• Susan Cuozzo

Advisory Board Best Practices

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Advisory boards are an essential part of the work we do at S+S{i}. We have worked on advisory boards with medical affairs clients seeking guidance on everything from the direction of their clinical trial programs to insights on potential treatment algorithms. We have partnered with marketing teams looking for honest input on draft communications as well as ideas for clarifying the appropriate patient profile of those most likely to benefit from a specific therapy. Some of the best live advisory boards we have worked on had common elements to help ensure a dynamic meeting with robust output. In this post, we cover some of those best practices.


As the proverb says, timing is everything. A common temptation is to reactively schedule an advisory board with little lead time to ensure that experts could attend and make sure that the other elements are flawless. What is enough time? The answer to this is very subjective.

We have worked with clients as the agency of record with working relationships spanning years. In such instances, we felt comfortable navigating our clients’ internal SOPs and quickly identifying compliant venues. We also had established relationships with external experts very committed to providing input. Of course, the content being discussed and vetted is the whole point of the advisory board meeting – there must be internal alignment on the content. In such cases we have executed advisory boards within 8 weeks.

We have also worked with teams with specific goals throughout the year tied to data and market research availability and proactively planned advisory boards around such milestones. A 12-week or more lead time is ideal to ensure preferred external experts can attend, that content is stellar, and that all stakeholders are aligned. Our logistics partners who work on flights and all of the details for the venue are very appreciative of having more time leading up to the meeting.


Advisory board content deliverables typically include an agenda, slide presentations, a discussion guide, breakout session materials, and an executive summary. The agenda is very important because it is the roadmap for the meeting and often times an invitee decides whether to attend an advisory board based on the agenda. When developing an agenda, our first recommendation is to limit an advisory board meeting to one day. Although it was once standard to have 1.5-day advisory board meetings, advisors have stated they would rather start early and have a working lunch so they could return home promptly.

The agenda should be balanced in terms of presentations and interactivity. Some presentation is needed to ground discussions but should be considered the springboard for breakout sessions so that everyone’s voice is heard. Dynamic breakout sessions that apply adult learning principles keep advisors thinking and engaged. Through these exercises, the discussion organically goes in the desired direction and the discussion guide serves as a fail-safe for some topics that may not have come up.

We have had some new clients who were anxious about having a more experiential advisory board meeting. They were concerned that the advisors would resent standing at flip charts and presenting to their peers. In all cases, we have had the advisor feedback at the conclusion of those meetings emphatically stating they enjoyed the active participation and felt like valued contributors.


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