidance. And include customer satisfaction. You need to measure it all.”

More than Order-Takers

Strategic meeting management means taking the corporate goals and objectives and aligning them with your meeting, said one planner. Much of the evolution has to do with changing the meeting planner's mind-set. “You're not an order-taker,” said one. “You need to be part of the team and help everyone else achieve their [goals]. A planner can be very objective when it comes to education techniques, theming, whatever the meeting needs.”

The more the meeting planning team involves senior management in the meeting planning process, the better off you are, said another. “A VP is more comfortable on site when he knows your process. “ Another said that you should take your procurement people on site to meetings, too. “But those on-site logistics have to be flawless!”

Next Step: Global Consolidation

No one in the room had successfully gone global in terms of consolidating meeting spend, but all want to head in that direction. One roadblock is that the structure is different in Europe, where companies report up to a general manager in each country. “So no one is mandating policy or expenditures. And it's got to be top down,” said one planner. “It's a control issue,” said another. “They say, ‘you don't know my meeting, you don't know my country.’ It's also because of different cultures.” In the end, it's also a cost and resource issue. “General managers in other countries say ‘I'm already overworked.’”