Planning a Life Sciences Meeting? Array is All In

April 25, 2024 Array Team

2 sets of hands at a desk, one over a notebook another at a tablet

For better or worse, many event technology platforms will work the same way, with the same result, for any type of meeting. Life science meetings are different, though. These are complex meetings in a strictly regulated environment that have to satisfy specific stakeholder needs. Life science meetings need the human touch – people able to optimize the platform who are also willing and able to work alongside the meeting organizer, think critically, and act quickly to help achieve the meeting objectives. That human touch is what our clients notice and report on in post-meeting surveys as well as spontaneous thank you notes. This is because from the moment we start working together, we make it our mission to learn what we can about their needs and goals and how they expect the meeting to flow and, together, develop a plan for generating the insights that will be most meaningful and impactful.

On meeting day, our partners rely on our Program Management Group to continue to provide the human touch to carry out that plan. This team understands the complexity of life science meetings and partners with our clients to do what’s necessary to make the meeting fit their needs and vision. They deploy our patented technology in the way the client planned, but also in response to the special needs and circumstances that arise onsite. And, they don’t see our partnership as restricted to within the meeting walls. It’s not uncommon for Array’s team to move furniture, stuff gift bags, coordinate with and direct other tech vendors on site, and even manage cookies to provide the business class service our clients rely on.

Experience counts

Array has nearly 20 years’ experience at more than 10,000 events. When our onsite team arrives, they are often the most experienced event technology team in the room—and the only one with a specialty in life sciences meetings. Because Array begins to work with our partners in the meeting planning stage, our team knows how the meeting is organized, what engagement tools are being deployed and when, and other details specific to that meeting. This holistic view has often resulted in Array stepping in to coordinate with other teams on site.

For example, Array worked with a global client at a meeting of more than 300 attendees in the Middle East. The stakeholder teams literally spanned every culture in the world, and each was given a different responsibility for the meeting, such as creative or educational content. While the teams shared the same goal for the meeting, they couldn’t seem to come to agreement as to how they would achieve it. Since Justin Eldred, senior program manager with Array, knew the client’s overall vision and goals, he acted as a liaison between the stakeholders and other technical teams. The following year, the client organized the same global meeting and requested this additional element of service be added to the contract.

“This was a huge opportunity to provide great service and I was happy to be able to help in that way,” says Eldred.

While this meeting presented a unique need, Array's team often helps AV teams on site set up equipment and provides guidance to make the meeting run the way the client designed. This is possible because our team knows details prior to the meeting that technical teams who are meeting clients for the first time onsite don’t yet know.  

“We go in knowing details such as who needs lapel mics, handhelds, or tabletop mics, and make sure they know that,” says Chris Sperling, senior program manager with Array. He also shares as an example that onsite technical teams just meeting the client at the meeting may sometimes struggle with the nuances of stakeholder needs. He states, “Because other teams on site don’t have advanced knowledge of the content, we alert them to any subtle cues or context that will help them keep content flowing seamlessly.”

Clients are people, too

Our program management group gets to know clients over time and has built relationships that have lasted years, even as clients have moved to other companies. For them, a meeting isn’t about a checklist of activities, but about what a specific person needs and wants them to do to make the meeting a success.

“All Array techs are ready to lend a hand to help our clients because, statistically, event planners have one of the most stressful jobs,” says Brenden Jenkins, another of Array’s senior program managers. (In fact, event planners ranked as the third-most stressful job in the world in 2023, according to a study by World Scholarship Vault.) “If we can help them out and make them feel good knowing we’re a partner, that makes us happy.”

Eldred adds life sciences clients often have strict regulatory requirements and the team’s understanding of this can make things run more smoothly for the client. “Often, clients must send materials to legal and compliance teams before they can be used. We send them screenshots of every screen to make it easier for them to go through that review,” he says.

And, in those moments when a client is trying to get out the door quickly but must collect secure, confidential materials that cannot be left behind, Array’s people collect them too.

Derek Roy, engagement manager and program manager with Array, has a unique role in that his relationship with the client starts in the planning calls when he begins to understand the objective they want to achieve from the meeting and develops a data plan for how Array’s Analytics & Insights Management team will assist in that.

“I enjoy the collaborative nature of the relationship with the client. The kick-off calls are really our building relationship calls,” he says. “But the most enjoyable part for me is walking the study team through the really insightful findings that have come out of the meeting data afterward.”

Worldwide meetings, global knowledge

Array has worked with meeting planners, logistics companies and life science companies directly to present content at meetings worldwide. Our teams have been on the ground, then, across North and South America, Europe and Asia. That experience helps them both predict needs and react to regionally specific situations that arise wherever they are.

For example, in Europe, internet service is considerably less expensive than in the United States, but it is also much less reliable. “We’ve had some late evenings troubleshooting the internet and language barriers to figure out why the internet is not provided or not what was expected,” explains Roy. “We have gone on site outside the U.S. for hybrid meetings and found that the internet was slower than promised or not provided at all so we can’t log the virtual attendees into the platform. In those cases, we quickly pivoted to set up two separate meetings, an in-person with our secure network and virtual with Wi-Fi instead of the hard-wired internet we anticipated. There was one tech in the room essentially running two events at the same time.” Since this resulted in two data sets, our Business Intelligence team then worked to merge them together, so the client still received quality reporting.  

Array also has built a significant network of professional production experts worldwide. When a lighting controller provided by the venue was broken, Array reached out to regional contacts in the industry to replace it before the meeting. When a meeting planner requested someone do PowerPoint slide review last minute, Array again reached out to the extensive contact list to bring someone in to do that.  

Solutions before there are problems

Meeting organizers are busy working to make the meeting a success for their client or stakeholders. On site, then, Array’s goal is to do what’s necessary to let our partners stay focused without distractions or concerns. Many times, this means proactively taking care of needs or solving problems out of their remit before they – or their client – becomes aware.

“We’re looking for opportunities to make it better for our clients,” says Sperling. “I think we all tend to travel with extra pieces of equipment based on experience. If it’s something we’ve needed last-minute before, we travel with extra now. We’ve also been known to go shopping when a venue doesn’t have something that was expected to be there.”

Eldred adds that the team prefers to take care of problems without our client ever having to worry about it but, “Most importantly, we make sure their client never knows there was a hiccup.”

True stories of going above and beyond

Array’s technicians are skilled at making last-minute changes to the platform and troubleshooting issues to make the meeting go off without a hitch. For example:

Once onsite for a meeting, it was conveyed to our team that specific pharma-sensitive documents needed to be viewable by a presenter only, and not attendees. They also needed to be deleted immediately after. The onsite team was able to set up a specific iPad so only that presenter could view the files, and only via the platform during their presentation.

More than once, the in-room projection has gone down during the show. Since our team knows the meeting’s program down to the slide level, they can continue to manage the delivery of the presentations so the iPads can serve as the attendees’ primary viewing source.

The unexpected happens and sometimes our partners request last-minute or mid-show changes to questions, surveys or documents that are part of the presentation. Our technicians work with them to either make these changes or recommend alternatives.

Additionally, our partners  often share positive feedback and appreciation for what our Program Management Group does for the meeting in areas that have nothing to do with the platform. Here are just some examples:

  • At a conference for more than 500 people, the client team was going to stuff gift bags late at night. At the client’s request, Array’s team of seven people pitched in to set up an assembly line with the client’s staff to make the job go faster.
  • A meeting was scheduled for 1300 people, with 500 attending virtually. An Array tech was scheduled to be on camera with eight faculty members and his flight was canceled the evening before. The program manager found a replacement, made the flight plans, booked a hotel room, then notified the client of the change of staff. Everything was still ready to go on as planned and the client never needed to worry about whether they’d be covered.
  • When a shipping company sent a display booth for another company to the meeting venue rather than our iPads, our program manager woke up an Array colleague. That person went to the office to gather the equipment needed to make the meeting a success, then hopped on an overnight flight to get to the site in time for the meeting.
  • We’ve even had a team get temporarily locked inside a convention center in Europe because they wanted to set up the night before the event rather than in the last-minute timeframe the venue gave them for the morning of the meeting!

“Can you tell me…?”

Whether it’s their professional demeanor – Array’s team wears suits on site – or their commanding presence, it’s not uncommon for us to get questions from other vendors or even attendees.

“We project a high level of professionalism because we represent our client, and that means we end up answering a lot of questions about things not related to Array,” says Turner Papke, senior program manager. “Our techs are prepared to step in to either answer questions or direct them to someone who is able to help.”

Interestingly, the most common question seems to be what temperature the room is.

About the cookies

When asked, many members of the Program Management Group will have a story about cookies having a critical role in a meeting. This could be something as simple as the fact that the team will place seat cards, coasters and custom cookies at each place when they’re putting the iPads on tables so there is a cohesive look. There is also the fraught moment when cookies for the attendees seemed to be missing and a program manager hunted throughout the venue until they were found hiding under a registration desk somewhere.

Cookies, it seems, are emblematic of Array’s commitment to serve as an extension of the client’s team. We’re their onsite staff making sure the content is presented flawlessly and the most meaningful data is gathered to generate the insights they need. We’re also there to make their lives easier, whether it’s by coordinating with other vendors to realize the vision or chasing down the illusive table favor. 

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