Why Speakers’ Bureau Programs are Still Relevant in 2018

As a product manager or pharma brand marketer, you may wonder if speakers’ bureaus are still worth the investment.

Rightly so. Many in our industry thought that by now, speakers’ bureaus would be a thing of the past because the PhRMA Code and the sunshine Act forced changes in the way these programs were traditionally conducted and would prevent health care providers (HCPs) from attending.

Contrary to those predictions, speakers’ bureaus remain an important part of peer-to-peer education
that still bring value to HCPs.

Why is this the case? And how can you create a program that HCPs want to attend?

In this blog, we discuss why speakers’ bureaus can be useful and share specific tips for planning an effective peer-to-peer program.

1. Peer-to-peer education via a speakers’ bureau is a valuable way to help HCPs learn about new products.

During these programs, speakers share information about disease states, new products, or new indications that address safety, effectiveness, and proper use of a medication. The primary goal is to provide compliant content to engage the audience, while offering a scientific forum for discussion.

Things to consider when you plan your speakers’ bureau:

Goal. Clearly define the primary goal of the program and identify relevant metrics (hard or soft). Is it to increase product or disease state awareness or to change a mindset about a treatment approach?

Budget. Create a program that aligns your budget with your objectives. Do you have an appropriate budget to accomplish your goal? How can you reach a majority of your desired audience with the budget you have?

2. HCPs would rather engage in scientific exchange with a peer than hear a sales pitch
from a representative.

The most effective speakers’ bureau programs provide new information to educate HCPs in a credible and impactful way.

You need to build a program that HCPs want to attend. As you develop content, be sure to remember the patient. HCPs should leave the program knowing how the new information will help their patients.

Additional things to consider when you plan your speakers’ bureau:

Faculty. Assemble and train a bureau of qualified, engaging, and available faculty. The faculty should use their expertise to connect with your audience.

Engagement. Create an agenda that fosters learning and engagement. Don’t just present the product package insert via PowerPoint. As more companies support disease state programs, HCPs want to attend speaker programs that focus on improving care, not just informing about a new product. Move away from didactic presentations and incorporate different formats to encourage audience participation.

Feedback. Solicit insight from faculty before finalizing the program’s content. Their ideas may improve how your information is received.

3. Technological advances allow creativity in programming. One size does not fit all.

An effective speakers’ bureau program is no longer a traditional dinner presentation at a high-end steakhouse. Encourage your team and vendor partners to think outside the box.

If senior management wants dinner programs, consider different venues or add a team-building exercise to discuss how patient care can be improved. And consider other program types: interactive webcasts with a social media component, one-on-one engagements via Skype, or speaker roundtables with tangible outputs.

And while you’re being creative, involve your compliance team from the beginning to discuss available venues and technologies that are approved by your company.

Final Considerations

To ensure a dynamic, successful speakers’ bureau, we offer a few additional tips:

Speaker training. The best programming starts with a prepared faculty. Ensure that speakers fully understand the data and company guidelines on answering questions (including how to handle those pesky off-label questions in a compliant way).

Audience. Know your audience and how they prefer to receive information. What is the most effective vehicle to deliver your product’s information to the right audience at the right time within budget?

Contingency plan. Technology isn’t perfect. Create a backup plan just in case (eg, hard wire the laptop or iPad, have hard copy of the presentation available at a live venue or be prepared to email the presentation during a webcast).

You can plan a valuable speakers’ bureau by accounting for the program’s goal, budget, faculty, agenda, and audience, and by having a contingency plan. When done correctly, speakers’ bureaus can continue to be a fresh, viable option to biopharma to enhance HCP education.

JB Ashtin’s Speaker Bureau team focuses on providing an amazing customer experience. The JB Ashtin team is available to help clients coordinate the following: content development, faculty identification, speaker training, rep training, target area mapping, and/or full program implementation. We pride ourselves on providing customized solutions and unparalleled white glove service to ensure our client’s speaker programs are impactful. Contact us today to learn more about our team and what we can do for you and your business.