April 13, 2017

Do you know that a day in the life of a meeting professional has a lot to do with alphabet soup?
Those that work in and service the life sciences industry are very used to working with and speaking in acronyms; a kind of endless alphabet soup. Some acronyms are our very own, others are critical to the Life Sciences industry and corporate language more generally. Sometimes acronyms can be annoying but most of the time they save us a mouth full of words and a lot of time. A case in point is new acronym which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue: IPERP.
What’s that you say? Well, IPERP is shorthand for a very handy mantra that describes what Life Sciences meeting professionals need to manage, constantly: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Report (and Pay!). In action, this is what IPERP looks like…
Initiate — Most meetings have budget constraints, regardless of size, and attendee or meeting type. It is important to define a business purpose or goal prior to commencing the planning. This Initiate phase is critically important when hosting or sponsoring a meeting with one or more Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) in attendance. The rationale for engaging an HCP for any activity is highly scrutinized and must meet the necessary criteria in accordance with local and/or federal government regulations in addition to one’s own organizational guidelines and policies.
Life Sciences companies incorporate an internal approval process as a first step when looking to hold a meeting or event to ensure these interactions or series of engagements comply with all of these policies and guidelines as well as to meet the goals and budget of the program itself.
Companies use off the shelf products or technology to begin this process or may even use a paper form that gets routed for signatures according to signing authority. Having a system or compliance platform to capture the business rationale, list of HCPs, and the budget and goals of the meeting will certainly expedite the approval process. This is also a necessary part of documenting and archiving everything that was done to ensure proper steps were followed. And this must be accomplished and approved prior to the HCP being invited or even contracted.
These paper forms or Meeting Request Forms (MRF), yet another acronym, can take some time to get approved as it makes its way to the proper stakeholders and approvers. Some organizations require multiple approvals and the extra time this requires can leave planner with a very short time to actually accomplish the needed tasks. If something is out of line or out of policy, the request should not be approved until the proper review is conducted or until changes are made to support the relevant policy. While a meeting professional is waiting for the green light to move forward, a proactive approach can be taken by putting a detailed timeline together to ensure the planning team is ready to go once the meeting has been approved.
Plan — Establishing the right foundation with your client during this time is vital to success. Ask key questions of your client or sponsor and review details and expectations with their compliance representative. Determining needs prior to the planning phase will assist in ensuring a successful event and will guarantee that the specific data they need is captured, tracked, and reported on. Once initiation is approved, you are able to plan the event or program, registration can go live and travel can be issued for all meeting attendees, where applicable. Further details in the planning process are now being managed such as the main components of F & B (Food & beverage) AV (Audio-Visual) meeting APP set up, meeting rooms set… and the rest of the familiar “laundry list” that planners know well.
F&B planning sounds easy and fun, but only if you have a calculator handy. Meal caps need to be carefully considered when a HCP is in attendance. Costs per meal cannot exceed the cap per person an organization has agreed to and if/when an attendee is from another country, that country’s meal caps must also be adhered to. Working closely with your hotel partner to come up with a menu that is robust, with plenty of items that fit the needs of all attendees, including special dietary restrictions (kosher, vegetarian, halal, gluten free & food allergies.) is in itself a major task. But it must also fit within the constraints of governing law. It is helpful to start the conversation with your hotel partners early as well as building this into your meeting contract & addendum with the hotel to ensure they can accommodate the caps as well as other needs.
Execute — It ain’t over til it is over….Once on site at the meeting making sure that what you have planned for is actually happening is of critical importance. Deviations from the contracts, meal caps or other activities outlined and approved in your Initiation and planning phase can result in compliance violations and subsequent penalties. While on site, among managing your multiple tasks, various changes and still delivering service with a smile, it’s essential to meet with the hotel and other vendors to review costs daily to make certain the data is correct . This is not only good management but it is vital to the transfer of value (ToV) reporting requirements.
Report & Pay — Once you execute the meeting successfully it’s time to wrap it all up. We all know that many clients want to receive the ToV reporting in different ways. It is best to continuously have a conversation with your client to ensure that you’re using the most up to date method of data capture and the preferred reporting format. Reviewing and submitting all meeting related invoices as well as attendee honorarium and expenses in a timely matter for payment will help expedite the reporting and close out process. It also helps to catch any discrepancies in costs or associated expenditure.
That’s IPERP! Add this acronym to your list and introduce it and include the categories in your team training. This can help create efficiencies, ease and overall best practices! Of course, an additional acronym comes to mind in closing this blog and one that is a favorite — KISS. Keep It Simple Silly!

Contributed by:

Matthew Derner, Director, Strategic Meetings Management, AHM

Matthew joined AHM in 2016 and has 18 years of Life Sciences experience. He leads AHM’s Stragetic Meetings Management (SMM) Department and is responsible for engaging current and prospective clients about our SMM compliant meeting solutions across their organizations. Matthew also leads a team of Event Managers & Coordinators that are responsible for the planning and execution of any meeting type outside of Speaker Bureau. Prior to joining AHM, Matthew has worked for Pharmaceutical Companies as well meeting planning agencies in various roles.