Promotional Speaker Programs (PH182)

Successfully Managing Speaker Bureaus and Recruiting Thought Leaders

  • Adapt and Refocus Promotional Speaker Programs to Prepare for Increased Transparency

    Promotional speaker programs are an evolving, critical tool in life science companies’ arsenal for building disease state and brand awareness from therapy inception through post-launch.  Facing changing regulations — including the impending Sunshine Act — proficient speaker program teams reinforce their medical messages while implementing new approaches to drive attendance and measure ROI.  

    This report and its sister study, Pharmaceutical Continuing Medical Education: Trends in Educational Event Management and CME Strategy, explore the full array of pharmaceutical speaker events.  Whereas Educational Speaker Programs details speaker events associated with medical affairs teams and medical education, this report focuses on marketing team goals.  Though similar, these speaker programs — and the teams that drive them — differ in structure, event management protocol, funding and even governing regulations.

    Boost the impact of your promotional speaker programs with this study’s detailed metrics — including team structure, speaker recruitment and compensation, performance metrics and emerging trends.


    Diversify promotional speaker events to drive attendance and expand program reach

    Program attendance relies on audiences’ needs and schedules.  Leverage traditional live speaker events, such as podium-style presentations and round-table discussions, alongside one-way and interactive webcasts that “preserve” presentations to enable more flexibility.


    Measure speaker program success and demonstrate value

    Leverage physician satisfaction ratings and feedback surveys to determine speaker programs’ impact on doctors’ habits.  Learn top-performing companies’ strategies for demonstrating program value through soft metrics rather than sales data.


    Ensure a seamless transition to the Sunshine Act

    Preparing to meet regulatory changes will reduce the impact of increased transparency requirements.  Ready compliance teams for growing opportunities online and identify and mitigate critical challenges that will arise.


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  • Promotional Speaker Programs Metrics


    Chapter 1: Promotional Speaker Bureau Structure and Staffing

    Chapter Benefits

    • Maintain a separation between educational and promotional speaker programs.
    • Use promotional programs to advance product advocacy among stakeholders and KOLs.
    • Align staffing resources by developing a program that is centralized under a corporate-, therapeutic- or business-level structure. 
    • Engage cross-functional teams when developing promotional speaker programs by aligning the objectives of marketing, market access and educational teams.
    • Build speaker programs around multiple platforms by using digital channels and expanding in-person programs.
    • Understand the external factors influencing promotional program costs to develop realistic annual budgets.


    Chapter Data

    67 charts detailing promotional speaker program structure, staffing and funding.  Data are often shown in aggregate as well as broken out by company type (Top 10, Top 50, small pharma and device companies).

    • Resource splits for promotional versus educational speaker programs (by company type)
    • Therapeutic areas supported by promotional speaker program teams (by company type)
    • Approximate number of products supported by speaker program teams (by company type)
    • Type of promotional speaker program structures (by company type)
    • Percentage of companies with dedicated speaker program team structure (by company type)
    • Companies with dedicated structure for managing by promotional speaker programs (by company type)
    • Age of dedicated structure (by company type)
    • Functions directly responsible for overseeing promotional speaker program responsibilities (by company type)
    • Functions involved in promotional speaker program activities (by company type)
    • Diagrams of promotional speaker program structures (one for each company type)
    • Promotional speaker team staff distribution by activity (bureau management, speaker training, speaker identification)
    • Total number of salaried employees working on promotional speaker program activities (by company and company type)
    • Functions that contribute to funding promotional speaker programs (by company type)
    • Average percentage of promotional speaker program budget accounted for by specific functions (by company type)
    • Budget for dedicated promotional speaker program teams from 2011 to 2012 (by company and company type)
    • Percentage of budget dedicated to salaries and overhead activities (by company and company type)
    • Percentage of dedicated promotional speaker program personnel compensated through incentives or bonuses (by company type)
    • Projected change in budget from 2012 to 2013 (by company type)
    • Amount of projected change in budget from 2012 to 2013 (by company and company type)
    • Promotional speaker program activities outsourced (by company type)
    • Percentage of promotional speaker program budget funding agencies, vendors and other outsourced work (by company and company type)


    Chapter 2: Identifying and Compensating Ideal Promotional Speakers

    Chapter Benefits

    • Be mindful of both therapeutic area and audience-specific needs when recruiting promotional speakers.
    • Search for ideal personality traits as well as clinical and speaking experience in presenters.
    • Leverage face-to-face MSLs — or sales reps, when needed — to recruit speakers.
    • Use flat fee compensation to compensate promotional speakers based on quality as well as time commitment and other program-related factors.
    • Know when to compensate speakers’ travel separately rather than included in their fee.


    Chapter Data

    47 charts detailing promotional speakers’ background, training and payment.  Data are often shown in aggregate as well as broken out by company type (Top 10, Top 50, small pharma and device companies).

    • Healthcare professionals hired as promotional speakers (by company type)
    • Number of promotional speakers in speaker bureaus (by company and company type)
    • Preferred promotional speaker background (by company type)
    • Ideal years of experience for promotional speakers (by company and company type)
    • Average importance of ideal promotional speakers traits (by company type)
    • Reception of promotional speakers presenting for more than one company (by company type)
    • Likelihood of hiring a speaker contracted to speak for another company (by company type)
    • Effectiveness of speaker recruitment tools (by company type)
    • Average hours of training provided to promotional speakers (by company type)
    • Method of payment for promotional speakers (by company type)
    • Promotional speaker compensation (hourly rate versus flat fee)
    • Flat rate promotional speaker compensation range and average (by company and company type)
    • Travel compensation for promotional speakers (by company type)
    • Amount of travel compensation for promotional speakers (separate from speaker fees or included in speaker fees)
    • Travel compensation budget for promotional speakers paid a flat rate (by company and company type


    Chapter 3: Promotional Speaker Event Management

    Chapter Benefits

    • Incorporate a balance of in-person programs, interactive webinars and one-way webcasts.
    • Use vendors to support speaker program development and to drive audience attendance.
      • Choose a vendor that has experience developing promotional programs and is able to leverage its experience.
      • Select a vendor that is similar in size to main company based on its relationship with its competitors.
    • Dedicate enough preparation time to facilitate winning speaker events.
    • Schedule promotional programs around the target audiences’ existing schedule.
    • Develop promotional programs early to ensure they are ready at product launch. 
    • Target programs at new disease states or focus on innovative treatment measures to facilitate physician interest.


    Chapter Data

    22 charts detailing speaker events and attendance. Data are often broken out by company type (Top 10, Top 50, small pharma and device companies). Data are also broken out for specific educational speaker program types (in-person speaker programs, one-way webcast speaker programs, interactive webcast speaker programs).

    • Approximate number of speaking events annually (by company)
    • Activities for which speaker bureaus are responsible (by company type)
    • Percentage of companies that outsource specific promotional speaker program activities
    • Average preparation time (by speaker program type and by company and company type)
    • Best and worst times of day to conduct speaker programs (by program type)
    • Typical attendance (by program type and by company and company type)
    • Range and average cost per attendee (by program type and by company and company type)


    Chapter 4: Gauging Promotional Speaker Program Success and Overcoming Hurdles

    Chapter Benefits

    • Identify and overcome key challenges to improve promotional speaker program teams’ effectiveness.
    • Prepare early for Sunshine Act and increased transparency by determining internal enforcement policies.
    • Embrace online programs and prepare to navigate still-growing web-related regulations.
    • Use online capabilities to “preserve” speakers who may later become unavailable due to changing organizational restrictions, as well as to work with physicians’ demanding schedules.
    • Ensure that management understands the value of a program’s soft metrics over ROI or sales data.


    Chapter Data

    17 charts detailing speaker program challenges and effectiveness.  Data are often shown in aggregate as well as broken out by company type (Top 10, Top 50, small pharma and device companies).

    • Ratings of speaker program challenges (by company type)
    • Success measurements used to gauge speaker program effectiveness (by company type)
    • Percentage of companies satisfied with their speaker program team (by company type)
    • Perceived effectiveness of speaker program practices (by company type)
    • Speaker program effectiveness in 2012 compared to three to five years prior (by company type)


    Chapter 5: Profiles of Promotional Speaker Program Teams

    Chapter Benefits

    • Benchmark company program teams against departments with similar structures and size.
    • Review companies across company size:
      • Three (3) Top 10 pharmas
      • Three (3) Top 50 pharmas
      • Two (2) small pharmas
      • Two (2) device companies
    • Examine speaker programs across different geographic regions:
      • Seven (7) US
      • Two (2) global
      • One (1) Malaysia/Singapore


    Chapter Data

    10 profiles detailing surveyed companies’ speaker program teams:

    • Team background and structure
    • Educational speakers and funding
    • Educational speaker events and success rating


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  • Promotional Speaker Programs Report Excerpt


    The following key finding is excerpted from the full report's executive summary:

    Diversify Program Strategy to Drive Audience Recruitment

    When developing promotional speaker programs, companies surveyed use different channels: from in-person sessions to digital webcasts (Figure E.1) [Figure available in full report].  Each of these channels offer companies the opportunity to span beyond their commercial message and contribute value to attending audiences.  Companies benefit from diversifying their speaker programs as each channel poses unique benefits ranging from the popularity of high profile KOL speeches to the active dialogues of in-person, “roundtable events” to the accessibility represented by interactive and one-way webcasts.  By implementing a mixture of strategies, companies appeal to a wide array of audiences while keeping their message both interesting and relevant. 

    Podium sessions drive audience recruitment through high-profile KOL speakers whose presence at an event — apart from attracting attendees — helps companies publicize their commercial message and lends credibility to a company’s platform.  By comparison, round tables — a type of peer-to-peer strategy — help companies bolster attendance by facilitating an environment where physicians learn from one another.  Invited physicians are welcome to draw upon the experiences of expert clinicians who, rather than present a formal speech, discuss case studies and current uses of protocols identical or similar to the ones using the targeted brand or brands. 

    Companies also benefit by integrating the driving strategies behind in-person programs into interactive or one-way webcasts.  These channels help companies reach audiences who may not have the same level of accessibility to physical programs based on a mixture of time constraints and their location.  Interactive webcasts operate on similar level as in-person round table events by promoting active dialogues among attending physicians.  In some cases, these live webcasts allow physicians to pose anonymous questions to featured speakers—a task they may be more reluctant to do in person.  Alternately, one-way webcasts represent a digital adoption of the large-scale KOL model.  As with live sessions, these programs share a company’s commercial message.  However, because these programs are pre-recorded, companies reduce their risk of off-label comments.

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