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Maximize the Value of Your Next Advisory Board Meeting

Advisory boards present excellent opportunities to solve pressing problems, inform important decisions, and gain input from a carefully curated team of professionals with a keen understanding of the healthcare landscape. Given that these meetings are among the most valuable ways a pharmaceutical company can engage with healthcare providers, it’s crucial to make the most of them.

In JB Ashtin’s many years of planning advisory board meetings, we’ve gained extensive expertise and vast insider knowledge … namely, what it takes to orchestrate a truly successful advisory board meeting.

One of the first decisions on deck? Whether to hold an advisory board meeting virtually or in person.

Virtual vs. In-Person Advisory Board Meetings

People who know JB Ashtin understand that we excel at making in-person connections — but our top priority is always to do what’s best for our clients. In many cases, it’s both efficient and sufficient to skip the conference room and meet in a web-based platform. We get that.

A virtual meeting can be the best choice for addressing finite, focused topics. Virtual meetings also provide a strong option when your budget is limited, or when scheduling conflicts prohibit attendance by the right people. We all know that time spent traveling can add to time away from one’s daily career and life responsibilities. When key global advisors are unable to attend in person, you might consider a virtual meeting or even a hybrid/live meeting.

Virtual meeting platforms provide that kind of flexibility plus advantages like automated recording and transcription.

But there are disadvantages to virtual meetings too, such as distractions in the attendees’ surroundings, lack of engagement, and possible technical problems. Although the professional staff at JB Ashtin is experienced at engaging meeting attendees and helping to troubleshoot technical issues, the give-and-take of an in-person discussion provides its own flavor and set of benefits.

Benefits of In-Person Advisory Board Meetings

With in-person meetings, you’ll find many advantages:

  • Increased engagement. Meetings are more engaging in person — just ask Yale researchers, who found that in-person interactions provide richer social context, improve our ability to process facial expressions, and encourage more natural eye contact (which is an indicator of high engagement levels and improved trust). Live meetings make it easier to collaborate, illustrate ideas, and establish a natural conversational rhythm. Attendees feel free to contribute, which yields greater output.

  • Body language. When you speak to someone in person, you turn toward them. This conveys that you’re addressing them and commands their attention. Other nonverbal cues like posture and hand gestures lend depth to communication — but they’re often overlooked or impossible during virtual meetings.

  • Continuous connection. A live meeting means fewer distractions, like emails, texts, and internet connectivity issues. Unreliable WiFi and webinar platform problems won’t interfere with the flow of your meeting — or leave anyone with a screen full of frozen faces. Even if A/V issues do occur, attendees can converse amongst themselves while the issue is resolved.

  • Shared experience. When people travel from all over the country or even world to convene in a special location, it’s an experience they’ll commit to memory. In-person advisory boards are a singular opportunity to foster additional connections via side conversations (during breaks and before/after the meeting).

Of course, there are times when important advisors may not be able to attend a meeting in-person. In these events, those advisors can become virtual attendees to the otherwise live meeting. This hybrid style gives all the advantages of a live meeting with most attendees, while allowing you to engage key advisors who otherwise may have been excluded.

Even when planning an in-person advisory board meeting, it’s important to leverage virtual communication before and after the event. Digitally dispersing pre-reads, supplementary content, or post-meeting surveys enables you to make efficient use of meeting time. Follow-up 1-on-1 interviews with advisors can also occur to continue discussions on interesting ideas that were expressed during the advisory board.

Best Advisory Board Meeting Ever: The JB Ashtin Difference

Over the course of its 25 years of existence, the JB Ashtin team has organized hundreds of advisory boards. At times, we’ve arranged 60 live meetings over the course of 12 months. We’ve hosted them for countless clients to achieve a wide range of goals. We’ve developed agendas, prepared presentations, assisted with moderation, secured venues, recruited attendees, arranged travel, outlined activities, and delivered successful outcomes. All this has helped us develop expertise in how to gain the most from a meeting. Key elements include:

  1. Identifying and securing the right advisors. The right advisor will have extensive expertise that’s specifically relevant to your needs and will exhibit a genuine passion for their work. In addition to finding potential advisors within our pool of considerable connections, we do the legwork to identify highly qualified people with whom our agency and our client have no preexisting relationship. In other words, it’s highly likely that this experience will generate valuable new connections for our clients.

  2. Proper moderation. Just like a symphony orchestra, the discussion needs to be conducted. When we moderate meetings on a client’s behalf, we make sure we’re armed with a fundamental understanding of the client’s needs and knowledge of the meeting content to engage key opinion leaders in the discussion. If our client chooses to moderate, we prepare moderator tools and guides to facilitate effective communication and ensure that the meeting objectives are met.

  3. Clear objectives. An advisory board can address anything from product life cycles to company strategy to regional challenges — so you’ll want to determine in advance what you seek to accomplish. Our clients know why they want to have the meeting, but often need a little help refining their goals. As seasoned guides on the road from shared aspirations to actionable objectives, we conceive specific tactics and secondary objectives to help them achieve their key objective while gaining additional insights. Because once you’ve established precise goals and tactics, it’s much easier to identify key discussion points and ask the right questions.

  4. A detailed agenda — with wiggle room. Sometimes the best things in life happen in the space between. We devise a structured agenda to guide an advisory board seamlessly from one topic to the next, ensuring that time is used wisely, and key points are addressed. However, sometimes the conversation with the advisors takes an interesting turn and we are flexible enough to embrace productive deviations. Much like a jazz musician, we can hear that the drummer and sax player are playing something captivating, so we may go with the flow to produce great music on the fly. When that riff is done, we can guide them back to the sheet music (read: the agenda) and pick up at a point that makes sense within the time remaining.

  5. Masterful time management. Prior preparation is key. Whether we have 6 weeks to prepare a time-sensitive advisory board meeting or 6 months to assemble a group of scarce and in-demand rare disease experts, we work around the clock to maximize every minute. We also help manage expectations by estimating what can be achieved in the allotted time.

  6. A summary for posterity. After the meeting concludes, it’s important to document what happened. What did the advisors say that was a consensus among the group? What were some of the areas where their opinions differed? What ideas from individual advisors may have warranted further interest from the client? These reasons are why we provide a post-meeting summary that accurately captures meeting feedback in a balanced, nuanced, and scientifically accurate way. This allows you to review all the pertinent insights and make an informed decision on what to do with them.

When you enlist our services, you’ll get more than you expected — in the best way. More than a mere meeting planner, you’ll find a partner in JB Ashtin. We employ a tailored approach to achieve your goals while working within your budget. We adapt to your individual personality, processes, and preferences. And, ultimately, we make sure you benefit from our years of experience — every step of the way.

When you’re ready for your next in-person advisory board, we can help. Meeting in person provides the opportunity for a meaningful conversation about the issues you’re focused on. By handling the planning, facilitation, and documentation, we can help you get the most out of the discussion that you need.

Need help making the most of your advisory board meeting? Contact us.