Everything You Need to Know About Hosting a Successful Industry-Supported Poster Day

By Katie Lucero, PhD, Cynthia Kozic, PharmD, and Pamela Mason, CHCP FACME, ATSF

It is one thing to support impactful and meaningful education initiatives and have powerful data to back up a program’s impact, but it’s equally important to tell a compelling story to grab stakeholders’ attention. How do pharmaceutical industry supporters of independent medical education (IME) communicate the impact of that education with their internal stakeholders?

For industry supporters, one important way to communicate this value is when medical education leaders in these organizations plan and host poster days. Poster days are an opportunity for education providers to share their innovations, technologies and resulting impact of their IME initiatives with a variety of pharmaceutical stakeholders at a central physical location — typically a pharmaceutical campus. Additionally, providers benefit from poster days by gaining insight into what IME initiative details resonate with key stakeholders. Programs are presented in large poster format, much like what you would see at a poster session at a professional meeting.

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Here, we present the why, the how and the when of poster days from the perspective of two experienced IME leaders, Cynthia Kozic and Pamela Mason, from the pharmaceutical industry.

Why Host a Poster Day?

  • Because they are important for:
    • Communicating on a large scale to various internal stakeholders the innovative programs and impact of IME being supported within Medical Affairs
    • Demonstrating how initiatives align to internal strategy and how allocated budget is used to drive change through independent educational activities 
  • The key stakeholders attending these events are:
    • Medical Affairs colleagues
    • Commercial colleagues
    • Finance colleagues
    • Senior leadership
    • Global colleagues
    • Field-based colleagues 
  • The event is considered successful if:
    • It is well-attended by company employees from across the organization
    • Senior leaders and other internal stakeholders attend
    • Positive post-event feedback is received from both internal attendees, as well as from external education providers
    • Attendees perceive the presented posters as being of high quality
    • We are asked, “When will you host another one?”
    • Impact of the day is talked about for months, even years, post-event 

How Do I Plan a Poster Day?

  • Carefully select a diverse set of initiatives by:
    • Using either a peer review/abstract submission process or by inviting presentations of initiatives that you feel would resonate with your internal audience based on uniqueness of program, level of alignment with internal strategy, and impact on HCPs and patients 
  • Determine the number of posters to present according to room size/area you have and how many therapeutic areas you will represent.
    • Aim for six to seven per therapeutic area if space permits.
    • Ensure you have a mix highlighting the most impactful activities/initiatives. 
  • Successful marketing to ensure our stakeholders attend include:
    • Sending out "Save the Dates"
    • Regular follow-up reminders
    • Sending out abstracts in advance
    • Having flyers made and distributed
    • Carefully selecting date, time, day of week
    • Having Corporate Communications send out announcements
    • Internal social media sites
    • Announcing on TVs in cafeteria or other areas
    • Poster board announcements strategically placed in high-traffic areas throughout campus
    • Involve senior management to help spread the word
    • Face-to-face dissemination about event during grant review meetings
    • Spread the word both the week of and the day of the event in person 
  • Consider logistics by making sure you have:
    • Large enough room or area
      • Make sure there is enough space in between providers and their posters
      • High-top tables for two and a large easel for each provider
      • Have extension cords available
      • Consider high-traffic areas
      • Carefully lay out the area and the flow of posters
    • Arranged for security clearances and communicated their process to providers coming onsite
    • Reserved room well in advance
    • Planned for light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres
    • Any materials you will be supplying in hand week before the event 
  • Communicate poster design/layout preferences that are based on what will resonate the most with the majority of stakeholders.
    • For example, layout of scientific content on a congress poster for clinical/medical colleagues or more visual infographic approach if a commercial audience is more the focus.

When Do I Host a Poster Day?

  • You should start planning 6 to 12 months in advance.
    • The ideal time is to have the date during budget planning.
    • Choose a day in the middle of the week, such as Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
    • Make sure the date you choose is not close to school or federal holidays, when people normally take vacations, or when major medical meetings are scheduled.
    • The amount of time to plan and coordinate depends on the individual supporter and size of event.
  • Ideally, our organizations would hold poster days every two years to allow current initiatives to gather data.

Top Tips from the Host Perspective

  1. Allow enough planning time.
  2. Select an appropriate date/time as soon as possible and send out a "Save the Date" to your stakeholders.
  3. Reserve your room right away (consider reserving an alternate day/time as backup).
  4. Decide upon which programs you would like to highlight and reach out to those providers early and provide date and time, along with high-level details.
  5. Ensure you receive and review all your materials far enough in advance of the poster day date.
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