Thought Leader Round Tables – Making the Most of Your Investment

As the healthcare market place gets nosier, and target audience attention spans get shorter, it becomes increasingly important to introduce new products and treatment categories backed by strong, external thought leadership support.  A clearly defined thought leadership strategy begins with identifying those physicians and advocates you most want associated with your brand.  The next step is to convene a dialogue between the company and these individuals – a thought leadership round table is the perfect place to start.

Round tables provide a company with three critical inputs as it works to develop a successful marketing strategy around a new product:

  1. Real time feedback about the product from industry movers and likely early adopters
  2. Live interaction with potential product spokespeople.  Providing perspectives such as
    • How well they articulate themselves
    • Whether they will need Media Training/Coaching
    • How enthusiastic they are about the product
    • How comfortable they are interacting with industry

Of course thought leaders must be willing to serve as spokespeople, and these negotiations should be initiated after their initial participation in a round table

  1. Perceptions, positive and negative, about the product, its price point and  likely impact on a given treatment category

Often it is the negative feedback, or objections to the product that prove most useful to a company that is preparing a marketing public relations plan to educate, inform and drive adoption among physicians and patients alike.

Physicians make adoption decisions first and foremost based on clinical trial data that demonstrates both efficacy and safety for a product.  Also the basis for FDA approval, presentation of this data at a round table session in a transparent manner will drive the dialogue at the beginning of the session.  Physicians must know they are being presented with the whole picture and not a “sliced and diced” view that attempts to minimize, for example, a serious side effect or question of efficacy.

Given the time and resource investment that most companies make in hosting round table events, some core elements must be identified and addressed to ensure successful outcomes.


  • Develop a core theme for each meeting.  For example,
    • Evaluation of product and data
    • Discussion of category and overall market impact
    • Treatment guidelines
    • Potential hurdles to adoption
  • Craft the agenda so that it allows time for in-depth exploration of the chosen topic.  For example, if a company is seeking input on how to shift a treatment paradigm, a long discussion about the safety and efficacy of the data are not necessary
  • Create a thorough participant briefing packet and distribute it to participants in advance of the meeting.  This allows for an upfront question and answer session at the outset of the event to clarify and answer questions and allows the company to quickly get down to the business of the day
  • Invite participants who are truly expert on the topic – and well known for their expertise
  • Define desired meeting outputs and communicate these to participants.  Outputs might include:
    • Physician consensus statement
    • White paper
    • Participation in a follow-on session
  • Do NOT invite media to the event.  The round table forum lends itself to robust discussion that almost always includes positive and negative feedback.  An academic exercise, the round table is no place for reporters who will likely focus their attention on any controversies that arise.


Round tables are events that can effectively help companies target their market approach.  Planned carefully and moderated effectively, they are a critical tool for any successful marketing strategy.