A successful medical advisory board should result in actionable deliverables and help to support understanding between the clinical or healthcare professional community and the organisation. They can be critical for the success of a healthcare company aiming to position or promote its products and services optimally and/or seeking to build a positive reputation across a healthcare system. In this blog, we’ll look at the common mistakes to avoid when running a medical advisory board and what you can do to make yours a success.
Not Having a Clear Objective or Agenda
More often than not, the effectiveness of an advisory board is borne out of the strength of the objective and associated meeting agenda. This begins with ensuring that the rationale for the advice sought is clearly established by the organising team and writing 2-3 very clear and specific objectives for the event. Failing to do this risks less useful or strategically misaligned outputs from the event that cannot be implemented effectively, and it may also prove difficult to gain the support of those in charge of reviewing and approving the activity for compliance.
The agenda’s purpose is to let participants know the goals of the meeting, what to expect and how this will be achieved. After all, advisory board members will be there to contribute and bring their experience, insight and expertise. The agenda should outline the overall objectives of the advisory board, the session titles should clearly describe what is being covered and this should be ideally shared with attendees ahead of the meeting. An effective agenda should be balanced, interesting and aim to explore deeply few key areas from various perspectives rather than ‘skim-over’ many questions superficially. This time with expert advisors is valuable and so using it wisely is key.
Focusing too much on the Big-Name Advisors
It’s tempting to go for a big-name advisor for your advisory board in the hopes of it bringing instant respect and credibility. But you need them to do more for you than simply give you their name and take up a valuable board seat. You need their active contribution to help you move forward. Experts with big reputations can also overshadow other attendees and their contributions and the risk of ‘I agree with Dr X’ becoming the familiar takeaway from each session. Resist being swayed by big names and instead pursue informed and experienced experts who share an interest in advancing the area of focus of the agenda and can offer the insights you need.
Lack of Communication
One of the most common mistakes when running a medical or pharmaceutical advisory board is not preparing board members adequately prior to the meeting. Board members are unlikely to be proactive if there is a lack of effective communication and this risks consuming large amounts of time during the meeting spent on ‘scene-setting’. While it is challenging to provide much detail ahead of the event due to compliance, a well-written, succinct meeting pre-brief can help advisors arrive prepared and focused on the agenda and pre-meeting surveys / polls can provide a useful ‘head-start’ to the agenda and interesting stimulus for the attendees.
The secret to leaving advisors with a positive impression of their engagement is to keep them updated, even after the meeting is over and doing this in a timely way. Sharing the summary outputs from the meeting and pointing to the way this will help shape the future direction of the organisation that supports the goals that they have (e.g. patient care) is an effective way to do this. Planning what should be shared and how ahead of the day helps ensure that next steps can be made clear to the advisors and will help speed up the time to following up with them after the event.
Not Scheduling Enough Time for Discussion
It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing most of the talking, especially when there is so much information to share with the board. However, this can end up being counter-productive and prevents your board advisors from contributing. Your goal is to listen to the feedback and insight of your board members to gain meaningful information that you can use to guide your business. Try sticking to the 80-20 rule, let board members speak 80% of the time, while company staff speak just 20% of the time.
Consider varying the format of agenda items to promote sustained engagement and contributions from the group. Balancing plenary discussion with break-out groups and individual polls / voting helps ensure diverse inputs from all board members. This can require a little more thought and planning if you are hosting a virtual advisory board meeting, but can be achieved and, using system-integrated Q&A, chat, and hand-raise functions can also help ensure effective dialogue is maintained throughout the meeting.
Letting Feedback Go to Waste
Why would you invite advisors onto your board but ignore their insights and feedback? It is a common pitfall of medical advisory board meetings but doesn’t need to happen. Ensure that you identify your advisors’ most important ideas and insights, prioritise the key actions and assign someone to track and follow up on these actionable items as they are incorporated into operational plans. When your advisors can see that you listen to them and take their feedback on board, they’ll be more motivated to support you again in future.
- Create a clear and varied meeting agenda, aligned to clear objectives
- Select advisory board members based on their experience, skillset and likelihood to contribute vs filling seats with ‘big names’
- Consider preparing advisors to contribute ahead of the meeting date and decide how they should be followed up ahead of time too
- Prioritise discussion and input during meetings (80:20 rule) and plan agenda sessions with maintaining this throughout the meeting in mind
- Harness feedback and develop an action plan on the back of the meeting and ensure someone is responsible for monitoring that this happens as intended