Sponsoring a congress symposium is a highly effective method for pharmaceutical companies to share the latest data and hot topics with healthcare professionals (HCPs). A symposium enables pharmaceutical companies, key opinion leaders (KOLs) and HCPs to discuss new research, relevant findings, best practices and future activities in an interactive atmosphere with a large audience. Selecting the right medical communications agency to help organize a symposium is critical to ensuring strong attendance with an audience that is engaged, entertained and retains the imparted knowledge long after the congress has ended.
A symposium can be extremely valuable for pharmaceutical companies established in a market, as well as for those entering a market, to grow awareness of their company and product(s), while presenting the latest data by KOLs respected in the field. To ensure the pharmaceutical company’s messages are conveyed effectively and in a balanced manner, their medical communications agency should have a strong knowledge of the therapeutic area of the congress. The agency should also have proven medical writing skills, the ability to tell a compelling story, pharmaceutical symposium planning experience, strong relationships with KOLs and deep expertise in promoting symposia. All of these capabilities are required to target the right congresses, set and meet symposium goals and timelines, collaborate with the pharmaceutical company and KOLs, market the event in accordance with congress guidelines and help develop a memorable program. Organizing a symposium is a process that involves many moving parts and a series of key steps, so choose a medical communications agency with a proven track record.
Key Steps for Congress Symposium Planning
The following are the steps that a medical communications agency will need to take to organize a successful symposium at a congress.
Planning with the pharmaceutical company
- Establish a target budget
- Identify which congress(es) to sponsor to meet the pharmaceutical company’s objectives
- Prepare the program goals and a symposium agenda
- Recruit and liaise with expert KOLs to chair and/or present
- Keep the pharmaceutical company and presenters on task
Liaising between the pharmaceutical company and the congress organizers
- Review the sponsorship package for what is available and recommend the best initiatives to meet the objectives of the pharmaceutical company
- Secure the desired time slot for the symposium and confirm any promotional opportunities
- Obtain agenda and promotional collateral approval from congress organizers
- Coordinate all logistics between the congress organizers, the pharmaceutical company and faculty
Supporting and driving presentation development
- Work with presenters to integrate messaging and an engaging story through which to present their session
- Design and help develop presentations – both slides and suggestions for audience interactivity
- Organize and host faculty slide reviews to minimize overlap between speakers
- Provide speaker training, if required
- Organize A/V or technical equipment and staff to videotape the symposium for later hosting on the congress website, if permitted
Creatively promoting the symposium
- Use creative marketing, including taglines, imagery, promotional items, emails, direct mail and ads to drive symposium attendance and make a lasting impression
- Plan for promotional tactics to ensure attendance during competitive symposium timeslots
- Take advantage of promotional and interactivity opportunities on the congress mobile app, if available
Attendance can be encouraged through creative promotional tactics, such as room drops, personalized letters, email blasts, congress bag drops, hotel key card ads, bus wraps and other opportunities both onsite and around the city. All of this may sound like the realm of a marketing company, but it is important to select an agency that specializes in pharmaceutical symposium planning, with a deep understanding of congresses and KOL management expertise. It’s important to also look for an agency with medical writers that understand the therapeutic area, can produce topical and well-composed content and can communicate the data in a compelling and enduring way.
At Six Degrees Medical we specialize in turning scientific congress symposia into engaging and memorable events. Our highly experienced team of medical communications professionals truly understand the science and data that needs to be conveyed, and we partner with pharmaceutical companies to develop strategic symposia programs that tell a lasting story. We support KOLs to facilitate slide and session development, as well as coaching them on presenting to maximize impact and ensure they are comfortable addressing audience questions. With our innovative and proven processes, we help fill symposia seats with interested and engaged HCPs to help achieve our clients’ objectives.