The MSL Society has a routine “MSL Insights” broadcast hosted by Dr. Samuel Dyer with an array of useful topics! On Aug 28, 2020 show, Eddie Power Ph.D., MBA, GFMD, Vice President, North America Medical Affairs Hospital Business with Pfizer partnered with Rob Consalvo, Director of Strategic Commercial Engagement with H1 to discuss Novel Approaches to Engaging KOLs and Gathering Insights from Virtual Congresses. During the one-hour program, they shared tips that aid in how we engage at medical conferences in the virtual environment.
Prior to the pandemic, medical conferences were a primary place to meet and engage HCPs and researchers live and in person! Learning and staying current with updated information about the disease, clinical data, and ongoing research is vital to our MSL education role, as is being able to engage with attendees, meet new potential KOLs, and provide clinical education. Most live conferences have either canceled meetings or shifted to virtual programs. In the virtual environment, we miss the face to face KOL meetings, the energy of a live conference hall bustling with activity, perusing posters between sessions, hosting KOLs over dinner to discuss the presentations and participate in scientific exchange. Navigating the new virtual conference environment is vital to staying on track with clinical knowledge, learning, and ongoing research. Despite missing the face to face engagement, we need to refine the approaches used to enhance how we plan for and execute our MSL role at virtual medical conferences.
A summary of the top 10 tips from this MSL Insights program is listed below along with details to take your next virtual medical conference to the next level!
- Have a clear conference plan with staff roles laid out pre-conference
Pro tip: Use an excel sheet with multiple tabs to lay out each day’s coverage, who is responsible for notes and tabs for other company-sponsored events, planned KOL meetings, and more.
- Email KOLs in advance of a virtual conference to encourage attendance and share planned company posters and session topics
Pro tip: Have an email template that is concise and can be personalized for MSLs to email KOLs prior to a conference with a quick list of sessions, posters, and other relevant info to share! If they can’t attend the conference, offer to meet in follow up to share data highlights from the conference.
- Set up Zoom Rooms during the conference such that KOLs can meet with MSLs to answer questions, discuss posters and session presentations
Pro tip: Set up zoom links in advance of the conference and share with KOLs attending the conference to encourage them to engage MSLs during or after key presentations or poster sessions
- Develop virtual abstract (poster and session) information that can be shared with KOLs in advance
Pro tip: In my experience at past conferences, KOLs appreciate a booklet or online information with session and poster items related to a specific product to help them prioritize attendance at these sessions as well as fostering further discussion during and after sessions. Note that this information is often required to have a medical and legal review/approval prior to MSL use.
- Assign MSL to monitor chat during sessions to capture comments and who is asking questions / making comments
Pro tip: When laying out conference coverage plans, have an MSL assigned to take notes and a separate person to monitor the chat questions to capture this information
- Develop engaging content such as the use of more videos in slides
Pro tip: Being in a virtual environment makes it more challenging to capture and keep attention; the more engaging content can be with presentation slides, posters, and virtual booths, the more likely attendees with choosing to spend their time on these activities. Gamification, polling, videos, and other interactive modalities help!
- Ask MSLs to avoid multi-tasking/distractions while attending virtual conference sessions
Pro tip: When attending a virtual conference, set aside time to truly be there in the moment as if you were at a live conference. Block calendars, turn off the phone, be in a quiet place, and immerse yourself in the learning!
- Generate top-level actionable medical insights gathered from sessions, chat, KOL meetings, zoom rooms, etc.
Pro tip: Consider an executive summary with highlights and/or a daily E-blast email for virtual conferences to share internally. Everyone gets deluged with so much information and it’s vital to keep notes and highlights the top line for internal stakeholders. Further details can be included in the conference report to refer to later or in the verbal debrief session post-conference.
- Check the conference website for late info added / late-breaking updates
Pro tip: In the pre-conference plans, assign someone to check late-breaking updates on web site pre / post-conference and to attend the session during the conference.
- Host verbal medical team debriefs rather than solely a written conference report
Pro tip: Conference reports have been the mainstay method to share what was learned at a major medical meeting, however they often so long that most information is never read. A post-conference debrief session is more impactful where medical team members can provide and discuss data, research, KOL meetings, and learning. A conference summary is a useful resource to use when looking for key detailed information. The debrief should be the main post-conference method to bring salient information to the internal team!
As we wait for a live conference to return post-pandemic, keep the learning and engagement going strong with these tips and you will stay ahead of the curve, bringing vital conference learning back to your organization!
Cherie Hyder, PharmD, MSL-BC
Cherie Hyder is Senior Director, US Head of Medical Affairs, with more than 15 years of MSL experience in the field. She has been involved in research for more than 30 years, starting as a bench researcher in Genetics. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology and Chemistry at Iowa State University where she led Genetics research projects over 5 years. Her education continued at the University of Missouri where she received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree with the intention to devote her career fully to clinical research. She has multiple adjunct faculty appointments and enjoys teaching opportunities. She worked for the FDA for 5 years, focusing on a review of the safety and effectiveness of novel medications. Her experience in regulatory compliance brought her to Eli Lilly as a Regulatory Scientist and led her to attend law school; she has a business development and in-licensing background as well as experience balancing portfolios for major PhRMA companies; she has been employed by Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Novartis, Regeneron, Solvay, and Avanir in Regulatory and Medical roles supporting new product development. In August 2016, she joined Alimera Sciences, leading the US MSL team, building compliant internal processes, and developing the Medical Affairs infrastructure. She is also a Board-Certified Medical Science Liaison (MSL-BC®).
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