To host a healthcare conference is to circumnavigate a great many obstacles. Indeed, regulations aplenty dictate what can and what cannot be included within any gathering. In short, the learned are assembled to learn, not unwind.
THE ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
Before arranging an event with links to the NHS the ABPI Code of Practice – or more specifically its Clause 19 – makes for essential reading. These guidelines prohibit the presence of incentives or distractions likely to detract from the educational experience itself. In full the ruling states:
19.1 Companies must not provide hospitality to members of the health professions and appropriate administrative staff except in association with scientific meetings, promotional meetings, scientific congresses and other such meetings, and training. Meetings must be held in appropriate venues conducive to the main purpose of the event. Hospitality must be strictly limited to the main purpose of the event and must be secondary to the purpose of the meeting i.e. subsistence only. The level of subsistence offered must be appropriate and not out of proportion to the occasion. The costs involved must not exceed that level which the recipients would normally adopt when paying for themselves. It must not extend beyond members of the health professions or appropriate administrative staff.
As harsh as it seems the mere presence of leisure facilities jeopardise the legitimacy of any healthcare event.
Sure enough swimming pools, spas, gyms, beauty salons and golf courses are in breach of ABPI protocol. Attendees that find themselves enjoying extra-curricular activities can be accused of losing focus and while the NHS tackles a black hole to the tune of billions of pounds this simply cannot be permitted. Understandably so.
Jumping through various hoops clearly complicates the task of conference planners who are all but warned off hotels. In truth, it is doubtful any hotelier will close off key attractions so a relatively small party can adhere to laws they have next to no knowledge of or interest in. Their priority – quite rightly - is the general public. Yours is ensuring any setting is conducive to the conference and its material.
Those on the lookout for a suitable venue then must unearth an establishment willing to shutdown certain parts of its operation for a limited period of time. Lane End is one such establishment.
2. EXTRAVAGANT CATERING
However, restraints extend beyond mere location. Unsurprisingly purse strings are tightly controlled when it comes to catering – with as little as £23 per head afforded. Furthermore, this allowance does not apply to relatives, with only the attendees themselves taken care of.
A general rule of thumb states that hospitality should not exceed the cost at which a delegate would be willing to pay themselves. No champagne breakfasts then.
Acceptable levels of hospitality and subsistence are as follows:
- Refreshments (meals and drinks)
- Genuine registration fees
- Reasonable travel costs (for delegate ONLY)
3. UNDISCLOSED SPONSORSHIP
Pharmaceutical companies often seek to sponsor healthcare conferences. The fact they do so is proof this can happen. Predictably however some caveats apply.
Event organisers must avoid falling into the trap of not disclosing sponsorship ties. Indeed, if any materials are supplied by a third party this must be highlighted for the attention of all recipients.
4. IRRELEVANT OR INCORRECT CONTENT
Strict guidelines also determine what can be promoted in healthcare conferences. New drugs and even machinery are subject to clearance. This can wreak havoc with agendas though the NHS is so topical new focuses can always be found.
Healthcare Conferences themselves are integral to the long-term performance of the NHS but ensure to avoid the many possible errors in order to make a successful one. Let’s take a look at additional faux pas…
5. A LACK OF PRE-PLANNING
A key thing to avoid is a lack of pre-planning. Indeed, failing to prepare can leave attendees – and by extension the NHS – short-changed. Worse still you will leave your organisation open to criticism.
Afford yourself at least six months to iron out each and every detail. This provides ample time to visit a venue yourself and try before you buy.
A trial run of sorts allows you to judge access, layouts, lighting, equipment, IT support, facilities and more. Distributing registration forms to those who have shown interest will allow you to collate contact information and dietary requirements at the same time. Submitting reminders a few days out will keep attendance high. In short, leaving nothing to chance will hold you in good stead.
6. STALE CONTENT
Try to avoid focusing on the same, age-old topics. Preparing a conference that is topical and/or insightful is key to impressing those in attendance. Remember many present will have sat through dozens of courses just like this and would appreciate some originality.
As mentioned above the NHS is at the forefront of news bulletins on an almost daily basis; there really is nothing stopping you from coming at things from a fresh angle. Emphasise this to any guest speakers by listing subjects and or tangents they should avoid.
7. A LACK OF BREAKS
Avoid long periods without respite. Concentration spans only last so long and expecting to hold hundreds of people’s attention between talks is short-sighted. You – as the brains behind the operation – should be imploring guest speakers not to overrun. Just as importantly, you should be factoring in regular breaks wherein attendees can visit the lavatory, enjoy refreshments or simply mingle.
Ensure to source a conference centre that will offer your delegates a bit of breathing space to gather their thoughts and take in the information they have been given. Be it a separate conference room or a seminar room, a change of scenery for 30 minutes to an hour will help your delegates maintain their concentration.
8. THE SAME OLD GUEST SPEAKERS
Finally avoid settling for speakers you know are attainable. Originality comes from the lesser spotted healthcare professionals, those prepared to serve up a different opinion.
By the same token avoid an acceptance you cannot secure big names, if that is what you desire. Pull out all the stops if it provides your conference with something unique. Providing pre-approved travel expenses will go some way towards wooing targets. Remember, attracting one widely respected speaker increases the likelihood of luring another. Aim for a domino effect.
If those last points are common sense, then knowing what to avoid to stay within ABPI boundaries is less obvious. When it comes to healthcare - both in practice and theory - there is little room for error. Heed these lessons and you will not go far wrong.
For more help and information on what to look out for when booking a healthcare conference venue take a look here!
Lane End Conferences offers healthcare professionals an ideal conference setting. With plenty of natural light, no distractions and experience working with healthcare professionals, we are more than equipped to ensure your pharmaceutical conference runs smoothly. If you would like more information on Lane End Conferences’ facilities, please get in touch today.