Medical Science Liaisons have been especially impacted by COVID-19 restrictions on in-person meetings. Most have shifted to connecting with KOLs virtually using videoconferencing solutions like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet. Though definitely a change in the day-to-day life of any MSL, this transition has been relatively smooth.
- A survey of 245 KOLs by the Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS) found that:
- MSLs are still getting meetings. In fact, 50% of MSLs surveyed were able to maintain an average of 1-3 virtual visits per month, just slightly lower than the 63% who met this goal in-person before the pandemic.
- And they are successful meetings. 78% rated the effectiveness of virtual discussion with MSLs as either “somewhat” or “very” effective during this time.
- Another survey of MSLs which we partnered with MSLS to conduct showed that:
- 10% of MSLs were able to increase their KOL engagements since the pandemic began.
- And despite an overall decrease in engagements, MSLs reported that the quality of their relationships with KOLs improved.
This is encouraging news as virtual meetings are definitely a part of the future of KOL engagement. Whatever the post-COVID landscape looks like, MSLs will likely adopt a hybrid model–mixing in-person and virtual meetings for greater convenience and productivity.
We say this is encouraging because we believe this shift can strengthen the connection between MSLs and KOLs. As a global, remote-first team, we’ve learned firsthand how to make the most of video as a platform for getting business done and building real connections. With lots of practice, our team has discovered ways to make our time on video (and increasingly now in virtual reality) both meaningful and effective.
Here are 10 tips from our experience in the video meeting world. These best practices can help strengthen your virtual meeting skills and maximize the efficiency of your meetings with KOLs.
10 Tips for Virtual KOL Meeting Success
- Set the Proper Mood – No one expects these meetings to be professionally produced, but you do still want to set yourself up for success. Pay attention to lighting, camera placement, and audio. Try to sit facing natural light, and never have bright lights behind you, which make you look dark. If you don’t have windows, put small lamps behind both sides of the computer angled toward your face. Since the camera is typically at the top of the laptop, tablet, or phone, angle the screen so its top aligns with your eyes, or put a few books under your device to bring it to eye level.
- Dress for Success – Looking professional on a video call requires specific attention to wardrobe, at least on your top half. Shirts with bright, solid colors show up well on camera. Most video platforms also have a way to “touch up your appearance” in the video settings menu. That’s a helpful confidence boost, but don’t get carried away. Authenticity is key, and the opposite is easy to read on video.
- Do a Background Check – Your visual background should be as professional as your appearance. Keep it simple and without distractions. An empty wall works, but you can also add personality and a professional edge by setting up with some artwork or a bookcase in sight. My team uses virtual backgrounds to create an office setting. If you’re in a cluttered space, we recommend choosing from the backgrounds in the video settings of each application or uploading your own.
- Maintain Eye Contact – This can be tricky. When there’s no one to lock eyes within the room, we naturally want to look at the screen to see how others are reacting (or to check to make sure we look okay). It actually creates a more natural connection for your KOL if you look slightly above the screen. Sitting further away from your computer also will create the appearance that your eyes are always focused on them.
- Make the Mute Button Your Friend – The biggest hiccups we see in virtual meetings always involve the mute button. Be sure to know where it is and when to use it. If background noise is an issue, consider muting yourself while your KOL is speaking. Just be sure to unmute when it’s your turn to speak. Whenever possible, we recommend being unmuted so you can converse naturally and give the verbal cues that encourage connection.
- Have a Plan, and Watch the Time – Set an agenda for your discussion, and communicate it clearly on the call. Make sure you give enough time to each topic but keep the meeting moving. Virtual meetings can quickly go off-track or run too long, so keep an eye on the clock. Ending your call just a few minutes early can also make a strong impression. Who wouldn’t be grateful to have a few minutes back from their busy schedule?
- Guard against Zoom Fatigue – Video meetings can take a lot of us. We have to pay very close attention to retain information, and it’s easy to overschedule our days with back-to-back video calls. To avoid this “Zoom fatigue” experts recommend building screen-free time into your day, choosing phone calls over video when you can, and making sure you have time between calls to regroup. If you’re feeling the fatigue, it’s safe to say your KOL is as well. A phone call may come as a welcome relief on their schedule.
- Gain Trust through Transparency – When meeting in person, it’s easy to build a rapport using physical reactions and body language. Without these natural cues, you can gain trust with your KOL through open, transparent, and honest communication. When in doubt, overcommunicate. In the same MSLS survey mentioned earlier, KOLs saw being “honest and unbiased” as an MSL’s most important quality.
- Think Like a Tiger… – Long ago, our company adopted the tiger as our mascot as a tribute to speed, agility, and focus. These same qualities can help guide MSLs looking for greater productivity and efficiency in virtual meetings with KOLs. Stay focused on your goals with each KOL, rely on the strength of your experience, and think fast if anything goes differently than planned.
- …And a Boy Scout – Don’t be like the Texas lawyer who showed up in virtual court with a cat filter he couldn’t remove. Before a KOL meeting, be sure to double-check everything: your agenda, appearance, batteries, connections, lighting, video, sound, background, etc. There’s no such thing as being too prepared.
As video meetings become an even more important tool for MSLs, these tips will help you maintain and even strengthen your relationships with KOLs. Good luck!
As founder and CEO of LARVOL, Bruno leads a global and completely remote team providing intelligence reports and data solutions to the world’s leading pharmaceutical and life science teams. Prior to LARVOL, he founded several technology and healthcare ventures. He has worked previously with industry leaders such as IBM Healthcare Consulting and Lehman Brothers, and holds an MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Abby joined the LARVOL team in January of 2021 as Director of Marketing. Before that, she spent ten years in online curriculum development and support in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. A graduate of Belmont University, Abby believes marketing is just another outlet for telling a great story and connecting people with solutions to make their lives—and jobs — a little easier and more enjoyable. A newcomer to the world of MSLs, she’s enjoying getting to know this passionate community and looking for ways to support them better!
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