“We have to be aware of this issue,” said Sharon Marsh, CMP, CMM, meetings group manager, Medtronic Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif., during the closing panel. “It’s still a meeting, it’s a value we provide. I think we need to start carving out our niche in this area.” One place to start, she said, is to learn which meetings can, and likely should, go online. “You have to look at the meeting’s purpose. Is it to train, educate, or exchange ideas? Is the matter to be discussed confidential? If so, online isn’t a good idea now that people can do a screen grab any time they want.” You also have to consider costs and objectives, she said.

Meetings that are more didactic in nature, like speaker training, work well virtually, said Karen Vander Ploeg, director, travel and meetings, Daiichi Sankyo, Parisippany, N.J., in the opening panel discussion. Face-to-face is better for advisory board, investigator (where study protocols are involved), and sales meetings—especially when there’s certification, networking, or role-playing involved. Still, a planner in another session said any meeting in a clinical area, including investigator meetings, can work virtually because the information is presented from one to many.

Product training or disease-state training—anything that is focused on data dissemination—can also work virtually, another planner said. Sales meetings may work in a hybrid setting if content is streamed out from a face-to-face meeting to home and regional offices; or if some of the information can be disseminated virtually pre-meeting, thereby shortening the face-to-face meeting and saving money.