Top 10 benefits of virtual advisory boards

As the world is slowly starting to open up again, it can be tempting to rush back to the pre-pandemic days of in-person advisory boards. However, it would be foolish to ignore the many pain points associated with traditional key opinion leader (KOL) engagement. In-person advisory boards require finding a time and place that will work with all advisors’ busy schedules. They also force both Pharma representatives and advisors to travel and take time away from their families and/or work. Not to mention the high cost and environmental impact associated with renting a venue, organizing transportation, food, etc. One can also debate just how effective these “one-off” type meetings really are in terms of gathering insights and fostering authentic relationships. How can you create ongoing engagement with someone you only see once a year?

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is the digital transformation of Pharma. Organizations are finally starting to realize that there is another, better way to conduct their meetings and programs. In this article, based on a 2019 Impetus Digital white paper, I share the top 10 benefits (+ a bonus) of virtual advisory boards and why they should be part of every brand’s toolbox in the post-COVID new normal.

In-person advisory boards are important but are associated with multiple pain points

1. Countless Hours of Time-savings and Substantially Reduced Costs

We’ll start with two of the most obvious advantages of virtual advisory boards compared to in-person meetings: time and cost savings.

With shrinking budgets and smaller Pharma cross-functional teams, it is becoming increasingly important to strategically assess how to best allocate funds to specific customer target segments. Most customer universes have increased in size and complexity over the years, as physicians are no longer always the primary decision-makers when it comes to prescribing medications. Administrators, payers, nurses, pharmacists, other allied health professionals, and patient advocates are all playing substantial decision-making roles. Many of our clients are choosing to conduct parallel advisory boards with HCPs from different regions or with different groups of advisors (e.g., patients and doctors, general practitioners and specialists), which can quickly become very expensive and time-consuming if done in person.

By moving your advisory board activities online, for the cost of one in-person meeting, you can reach three times as many customers or engage the same group of advisors four times!

2. Increased Advisor Engagement and Quality and Quantity of Insights

Virtual advisory boards result in higher engagement and quality and quantity of insightsSecondly, online advisory boards have the potential to greatly increase advisor engagement. In fact, we can guarantee engagement rates of 90-100% with asynchronous (over-time) online touchpoints. This is an increase of 30% vs. most in-person consultancy meetings. In addition, virtual advisory boards result in a 60% increase in the quality and quantity of insights collected!

There are many reasons for these results. Importantly, if you showcase new information at a live meeting, you will receive a “knee-jerk” reaction at best. With the ability for an advisor to take 2-3 weeks to process new data and review and respond to their colleagues’ comments, the insights gathered are much more robust. In fact, the average transcript report for a full-day live meeting is 18 pages, whereas a one-hour online touchpoint will result in, on average, a 50-page transcript report.

3. Increased Timeliness to Insight-gathering and Output Delivery

Based on our most recent analysis, virtual advisory boards result in not only substantial increases in the quality and quantity of insights, but also—perhaps somewhat paradoxically—in a 70% increase in the speed to insight collection, project completion, and output delivery

With online advisory boards, you no longer have to wait months to engage advisors if you have an important strategic decision to make. Asynchronous advisory board touchpoints are especially flexible in their timing and duration, as they can be completed whenever and wherever works for each advisor.

4. More Frequent Interactions and Long-lasting KOL Relationships

Another important benefit of online advisory boards is that they allow much more frequent interactions for the same cost as a yearly in-person meeting. By conducting an advisory board touchpoint every couple of months instead of annually, you ensure ongoing interactions and continuously evolving relationships with your KOLs. In turn, you receive a steady stream of high-quality insights over time and build authentic partnerships with these key stakeholders in the process. With closer relationships come trust, honesty, and openness–things that every brand team should strive for in their KOL relationships.

More frequent touchpoint activities are especially useful when dealing with the quickly changing competitive landscape or newly published data. Issues do not normally arise overnight nor are they solved overnight. Ongoing touchpoints allow for rumination of data and timely problem-solving, and the collection of insights occurs in more easily digestible segments. Consequently, this builds a logical story flow that results in better long-term cognition and higher behavioral impact.

5. The Ability to Capture “Tribal Knowledge” and Immediately Build or Act on Insights Collected

Online advisory boards facilitate sharing of tribal knowledgeThe ability to promptly follow up on insights from a previous touchpoint and design future touchpoints based on those insights is unique to online advisory boards. This requires flexibility from all parties as it may result in completely new topics being explored. This is not a bad thing as it shows that you value your KOLs’ input and take their advice seriously.

Further, the ability to capture tribal knowledge is another huge advantage. This is difficult in in-person or real-time web meetings, as there is often just not enough time to dig deeper and since, by definition, the advisors may assume that it is common knowledge already.

6. Far Superior Convenience

Most KOLs have extremely busy work and personal schedules. Even finding a time for a one- or two-hour webinar that works with all advisors’ schedules can be challenging. Accordingly, having the ability to log in and interact with other advisors from anywhere at any time on any device is one of the most important advantages of online advisory boards.

The asynchronous nature of the online touchpoints allows Pharma teams to engage with KOLs in larger geographical areas. There is no longer a need to worry about time zones or language barriers. Non-native English speakers are able to take their time when formulating their responses. They can also leverage automatic language translation features to write and read others’ comments in their preferred language.

7. Everyone Gets a Say

In asynchronous discussion forums, everyone gets equal sayAnother top benefit for the advisors is the fact that everyone’s input is equally valued. In face-to-face meetings, there are often two or three advisors who are louder, more opinionated, or more extroverted. Inadvertently, these individuals may take over the conversation. In addition, most medical professionals are so-called “analyticals” who require time to process new information. Hence, presenting brand-new data during an in-person meeting can often result in knee-jerk reactions. As a result, in-person meetings may not always result in the most comprehensive inclusion of everyone’s opinions on specific issues.

On the other hand, in asynchronous advisory boards, everyone gets an equal say. The extroversion or introversion of an advisor no longer makes a difference, with everyone’s comments and insights valued the same. At the end of the day, everyone benefits from leveling the playing field in this way. This includes the Pharma team, which is now receiving input they otherwise might never have gotten.

8. The Ease and Effectiveness of Sharing Knowledge and Data

Advisors appreciate having clinical data and information for context-setting and reference at the beginning of each online activity. Having the ability to take their time going over these resources ensures a much more thorough understanding of the data.

The advisors themselves can also easily share data, knowledge, and patient cases. Further, they can back up their statements by attaching files and links to journal articles or guidelines. 

9. No More “White Space” Between Live Meetings

Clearly, the benefits of asynchronous advisory boards online are numerous. However, they are not meant to replace web, hybrid, and in-person meetings (once safe again). Although they have lower engagement and attendance rates, face-to-face consultancy meetings serve important purposes too. That said, the “white space” between these interactions is a problem, especially if only held once a year. 

Adding online touchpoints helps increase overall stakeholder reach and interaction frequency throughout the year. Furthermore, they can be used to prepare the advisors for the live meeting by allowing them to get familiar with the data they will be presented so that they can get more involved in the discussion component of the meeting. 

Adding a pre-meeting touchpoint is also invaluable for getting the advisors’ feedback on the most pressing topics to focus on. Changes to the slides, agenda, and workshops can be implemented to respond to the sentiments provided during this pre-meeting touchpoint. Additionally, the meeting slides can capture key insights from the pre-meeting summary report. In turn, this gives your advisors a sense that you truly value their opinions.

After the meeting, a post-meeting touchpoint can be conducted within a few weeks to gather feedback on the meeting itself and to build on the insights collected. This also helps the advisors think back to and reflect on the learnings from the live meeting.

10. Versatility!

Another major advantage of using a virtual platform for all of your stakeholder engagement and collaboration needs is versatility. In addition to advisory boards with HCPs, patients, and payers, comprehensive online platforms such as the Impetus InSite Platform® can be used for countless other applications. These include (but are far from limited to) working groups and steering committees; medical education, training, and speaker programs; “digital offices” and HCP community boards; grant submission and review programs; patient journey mapping and treatment pathway profiling; journal clubs; virtual product launches, and much, much more!

11. (Bonus!) Substantially Reduced Environmental Impact

As I’ve written extensively about in the past, virtual and hybrid meetings are important tools in the fight against the climate crisis. Compared to in-person meetings, the environmental impact of virtual advisory boards is minimal. There is no longer any need to travel, rent a venue, order food, or print agendas and materials. In fact, moving towards a digital-first hybrid approach to meetings and events is an easy but impactful way for life science companies to reduce their environmental footprint.

Still not convinced? Book a demo using the link below to see for yourself!

About Impetus Digital

Impetus Digital helps life science organizations virtualize their in-person meetings and events through our best-in-class InSite Touchpoints™ and InSite Events™ offerings, delivered with white-glove service and 360° coverage and care. Leveraging our large portfolio of cutting-edge online collaboration tools, clients can seamlessly gather insights from, and collaborate with, internal and external stakeholders. To find out more about Impetus Digital, visit our website, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, or book a demo at