How to Cover an Advisory Board Meeting as a Scientific Medical Writer

Cover an advisory board meeting as a medical writerA successful advisory board meeting requires careful planning, impeccable execution, and effective reporting. A mishap in any of the steps can reduce the chance of success.

If you are asked to cover an advisory board meeting as a medical writer, don’t assume that your job is just attending the meeting and taking notes. Depending on the meeting organizer, you may need to assist with the whole project, from preparing slides to facilitating the meeting and writing a final advisory board meeting report.

While your performance will be evaluated every step of the way, producing a well-written report on time and on target will be the most important part of your performance as a medical writer.

If you have never attended an advisory meeting before, covering an advisory board meeting can be stressful. Knowing the following will help.

Understand the deliverable(s) of your advisory board meeting

Your client may simply describe the deliverable as a meeting report, but you need to know that not all meeting reports or deliverables are the same. Different companies and meeting organizers have different needs, and they may want different meeting outputs. While one company wants detailed meeting minutes, another may prefer an executive summary. You need to know exactly what your client wants before the meeting.

Here is a list of advisory board meeting deliverables I have encountered over the years.

  • Detailed meeting minutes that capture all key discussions. Not all meeting minutes are the same. While some clients prefer summarized discussions, others may need details with every attendee’s voice captured (eg, who said what). Again, knowing exactly what your client wants is key to your success.
  • An executive summary of what is discussed and recommended. All executive summaries use similar formats and structures, right? You may ask. Wrong. Again, it depends on the client. Over the years I have worked with organizations that asked for an executive summary starting with clear background information, and I have also collaborated with companies that asked me to just focus on discussions and recommendations.
  • A final report that includes an executive summary followed by key discussions as supporting information. Some of my pharmaceutical clients prefer this type of concise meeting report.
  • A manuscript ready to be submitted to a medical journal for publication. Many medical advisory boards of professional organizations like this type of meeting output. The published article often serves as guidelines. Like regular peer-reviewed medical journal articles, this type of deliverable generally includes background information, rationale and objectives of the meeting, discussions occurred at the meeting, suggestions/recommendations made by the key opinion leaders, and future action plans.

Know your client’s preferred style and format

When it comes to meeting reports, there is no uniformed style or format. It all depends on the client. Based on my experience of covering advisory board meetings in the US and China, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are the most commonly used software for producing meeting reports and slides. If possible, ask your client for reports or deliverables from previous meetings.

Complete your report ahead of deadline

Advisory board meetings almost always have tight deadlines. Depending on the nature of the final deliverables, the deadlines could vary from 48 hours for meeting minutes, to 1 week for a meeting report, and a few weeks for the first draft of a manuscript.

As a writer, you’ll benefit from writing up your meeting report as soon as the meeting is over for two reasons. First, you can write more accurately while your memory is still fresh. Second, your client may want the report earlier than initially planned. Completing your report ahead of the deadline will prevent you from panicking, and your client will appreciate your flexibility.

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