Advisory Boards Can Be Fun. Really.

Advisory board members are like everyone else ⎯ they’re better engaged when they’re having a good time. Sometimes, the material being covered is enough to make it fun ⎯ we’d love to read the minutes from the first Viagra advisory board meeting ⎯ but in most cases, it’s up to you, the organizers, to set a positive tone.

Ice Breakers

The first interaction with your full board should be memorable. It should involve everyone and get everyone doing as opposed to observing. One of the best was a game of relevant charades. A board member came up with that on the spot and everyone immediately bought in. Within 15 minutes, we were busting our guts laughing with each other (you try acting out “increased lipid levels”), and the good mood carried through for the next eight-and-a-half months.

Now, what about in an asynchronous environment like on the Impetus InSite Platform® where you don’t have the benefit of proximity? In other words, how do you handle a virtual icebreaker?

One particularly creative approach was to publish a very short joke set-up and ask the members to come up with a punch line. The submissions were added to the thread for everyone to vote on and some of them were hysterical. One of the regulars on our circuit is known as OS (pronounced “Auss”), which stands for off-side.


This is a term being tossed around everywhere these days ⎯ it’s the idea of turning an experience into a competition that people can have fun participating in.

Advisory board activities are actually quite the perfect gamification environment for a few reasons: (a) everybody’s working towards the same goal; (b) there are regular activities that need to be completed; and (c) there’s already a natural element of competition built into medical science ⎯ think about how important “first-to-publish” is in our business.

The simplest way to bring an element of gamesmanship to your advisory board is to create a simple leaderboard and identify how your members get points. Maybe it’s one point for every comment they leave on your online portal and two points if someone responds to their comment?

Of course, the points can’t translate into anything of tangible value (as per industry rules) so you have to get creative with the prizes. One board, we worked on gave the winners first choice of seat at the upcoming live meeting. It’s a little thing, but they made a big deal of it when the time came and it was all kinds of fun.

Easter Eggs

My nephews are big video gamers, and they’re always talking about Easter eggs ⎯ unexpected surprises they find along the way as they play the game. You can do the same thing with the material you provide your board members. One especially creative client we worked with decided to deliver all her opinions on the research she was providing in the sonnet form. Here’s how she started it off:

We came together last in New York City.
To toss a few ideas at the wall.
When we adjourned the outcome wasn’t pretty.
And any learnings made were rather small.

We all went home and never gave a thought,
To surfaces we may have scratched while meeting
We came to think that possibly we ought
To find a way to talk that wasn’t fleeting.

T’was then the Impetus team was there with InSite
A way for boards to meet and work online
Longitudinal Expert Engagement Plan™ followed just right
And then I knew that all would be just fine.

Today our board’s the strongest one I know.
Because our thoughts now have a place to go.

This led her right into the Impetus demo. Actually, it was the nicest introduction we’ve ever received.

Bottom line’s this: the more enjoyable you can make your members’ experience, the more likely they are to want to remain on your board, which will only make it stronger.