The Secrets To Arranging A Great Investigator Meeting

For more than 10 years, McCullough Moore have been delivering successful, and informative pharmaceutical investigator meetings, and with more than 9 years of knowledge in pharmaceutical meetings, Jilly Bullock shares her 5 key secrets on how to deliver a great investigator meeting.

The purpose of an Investigator Meeting is a pharmaceutical company’s forum to train physicians and their staff on a particular clinical trial or study they are sponsoring.

Typically, the client will advise how many attendees can attend from each site, but usually it is preferred that the Principal Investigator and a Study Coordinator or nurse can attend. A Principal Investigator is preferred as they are leading the study in their hospital. There is usually a CRO (Clinical Research Organisation) in attendance as well, as they have been liaising with the sites for the study.


Early stage planning on investigator meetings is crucial, as many of these meetings are for more than 100 people. Therefore, with early planning you are able to achieve a better rate for accommodation, meeting space, food & beverage, and audio visual support. On top of this, as travel is usually booked for attendees to an Investigator meeting, the earlier that this can be done, the better, as last-minute bookings are always the most expensive.

Agenda Requirements

There is always a repetition of certain key areas for an investigator meeting, such as the Good clinical practice training. Principal Investigators go to many of these meetings, so you want to make sure all the key learning that is needed is listened to. It is always key to make these meetings engaging and interactive for all participants, but relevant. Perhaps it would be good to gauge attendees understanding with the use of keypads?

Date choice

Investigators like to spend as little time away from their clinics, and with experience we know that Thursday and Fridays are the best days for a meeting to be held. Also, meetings where there is set sessions for Study Coordinators and Principal Investigators are good. For example: A Study Coordinator session with the CRAs (Clinical Research Associates) on Thursday and the Investigator meeting on Friday to include the Principal Investigators. Therefore, only one day will be needed out of the clinic for the Investigators.

Destination choice

There may be several different countries attending, so it is always key to choose a country that has the most site attendance therefore minimising travel cost to the client. Ideally it should be a hub destination that all other countries attending the meeting can easily get to.

Post Meeting Evaluation

As with any meeting it is always good to evaluate the performance of the meeting. For Investigator meetings this is always helpful to determine which presenters worked well, and which topics were needed. If there is a series of meetings for this particular study it is very helpful to determine what needs to be presented at the further meetings.

Do you need help planning your Investigator Meetings? If so, give us a call to discuss your needs.



5 Key Ways To Secure The Perfect Venue For Your Pharmaceutical Events

by Jilly Bullock, Pharmaceutical Event Manager, McCullough Moore

Venue searching for pharmaceutical clients requires specific things to be considered – you can apply the usual venue-finding processes but when it comes to pharmaceutical advisory boards, investigator meetings and other industry-related events, event planners need to assess some very specific areas.

When a new client requests our help for venue searching or planning for a specific pharmaceutical meeting, we work with them to understand why they need this meeting, and the results they want to achieve from it. It’s key for your event planner to understand the requirements up front as everyone works differently and this helps to ensure the event delivers on all levels – for the pharmaceutical company AND the attendees.

1) Know the budget and stick to it

The first important factor tends to be the cost. Depending on where the attendees are coming from can dictate how much there is to spend. Hotels and venues are very aware that the client has an end budget to work to, to be compliant, and with the right negotiation, hotels can be flexible to your needs.  Event management companies can help with this negotiation and can often bring the costs down using their current relationships with the venue to the advantage of the client. Read here about why event planning companies are worth their weight in gold.

2) Destination is key

On the whole, we at McCullough Moore generally only go for 4* properties when it comes to pharmaceutical events, and so we would start the search based on that. There will be some destinations that pharmaceutical clients want to work with specifically, but you can also draw on the expertise of the event management company to guide you as to where else might be an option. It is always important to go for destinations that are considered ‘hubs’, destinations with good travel links, especially if the attendees are flying in from all over the world, such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Frankfurt etc. There are definitely some places in the world that we would love to host a pharmaceutical meeting, but would never consider, such as the Maldives, or the Caribbean, as these are considered to be resort locations and therefore not appropriate for events where healthcare professionals are in attendance!

3) Define the event experience you want

Before sending the RFP (request for proposal) to hotels, it’s vital to know what sort of meeting you are planning and how you want the audience to interact and engage. Advisory  Boards are typically best in a u-shape, as you want the conversation to flow between delegates. The same applies to an Investigator Meeting – these are usually styled in classroom seating so that attendees can write things down, but it’s also nice to offer cabaret style seating, as it encourages people to speak and interact.

4) Natural light maintains focus

As a lot of meeting rooms are on the lower ground floor and therefore have no windows. Where there is an opportunity to have a higher floor or a meeting room with natural daylight then try and secure this first and foremost. Curtains can always be pushed to one side during the breaks to open up the room more, especially when there isn’t much space or the weather isn’t great outside. Attendees need to stay focused, especially in the “graveyard slot” after lunch – this is a good time to move them to an area of natural light.

5) Make sure the space works on all levels

It’s important to consider the ceiling height in a room and if there are any obstructions that could block the audience’s view of the screen or presenters.  This is especially vital for Advisory Boards and Investigator Meetings where the level of detail presented is key to the event as a whole. Another thing to consider is in relation to filming for a live stream – the videographers need to get a good view of the space, the audience, the presentations, and the faculty presenting. Ensure they have some input into the venue brief from the outset.

And lastly, it’s really important to check with the venue if there are any other pharmaceutical meetings in-house at the same time. If there are, then it’s critical you are aware of this and check it is not a direct competitor.


If you need help planning an Advisory Board, Investigator Meeting or other pharmaceutical event please get in touch with us.

You can also find out a bit more about what we have done for other pharmaceutical clients by reading our case studies:


Envision Pharma

Overcoming The Top 3 Challenges Of Managing Advisory Boards

Pharmaceutical companies have long used advisory boards to gain commercial and medical insights about products either in development or already on the market.  An advisory board is “a body that provides non-binding strategic advice to the management of a corporation, organization, or foundation”. For pharmaceutical meetings it can be a meeting that comprises an appropriate number of selected medical advisors who provide the company with relevant advice. Importantly it is run for the benefit of the company, not the attendees.

Here at McCullough Moore we have successfully managed and run a number of advisory board meetings for pharmaceutical clients globally and can help you to deliver your advisory board with optimum results.

Faculty Management

One of the challenges that can surround advisory boards is to manage the faculty. Our clients come to us as they want a seamless meeting delivery and they want to manage the content aspect of the meeting and leave the logistical details to us.

We know that HCPs can sometimes be demanding. We use a travel agent to organise all flights and know responsible ground agents all over the world that can help in facilitating a smooth arrival of sometimes flustered HCPs. Not to mention we always offer alternative suggestions of dilemma’s that may arise.


A key part of pharmaceutical advisory board meetings is compliance. Depending on where faculty come from determines the amount that can be spent on the HCP for food & beverage, accommodation and travel, as well as honorarium payments. We work alongside legal teams within global corporations to ensure compliance at all levels from contracting to the welcome dinner.


It is our business to know the reporting required on global meetings and to ensure that HCP interactions are ethical and transparent. Reporting of a meeting is the final part to the delivery for the client. Pharmaceutical events have to be compliant and the reporting is done to ensure that all limits are adhered to. These include contract management, speaker payments, and transfer of value (TOV) after the meeting. It is our responsibility that we collect and report on the data for compliance and spending purposes. We know how important it is for meeting planners to be diligent and we stay aware of the information coming out of the various authorities, such as PhRMA and codes of conduct so that we can offer the best possible service to our clients.

If you need help arranging your pharmaceutical event, please give us a ring and book in a chat.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

7 Points To Consider When Planning A Pharmaceutical Advisory Board Meeting To Ensure ABPI Code of Practice Compliance

By Shirley Rhodes, our very own Event Director.


Advisory Boards are a chance for pharmaceutical companies to gain expert insight and guidance from key opinion leaders in the field in relation to an aspect of their medicine (clinical use, therapy area guidelines, market access, administration, development, supply etc.). The PMCPA Guidance states:

“Advisory Boards should only be held to enable companies to answer legitimate business questions to which they do not already know the answer.” 

Advisory Boards represent a significant opportunity in the brand development process in a drug lifecycle, however, it should be purely scientific in the content and have no promotional element to it.

The planning of an Advisory Board needs to be meticulous and can be very resource intensive and is therefore sometimes outsourced.  However, when you contract a third party to manage the logistics of an Advisory Board, you need to ensure they operate in a fully compliant manner to ensure your company is represented appropriately.

Below are 7 areas to consider to ensure ABPI compliance logistically:

  1. Venue

The code states inn Clause 22 “meetings must be held in appropriate venues conducive to the main purpose of the event.” This basically means that the hotels cannot be sporting venues, they must be functional business hotels with a maximum of a 4-star rating. Some hotels are unclassified so can also be considered unless it’s clear they are a luxury spa hotel.  Plus, the venue must be in a convenient location for all participants so as to not incur unnecessary cost.  So, the thought of hosting the Advisory Board at a 5-star golf resort on a Greek Island, 2-hours drive from the airport when none of the attendees are coming from Greece is a big no no!

  1. Country approval

Once the Advisory Board date, venue, location and list of invitees has confirmed it is then imperative to seek approval from each country representative for the healthcare professional (HCP) attending.  Each country in the EU has its own regulations regarding reimbursement, minimum amount of meeting time, meal costs etc and before the official invitations are sent out approval must be got from each required county.

  1. Travel

Usually Advisory Boards invite HCPs from all over the world and travel costs can quickly escalate. In order to help budget and manage the costs, all HCPs should be offered Economy (coach) Class for any travel under 6 hours.  For any travel over 6 hours then Business (similar) can be offered.  However, this can differ depending on each individual company’s policy. HCPs may organise and pay at their own expense the genuine cost of an upgrade

  1. Meals

Arranged meals must be deemed appropriate and the costs involved must not exceed that level which the recipients would normally adopt when paying for themselves. The Code of Practice states “the maximum of £75 plus VAT and gratuities is appropriate only in very exceptional circumstances, such as a dinner at a residential meeting for senior consultants or a dinner at a learned society conference with substantial educational content. The cost of a meal (including drinks) should normally be well below this figure.”

The above amount does not apply when a meeting is held outside the UK in a European country, in such circumstances the limits in the host country code would apply. Some countries require a dinner to be no more than €54 including drinks and gratuities.

  1. Expenses

HCPs can submit expenses after the meeting, however it must be reasonable e.g travel to/from the meeting.  Receipts must be submitted for all expenses otherwise they cannot be claimed, so it’s a good idea to be clear about what can and cannot be reimbursed as part of the invitation process.

The payment of travel expenses and the like for persons accompanying the delegate is not permitted.

  1. Honoraria

If an honorarium is offered it should be made clear that it is a payment for work and advice. Honoraria must be commensurate with the time and effort involved and the professional status of the recipients.  Sometimes it is calculated on an hourly rate. When working out the rate to the pay the HCP, you must check the fair market value (FMV).  Again, it’s a good idea to be clear about the expectation of effort in return for the honorarium payment as part of the invitation process.  The payment of any advisory board members must be declared.

  1. Contract & Sign in

Depending on the content being discussed at the Advisory Board and who the HCPs are will determine if a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) will need to be signed.  If it is, then this is imperative the contract is legally approved by the company’s legal team and that it is signed by both the HCP and the pharma company before the start of the meeting. All contracts should then be scanned and stored securely. Furthermore, to ensure compliance, it is imperative that every attendee sign-in to the meeting with the completed sign-in sheet also scanned and stored securely.


Think that’s it?? No time to relax just yet!  Once all the planning has been done and the meeting has taken place then the final activity is the post reporting and ensuring every single expense for each HCP is clearly broken down and detailed with back-up.  It can then be passed to the relevant authorities to ensure complete transparency.

Now not all meeting organisers (third parties and internal pharma company staff) run their Advisory Boards to ABPI standards which can put not only the individual HCPs at risk but also the pharma company. At the very least, the event may be a waste of the attendee’s time; at most, it could compromise the attendees’ professional standing, particularly where attendance constitutes bribery and/or the event is found in breach of the ABPI Code of Conduct.

So, as you can see it’s imperative for all parties involved to ensure your Advisory Board is fully compliant.  The 7 areas listed above are only a few of the logistical elements to consider….there are so many other things to consider such as balance of HCPs to pharma company attendees, objectives are set and clear, time allows for presentation and group discussion, the right level of expert HCPs are invited and many more.


If you need advice on how to ensure your Advisory Board is compliant or need assistance with the logistics of planning an Advisory Board then please book in for a free event consultation with Shirley Rhodes, our Event Director and all round guru in Advisory Board event management. To find out more about our pharmaceutical event management capabilities click here.


10 Quick Tips To Host Excellent Pharmaceutical Events

Planning a pharmaceutical event, workshop, investigator meeting or advisory board can be overwhelming, but once you have these key elements in place the process will be a much smoother journey to the end result.

#1 – Plan and Coordinate

The nature of pharmaceutical events is that sometimes the lead time can be short and you only have a few weeks to organise the event. The key factors in any event management role is to be highly organised and work to strict deadlines. These deadlines can include setting up registration websites, marketing, print and supplier deadlines. A timeline is a good document to work with, which covers all elements of the meeting, key dates and deadlines. It is a good idea to set-up regular in house team meetings and calls to go through each element of the meeting and its progress.

#2 – Speakers and Agenda

Firm up the Agenda even if it is a draft as this will determine the event schedule for each day. With Pharma events there’s a process that you have to follow in order to invite a speaker to a meeting. Every business is slightly different in the process, so it is good to get an understanding from the beginning before the process of invitation has started. It is good to identify the speakers, ask for biog and pictures from the speaker or medical content agency. Study the pictures and this will help with your onsite speaker management to recognise your speakers as they arrive at the venue.

#3 – Thinking Ahead

Don’t think of just the here and now, to run a great event you need to always be thinking ahead, be ahead of the game. Think about all the possibilities and scenarios for each element of the event. In your kick-off call ask all the questions you can think of surrounding the event and all the eventualities. This avoids lots of questions throughout the planning, as most people are very busy and they just want to be able to rely on you and get on with their job. This also applies to your suppliers to avoid lots of emails, try and ask all the right questions in the outset and provide them with all the information they require.

#4 – Make Friends

In this industry you will work with many different suppliers and contractors all over the world and it is very important that you build a good relationship with them as they are in fact an extension of you. It is important that they deliver a high-quality service with a smile just as we do. So, make friends and build those relationships to deliver a smooth-running event.

#5 – Pester

Unfortunately, you do have to chase and pester your suppliers and even speakers for details in order to move forward on a project. If you don’t have all the information you require, do pester, chase and remind people of deadlines as this is the only way you can move forward, be the initiator, do not wait.

#6 – Negotiate

Everything is negotiable, always get around 3 quotes per supplier. Remember that with every event there will be unforeseen costs, so try to negotiate as low a price as you can. Determine your budget before meeting a vendor and offer to pay 5-10% lower than this figure. Your vendor may put up a fight, but ultimately, they want to win your business if they can.

#7 – Pharma Code

The Pharma code of conduct and iHCP’s guidelines can restrict a Pharmaceutical event. It is important that you research and abide to these guidelines. If you have HCP’s attending from different countries they will have limits on meals, dinners, transport, accommodation etc. This cost can vary, this can also depend on which country the event is being held. It is important that you get a list of which countries are attending the event in the outset or as soon as possible so you can set the costs per attendee for your budget.

#8 – Venues

Due to the compliance you are restricted to cost and venue types. Meeting environments can be limiting – try and think out of the box for the meeting and dinner venue. Attendees are cooped up a lot of the time in meetings so food is very important and some fresh air. If you are limited to being at a hotel for the duration of the meeting due to time restrictions and location, be creative with the coffee breaks, lunches and food. If you have an off-site dinner, if compliant, again be creative with venue, transportation and food. Tie it in with the branding or subject matter.

#9 – Location

If attendees and speakers are coming from all over the world, think about hotels and venues that are easy to reach by plane and train for the countries attending the meeting.

#10 – Delivering Your Event

You have been planning meticulously and now the big day has arrived.  It’s essential you have a master event plan, running order and a team briefing for everyone involved – your team, all the suppliers, venue, caterers, security and any other relevant parties. Remember the complexity of many events mean that challenges may occur during the course of the event and this is when a strong, skilled and most importantly, a well briefed team really comes into its own.  Ensure that all team members know the decision-making structure and what to do in an emergency.

If you need help arranging your pharmaceutical event, please give us a ring and book in a chat.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Top 3 Focus Areas For An Excellent Pharmaceutical Investigator Meeting

For those operating within the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors, investigator meetings are undoubtedly one of the most important meetings to take place.

They provide healthcare professionals with the crucial training they need in order to know how to participate in the clinical trials that will move their drugs and devices forward.

But, what are the tricks for a successful meeting?

At the 2017 Pharma Forum Conference, Heidi Cocca, meeting manager at Merck, shared her advice on delivering a successful investigator meeting and we wholeheartedly agree. We wanted to share it with you and so here are her ‘three C’s’ to a successful meet:

  1. Compliance: According to Cocca, there are three different areas to approach compliance:
    1. Internal compliance such as meetings policy, travel policy and protection policies.
    2. Country requirements: this relates to the policies of the HCP’s home country e.g. caps on meal expenditure.
    3. Pharma compliance: Ensuring compliances with the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use, or ICH, guidelines and transparency reporting.

Each of the above should be adhered to and respected if you are to stay within the compliance framework requirements.


  1. Consistency: Consistency is another important factor to help ensure investigators come away with the same knowledge and experience of the drugs and devices, regardless of where the meeting took place or who they met with. “We want to make sure that if you are an investigator from South Carolina, you walk away with the same knowledge and experience as an investigator from the Ukraine,” she said. Consistency needs to transcend through:
    1. Cost-effectiveness
    2. Learning styles
    3. Content

Consistency is also important as it also helps ensure that your meetings are in line with the industry standard so HCP’s don’t perceive your investigator meetings as an easy provider of meals and accommodation.


  1. Cost Effectiveness: While cost-saving is important, it should be remembered that this doesn’t necessarily mean cutting back, it’s more about making sure you get value for your money. Your responsibility should be with looking at the most effective means of building relationships and training HCPs. Spend enough so that they see the value, but not too much that they come to expect it time after time.

Taking this approach could help you get the most out of your meetings. Cocca however also stressed that remembering to pay attention to learning styles, getting your content right and encouraging interaction must sit right at the heart in the delivery of any investigator meetings too.


If you need help with your investigator meetings, give us a call or book a free consultation with us face to face or over the phone / skype.

10 Key Things To Consider When Planning A Pharma Advisory Board

Whether you’re about to embark on your first, or whether you’re a seasoned veteran, organising pharmaceutical advisory boards can be overwhelming. For the pharma industry, they are a crucial means of gathering insight but can sometimes be onerous and unclear. Yet, organised properly and with clear objectives agreed at the outset, the benefits are substantial.

Here are our 10 top things to consider when planning a pharmaceutical advisory board meeting.

Before the meeting

1 – Define and agree SMART objectives in advance. Identify what it is you need to know and create a list of what you would like to get out of the session. Being clear on your needs will help keep you focused.

2 – Create a purposeful agenda. Don’t feel that you have to cram everyone and everything into the session. Think about who will add the most value and what the advisors are most likely to want to need and know. If something is a nice-to-have but not essential, you may want to consider leaving it out altogether.

3 – Share the agenda in advance. This will ensure everyone will come to the meeting with a clear idea of what to expect and a running order to work through.

4 – Be authentic. People can quickly see through woolly responses so plan ahead and plan for direct questions so that you can answer honestly without running the risk of upsetting the balance or the healthcare professionals.

5 – Involve everyone. Remember that everyone processes information in different ways. There will be some naturally more willing to provide feedback but don’t forget about those who are perhaps taking time to process the information being shared with them. Try to involve all of those who will be at the meeting itself.

6 – Remember it’s a journey. No meeting should be a destination in itself – keep in mind that you might not come away with all the answers, but it’ll certainly help get you on the way.

7 – Brief the Chair and speakers. The most well-organised meeting will fail if the Chair has not been properly briefed. You might want to consider a conference call in advance, or a practice run in person, perhaps during the on-site slide review. Whatever the preference and feasibility, try and fit in a dress rehearsal.


During the meeting:


8 – Have an agenda to hand. You would have already (hopefully) run through the agenda but make sure there’s a hard copy available so that the Chair can help keep on track.

During the conversation draw on open ended questions and encourage responses and vary content between presentations and workshops.

9 – Use the agenda to form the basis of your write-up. By planning in advance and having clear objectives, writing up the meeting should be straight forward if you follow the flow of your agenda.

10 – Thank them for their time. It sounds obvious but don’t forget to thank participants for their time and remind them of your contact details should they have any questions. Also send them a copy of the report once it’s ready.


We are experienced in arranging pharmaceutical advisory boards and ensuring they are fully ABPI compliant. If you need help with your pharma event give us a call or book in a free event consultation face to face of over skype.