This is the second half of the recommendations, focusing on advisory board execution and debrief strategies; for information on planning an advisory board, please see Part I in the July 2022 MSL Society Journal.
Meeting content will be specific to the company, product, and intentions of the advisory board; this content should be defined in the Needs Assessment, which indicates the reason why an advisory board will provide useful insights and specific focus areas.
At baseline, advisors should have familiarity with the company product(s), which can be assured by one of the following:
1) have pre-work assigned and compensated per Fair Market Value (FMV).
2) hold a product-specific program prior to the official advisory board meeting. While a virtual meeting may be the most affordable method to capture all advisors, alternatively holding a dinner program the night before the advisory board meeting may ensure that all advisors are attentive (plus this also provides relationship-building opportunities).
Prioritize addressing the most critical company objectives early in the meeting, as advisors may be somnolent after lunch and/or restless towards the end of the day. Meet with the advisory chair in advance to discuss the program flow, key topics, and questions, as well as how to involve all participants in the discussion.
Likewise, if key questions and comments about the product are anticipated, consider also prioritizing this dialogue towards the beginning of the meeting.
In the second half of the meeting (the afternoon of an all-day meeting), engage the advisors with interactive small-group activities, such as working up patient cases or product scenarios. In addition to providing attendees with a chance to move around the meeting room, this small-group activity will inevitably shift the interaction dynamics – attendees who are more reticent to speak up in large groups may feel more comfortable expressing themselves in smaller groups. Thereafter, the advisors can reconvene and share their work with the larger group.
For an all-day meeting, offer no less than two breaks to participants. A morning break of 10-15 minutes should allow advisors time to stretch, procure caffeine, and check out of the hotel.
The lunch break will signal a major shift in the all-day meeting. Ideally, hold the mealtime break in a separate room to allow mental separation between sessions. Over a meal, this will also foster more organic conversation. Of note, for the MSL who is strictly observing at an advisory board, the meal break can be a prime opportunity to engage more with KOLs.
Depending on the length of the meeting, a third short afternoon break may be helpful.
During all breaks, the organizing MSL should be evaluating the meeting flow with the company and/or co-chairs, allowing for program revisions if needed.
If there will be visuals (slides, videos, etc.) that advisors will be expected to view, ensure that room and seating arrangements are tailored to ensure eye/neck comfort. If this is not possible, prioritize having advisors vs. employees in the optimal viewing seats.
Place careful consideration into the seating arrangement, as there are pros and cons to collegial colleagues sitting next to one another. On the one hand, the meeting experience will likely be more enjoyable for the colleagues; on the other hand, increased friendliness may augment the side chatter, which can detract from meeting focus and group cohesion. For advisors who are unilaterally known to be loquacious, consider placing them next to less familiar persons to reduce side chatter.
Advisors may ask for circumstances that will enhance their ability to participate. Under no circumstances are spouses or companions to be included or compensated for travel or participation in the advisory board. Whether a particular advisor may arrive late or depart the meeting early will be at the discretion of the company, with considerations given to the amount of time being missed, the expertise of the advisor, etc.
The conclusion of the meeting can be a critical time. Quieter advisors may wish to connect 1:1 with the advisory chair and/or with the company to express individual thoughts, so being able to remain at the meeting site (vs. rushing to catch a flight) may provide additional key insights and/or further build connections.
If able, try to have company attendees gather soon after all advisors have parted. It is important to have only key individuals included in the debrief as particularly confidential and sensitive information may be shared. This gathering will offer an opportunity to share fresh “in-the-moment” thoughts as well as to seek clarity on anything that may have been missed.
Meeting minutes should be collated and disseminated to key company individuals as soon as possible after the meeting. It’s useful to define plans for debriefing, follow-up items, and needs in advance for a smooth experience as the ad board wraps up.
MSLs should schedule 1:1 debriefs with their KOL advisor attendees, ideally within 1-2 weeks after the meeting concludes. This will enable the KOLs to provide any additional feedback while relatively fresh; it also offers the MSL the opportunity to ask clarifying questions of the KOLs after reviewing the meeting minutes.
Utilizing these recommendations, an MSL should feel confident in planning and executing a successful medical advisory board.
Elise Fields, PharmD, BCPS, CDCES
Elise is a Seattle-based Medical Science Liaison (MSL) working for Syneos Health on the Acerus project. Prior to becoming an MSL in 2020, Elise worked directly with underserved patient populations, overseeing a diabetes team and clinical pharmacy programs. She graduated from the PharmD program at the University of Washington and was the first pharmacy student to concurrently complete a certificate in Global Health. She completed a hospital residency and holds board certifications in pharmacotherapy and diabetes education.
In her spare time, Elise hosts a podcast that raises awareness of fertility research.