The Ultimate KOL Networking Guide: Mastering KOL Engagement at Conferences (2023)
Networking is a cornerstone of successful key opinion leader (KOL) engagement. Whether you’re new to your therapy area or firmly established, the art of networking can significantly enhance your KOL relationships.
In this post, we delve into the pivotal role of conference networking in establishing and nurturing meaningful connections with KOLs.
The benefits of KOL networking
Networking plays a pivotal role in KOL engagement for several key reasons:
1. Building Relationships with KOLs
As more interactions with KOLs become virtual, the value of face-to-face interactions has soared. Eye contact, tone of voice, and facial expressions are vital for effective communication.
In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 95% of participants believed that “face-to-face meetings are a key factor in successfully building and maintaining long-term relationships.”
Even in the age of Zoom and Teams meetings, the personal touch remains vital in KOL engagement.
2. The Scientific Community
Conferences are one of the few places where the scientific community in a particular therapy area gathers. They foster a sense of community that goes beyond the presentations.
And, as this article on the importance of social networks and scientific advancement demonstrates, scientific communities and interactions are the bedrock of scientific advancement.
By attending these conferences in person, and networking with KOLs, you become an integral part of the expert network, which is precisely where you need to be for successful KOL engagement.
KOL networking is an excellent way to gain insights into both the disease area and your product. I would argue that the most important benefit of effective KOL engagement is the enhanced knowledge you gain about your product and the therapy area it exists in.
There’s strong evidence to suggest that information is more clearly conveyed and understood through face-to-face interactions than virtually. A meta-analysis by the CIPD found that virtual interactions have lower levels lead to lower levels of trust, and information sharing, and that it was more difficult in virtual interactions for people to reach a consensus.
Networking at conferences is an important way to gain unique insights that only KOLs can provide.
4. Knowing the KOLs
Conversations with KOLs can reveal their approachability, opinions, alignment with your organization, and potential for collaboration on studies or other activities.
Personal interactions are invaluable for gathering crucial information about key KOLs.
It is this crucial information that will help you make crucial KOL engagement decisions about who to approach about particular activities and for particular insight.
Is Face-to-Face KOL Networking Dead?
While the pandemic disrupted traditional conferences, most major events have now adopted a hybrid format, offering both in-person and online attendance. Contrary to expectations, in-person attendance is making a comeback.
For example, ASCO (The American Society of Clinical Oncology) reported that 73% of attendees at their 2022 congress, the first hybrid one following COVID, chose to attend in person.
And why did they choose to attend in person?
Because attending congresses has always been about more than simply seeing the presentations. It has been about networking.
How to Prepare for KOL Networking at Conferences
Before diving into the world of KOL networking at conferences, it’s essential to lay the groundwork:
- Review the congress agenda to identify attending KOLs and relevant talks.
- Align specific objectives with KOLs and plan your interactions accordingly.
- Reach out to KOLs in advance to arrange meetings. Pitching up at a meeting without prior contact may result in missed opportunities.
Effective KOL Networking Strategies
When engaging with KOLs at conferences, employ these strategies for success:
- Connect with both pre-planned and spontaneous KOLs.
- Express genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for presentations you find valuable.
- Prepare specific questions for each KOL.
- Take diligent notes during discussions.
- Reflect on your daily interactions and identify areas where you can gain further insight.
- Share valuable KOL contacts with your colleagues.
In conclusion, networking at conferences remains an essential component of KOL engagement. The excitement and expertise these events offer create invaluable opportunities for building strong, long-lasting relationships with KOLs.
Your enthusiasm for the opportunities to engage with KOLs’ expertise and insight can only improve your key opinion leader networking.