While Europe and Asia have been grappling with the effects of the novel coronavirus for several weeks, the United States has only recently started taking serious action within the past ten days. Increasingly, states and municipalities are discouraging or outright banning gatherings of more than 50 people, and as of Monday afternoon, President Trump strong recommended limiting gatherings to ten or less people. Many bars and restaurants are being closed down or reduced to take-out and delivery services only.

As a result of the new restrictions on both large- and small-scale events, most speaking engagements for the foreseeable future will need to be cancelled. Companies may need to get creative about how to still get their message in front of doctors. This is going to be particularly challenging for those attempting to work with pulmonary and epidemiology specialists, who will be entirely consumed by the current pandemic.

Companies may choose to replace live speaking engagements with virtual ones, but this may require a change in the contract. Specifically, companies that compensate HCPs for their travel time may need to adjust payment amounts accordingly. There may also be a question of whether the previously agreed-upon preparation is still appropriate if event parameters change. National-level speeches generally involve more preparation than local ones, so as the scope of events change, the underlying assumptions of preparation time may change as well.

At this current stage, it is too early to determine the specific impacts of COVID-19 on the speaker program space. The life sciences industry will need to be adaptable, agile, and creative with their responses.

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