How to make medical meetings equitable for international attendees

Because of the strict regulations that govern them -- both in the United States and abroad -- medical meetings are among the most challenging type of event to plan.

Of all the rules impacting them, perhaps the most challenging are those having to do with food and beverage, like Open Payments rules, according to Successful Meetings Senior Editor Leo Jakobson, who says such rules are especially difficult when planning a meeting that will host both domestic and international attendees.

"The biggest hurdle medical meeting planners face is the food-and-beverage maximums that each pharmaceutical firm has determined meets the Open Payments rules' vague standards on what is a 'reasonable' cap on meal prices," Jakobson says. "Then add in the fact that many other countries' versions of Open Payments do set hard price caps -- often very low by U.S. standards -- and you've got a recipe for confusion and some awkward situations."

Treating two delegates differently based on their country of origin -- giving one a steak, for instance, and the other a sandwich -- can leave a bad taste in attendees' mouth. The mantra for planners of global medical meetings, therefore, should be: Treat everyone equal.

Concludes Jakobson: "Giving the example of a meeting on which the meal cap for U.S. doctors is $125, but the German attendees are maxed at $60 by law, [medical meeting planner Chelsea Rowe] says, 'My advice is just take the lowest common denominator, put everyone on Germany's limitations, so that the experience is the same, the quality is the same.'"

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