December 24, 2020

VEP Spotlight Series: Interactive Forums

How using asynchronous virtual engagement helped one company increase their value proposition.

Nearly a year before the pandemic, strategic KOL engagement firm Interactive Forums sought to evolve its offerings with the goal of adding more value for clients. The company integrated Within3’s virtual engagement platform into its capabilities, a move that looked extraordinarily prescient when the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a travel shutdown in early 2020.

“Prior to March 2020, 90% of all of our advisory board programs were conducted in person through centrally located eight-to-10 hour meetings,” said Ryan Daufenbach, principal and executive vice president of Interactive Forums. And while many meeting planners chose to hold these hours-long meetings via platforms like Zoom or Webex, Daufenbach already knew there was a better way.

Over-time engagement and the future of advisory boards

“Common virtual platforms...make it difficult to generate the insights our clients need in four-hour live virtual engagements,” he said. “Live, virtual engagements have limitations due to very real human factors including distractions and screen fatigue.” The Within3 platform’s asynchronous capabilities mean that while KOLs can still interact during shorter live web meetings, they can also provide valuable input in over-time meetings that allow them to login at their convenience from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

“Now, KOLs and advisory board participants are enjoying the perks of virtual or asynchronous meetings like more availability in-clinic or family time, thanks to the elimination of travel requirements,” said Daufenbach. “A neurology KOL and MD recently told us that the days of flying to a one-day advisory board are over.”

Daufenbach estimates that his team has completed a dozen or so virtual advisory boards on the Within3 platform with several others currently ongoing or in development. In his estimation, engagement in a post-vaccine world will include a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual meetings. “We may go back to something closer to a 50/50 mix of in-person and virtual advisory boards in the future due to the undisputed importance of in-person relationship building,” he said. “But once those relationships are established, our clients and KOLs have no qualms about synchronous or asynchronous virtual engagements.”

Shifting time investments away from travel

When Interactive Forums added Within3’s capabilities to its offerings, the company couldn’t have foreseen just how critical they would be, or how the ability to engage KOLs via over-time touchpoints would transform insight-gathering and meeting planning. “I believe Within3’s greatest value in terms of functionality is the flexibility it offers advisors to provide their insights at a time that is convenient for them,” said Daufenbach. “It keeps them engaged and gives them the opportunity to provide insight when they are truly thinking without distraction. When they are engaged through the platform, we know they are focused and delivering high-value insights critical to the future of our clients’ work.”

Another key value proposition is the reduction in recruiting and program development time. “Instead of taking three months to find a four-hour window for 10 global thought leaders, we now give them a 10-day window in which they contribute 30 minutes a day, or an hour every other day,” said Daufenbach. “Engagement and insights manifest very quickly.”

A partner platform that builds business

Daufenbach completed Within3’s Virtual Engagement Partner certification training program in Q3 2020. Beyond the potential to increase engagement and insight creation for clients, he also believes that Within3 builds business for Interactive Forums.

“With in-person meetings on hiatus and unlikely to return to the lion’s share of our services anytime soon, the Within3 team and platform enhance our offerings and solutions,” he said. “This increases the value we generate for our clients, ensuring advisory boards exceed their expectations and needs.”

For more information on VEP certification, contact [email protected].