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Four crucial steps to make the most of your virtual advisory boards

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By Sarah Etheridge

Advisory boards with key opinion leaders (KOLs) are vital in shaping the strategy for a medical education programme, and for clarifying the increasingly complex treatment pathways in a certain therapy area. Obtaining regular advice and feedback from KOLs is critical, but as those working in the pharmaceutical or MedComms industry will know, face-to-face meetings with busy KOLs present a number of logistical challenges. These include arranging a suitable date, time out of the clinic, travel and accommodation, and the associated costs.

Virtual advisory boards are becoming increasingly popular in helping to manage these challenges. But how can the engagement seen with face-to-face discussions and workshops be maintained in the virtual setting? Here we share some of our recommendations on how to make the most of a virtual advisory board programme (a series of web meetings), based on our experience at Succinct.

1. Ensure your group is prepared

  • Maximise online efficiency by communicating the agenda, key information and data ahead of the meeting to allow pre-cognition of data and encouraging more time for discussion
    • Pre-meeting surveys can be conducted and the results presented up-front to allow for their discussion to be a focus of the meeting
  • Test the technology with each advisor to avoid any technical issues and delays

2. Maximise engagement

  • Establish and kick off the programme with a face-to-face advisory board meeting so advisors are invested, have established relationships and are comfortable sharing their thoughts
  • Recruit a strong Chair and/or engaged facilitators to ensure all voices are heard
    • A briefing call and provision of a meeting flow document can help to ensure the Chair and facilitators are on board with the objectives and required outputs of the meeting
  • Technology considerations:
    • Use video and avoid the mute function to prevent participants multi-tasking
    • Use regular polls for efficient decision-making and to support ongoing engagement

3. Personalise the experience

  • Use video during the event to give a more personal feel
  • Ensure there is enough time for each member to contribute
    • Consider assigning individuals roles, topics or sections of the agenda to lead or facilitate during the advisory board to give a sense of ownership
    • Brief ‘silences’ can be built into the agenda to allow each participant to collect their thoughts and as space for less-vocal members to contribute

4. Follow up and maintain momentum

  • De-brief online to gain real-time feedback on the format of the discussions and any improvements that could be made in the future
  • Share minutes and follow-up actions promptly, and continue conversations via ‘quick questions’ and surveys to maintain engagement between meetings
  • Consider setting up a ‘virtual room’ to allow for easy collaboration between meetings; this can help facilitate ongoing discussions, and provide a platform for receiving rapid review and feedback of activities and materials recommended during the advisory board


For more information on how Succinct Medical Communications (an OPEN Health company) can enhance your advisory board programme through virtual meetings, please email Louise Carrington, Client Partnerships Lead, Succinct Medical Communications.

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