A dive into the intricacies of how to ensure a long-running event stays fresh and relevant to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry.
From April 16-18, the 24th edition of LogiPharma Europe takes place at the Centre de Congrès de Lyon in France. It represents the seventh time I’ve put together the conference agenda—a year-round process that brings together 250 speakers from across the pharmaceutical industry to share their knowledge and insight with 1,500 delegates. Just as it was in 2023, Pharma Commerce will be a media recording partner at the event.
The constant challenge is to make sure that each year’s program is better than the one before, providing the community with fresh, relevant information that will help them to make better decisions in this fast-moving and consequential sector.
Surveying the landscape
The process begins by taking stock on the conference that has just finished. Even before the dust has settled, we are analyzing key takeaways, both positive and negative. This is quickly supported by a post-show survey sent to all speakers, sponsors, and delegates.
Some of this intel is useful operationally, to help us improve the full visitor experience. We get feedback on everything from the evening entertainment to the temperature in the halls.
However, the real value lies in understanding the community’s priorities. What topics have they seen elsewhere that we should cover? What topics aren’t they seeing being addressed anywhere? The survey provides a useful base level for what’s trending, but to convert this into a fully functional, multi-track agenda for a three-day event, a lot more evidence is needed.
A little more conversation
For three months, I run a series of research conversations with stakeholders from across the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors. I need to dig down into the detail and understand empirically what the hot topics are today.
In the early days of LogiPharma, this was relatively straightforward as the event’s scope was confined to logistics. However, we’ve grown organically to cover the full end-to-end supply chain, so the remit extends from pharmaceutical companies and logistics providers, to clinical trials specialists and medical device manufacturers. So, these days, I typically have around 200 conversations.
I start each interview by casting the net wide, so they can tell me what is at the top of their priority list 12-24 months ahead. What are the biggest opportunities? What challenges keep them up at night? Their initial answers will dictate a lot of the agenda, because if one can understand the top three priorities from 200 people, one can also get a picture of what the industry as a whole is experiencing.
What’s crucial is to get the right mix of people. I’ve learned over the years that this requires more nuance that just looking at job titles. While two people acting as “VP of Supply Chain” will have common challenges, if one works for a biotech start-up and the other for a major global pharma player, the way they manage these challenges will be radically different.
So, I use my trusty Excel spreadsheet to make sure I cover everyone—another reason why I speak to several hundred different people. As well as past delegates or speakers, my list includes various sponsors or solutions providers who tend to work across the value chain and therefore have lots of insight. The same is true of consultancies.
Primarily, I’m acting as a sponge to soak up information and that editorial neutrality is helpful in finding good speakers to invite. After all, if multiple companies are speaking about the same competitor or individual, you know they have something interesting to talk about.
Setting the agenda
After a full 12 weeks or so of interviews, I’m ready to crawl into my cave, shut the door, and read through my notes. The first thing I’m looking for are the topics with universal reach. When everybody from manager level up to C-suite is mentioning a certain subject, you can pretty much guarantee that themes will draw the big crowds to the plenary sessions in the main hall.
At the same time though, I’m also looking for those topics which might be mentioned less, but make up for quantity with the importance attached to them. It is from these topics that I will draw up the tracks.
The next big decision is whether a particular subject warrants a single speaker, or something more interactive like a panel session. If technologies, therapies, or processes are mature enough, I'm generally able to find and engage with supply chain leaders keen to deliver a case study, either from interview recommendations or desk research—but often, it’s just as valuable to bring together various experts on a subject for a debate. Either approach works well, as one offers breadth and the other gives depth, but what matters is to have a good mix over the three days.
Another factor is to balance what’s driving the industry “here and now,” and what’s coming down the pipeline, as we want to be ahead of the curve in terms of future trends. Consider cell & gene therapy (CGT). When I built my first agenda for LogiPharma, there were zero CGTs commercially available and it was a big deal for the community when we had the industry's first dedicated case studies from Novartis on supply chain network design for Kymriah, or Kite Pharma's Yescarta EU supply chain launch. In 2024, it’s one of the fastest growing areas in pharma, and we’re devoting more time than ever to CGT.
Getting the right advice
I’m fortunate to have an invaluable resource in the LogiPharma Advisory Board, made up of 10 experts from across the sector. Essentially, it’s a distilled encapsulation of the wider LogiPharma community.
As such, it is a superb sounding board, whose members are very generous with their time and honest in their opinions, helping me to refine the agenda and steer the event in the right direction.
Inevitably, there will be unforeseen obstacles before reaching success. With 250 speakers, we’re bound to lose one or two in the run-up to the show, due to illness or sudden work commitments, but we have plenty of contingency plans in place, including a hard-working team to run around during those past few weeks and fix anything else.
But one thing I can always bank on is the caliber of the speakers. We’re always looking for experienced, authoritative voices, and as a rule, this means they’re very good in front of a crowd.
After all, in their daily working lives, they might be responsible for thousands of people and multi-million-dollar budgets, which generally means they're also personable, persuasive, and passionate orators.
To download the 2024 agenda, visit https://logipharmaeu.wbresearch.com/landing/logipharma-agenda-email.
About the Author
Will Robinson is the commercial director of LogiPharma.