Ten helpful tips to consider when planning for perfection:
1. What is the Meaning of All This?
What is your business rationale for hosting the event? Is it building customer loyalty? Brand awareness? Lead generation? The event will be a reflection of your brand so decide what’s in it for you as a healthcare or pharmaceutical company, as well as what’s in it for those who will be attending.
2. It’s All About the Benjamins
Set a budget from the start and this should prevent you from overspending. Adding ‘this’ and ‘just one more’ of that can quickly send your wallet into a tailspin. By setting aside funds for each pillar of planning, you’ll create a set of checks and balances. Be sure to save the receipts/contracts for future planning.
3. You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine
Don’t we all wish the decrees of the Sunshine Act were as simple to remember as the nursery rhyme referred to in this section’s title? The Sunshine Act went into effect in 2013 and sent healthcare event planners into a united state of anxiety due to the intricacies of the regulations. While you’ll need to do your own homework and attend a course or two on this, there are a few key takeaways to remember. Tracking and reporting every dollar is crucial but you can develop your own tracking system to help with the effort. Even if you have an event where only one HCP is present (which technically speaking, is a doctor of medicine and osteopathy, dentist, podiatrist, optometrist or chiropractor) then you must report the costs for the entire meeting. Regulations vary by state, so pay close attention to protocols for Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington, DC, West Virginia and Minnesota. Excluded from the required reporting are payments of less than $100, product samples, patient education materials, the loan of a device for less than 90 days, warranty replacements, items for use as a patient, discounts and rebates, in-kind items used in charity care and dividends or distributions from a publicly traded company. For more information on the Sunshine Act you can visit www.cms.gov.
4. Set the Scene
When looking for a venue, take into consideration how the ambience will reflect the tone of your event. Are you going for a formal soirée, a relaxed affair or an educational occasion? Try to avoid judging venues solely on their website photo gallery. Performing a site check of each location you’re considering will provide a “bigger picture”. You can’t quite tell the true size of a room until you’re standing it and you want to make sure the space is large enough to accommodate your estimated number of guests. If your venue is outdoors, it’s best to have a weather back-up plan.
5. Think Like a Foodie
Work with the venue caterer on a menu. Take into consideration the variety of palates and dietary restrictions (kosher, vegan, gluten-free). When you think you’ve ordered enough food, think again. There is nothing more cringe-worthy for a host or guests alike than to run out of food at an event. You could put on a wonderful event but if your guests are going to the Burger King drive-through afterwards, then you need to rethink your menu selection.
Entertainment can mean a variety of things depending on the type of event you’re hosting, but no matter what, there should be a focal point or two to create crowd engagement. This could be a motivational speaker, DJ, or key company executive. Take into account what type of accommodations they will need – audio/visual, uplighting, a stage, a podium and so on.
Snail mail might seem ‘old school’ but who doesn’t love receiving a personalized invitation in their mailbox? In a time when emails trump phone calls, WebEx overrides live meetings, and text messages supersede handwritten notes, a physical invitation evokes a greater sense of consideration. There is still a place for a digital touch point – perhaps create a landing page for RSVPs and when the event is nearing, send an email reminder.
8. Hello, My Name Is… / I Saw the Sign
Especially for networking events or affairs that are bringing together a mixed bag of attendees, you’ll want to create a welcoming atmosphere complete with intricacies that will help to guide your guests both literally and figuratively. Provide adequate signage directing people to name badges.
9. There’s No “I” in “Team”
You can’t do it alone so make sure you have a strong team to help you not only plan, but execute as well. Inquire with the venue about how many staffers they will be providing for your event and then you can determine how much additional support you’ll need from coworkers. While the venue staff will be helpful, they don’t know the guests and even objective as well as you do. Having team members who are familiar with your industry’s principles, such as the PhRMA guidelines or the ADA’s Code, would be exceptionally valuable. To make sure everyone on your team is aligned and aware of their responsibilities, put together an agenda for the event with specific times. There will always be instances that can’t be planned for, but take out as much of the guessing game as you can.
10. That’s a Wrap…Kind Of
The event might be over once the lights are turned off and the doors are shut, but your job is not quite finished. It’s important to evaluate the event with your team – what was a success and what could be done better next time? Send thank you notes to guests, the venue and any speakers/performers. Put together a video or article to put on your website highlighting the success of the event and don’t forget to put pictures on your social sites too.