Approximately 40 senior planners from more than 20 pharmaceutical companies conducted a closed-door summit during the Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Summit, co-organized by Medical Meetings and the Center for Business Intelligence and held March 26 and 27. The group reached consensus on a number of common concerns and challenges, then addressed each, sharing war stories and giving advice.

On increasing regulation in pharmaceutical corporate meeting planning: “There’s more pressure on the legal department, pressure on us to select appropriate venues for our programs, not to give out inappropriate gifts, to ensure a more business-oriented atmosphere as opposed to a pleasure-focused atmosphere,” said one planner in regard to increased federal, state, and regulatory guidelines that define how pharmaceutical manufacturers market to doctors.

It falls on the meeting planners, who outsource to so many third parties and cross so many different internal departments in their function, to make sure everyone is complying, said another.

On the meeting spend consolidation process: “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.

On elevating your visibility and positioning yourself as a strategic leader to senior management: “What am I doing to support the corporate goals and objectives?” said one planner.

Some admitted that the move toward strategic meeting management hasn’t always been easy for those who started out in meeting planning. “It’s hard to go from being an order taker to being a strategic business partner,” said one. “It’s all about service excellence, managing the relationships.”

On managing relationships with procurement: “You need to know who is responsible for what; there’s got to be a clear delineation” between meeting planning and procurement, said one. “Procurement works with contracts, preferred hotel company agreements. They can be the heavies on contracts when you need them.”

“The meetings industry is different,” added another, echoing a sentiment heard across Corporate America, no matter what the market segment. “It’s different from buying chemicals, where they think e-auction is a great tool.”

On centralizing meeting spend globally: Not one of the pharma companies had successfully consolidated its global meeting spend, but all want to head in that direction.

For much more from this senior group of planners, look for the June issue of Medical Meetings.