MacDougall Musings

How Biotechs Can Utilize Custom Events to Define and Own an Emerging Therapeutic Area

The MacDougall team brings decades of experience helping leading life sciences companies elevate their communication and connection with key audiences. Your success depends on visibility and credibility with your core audiences, partner with MacDougall to amplify your message and its impact.

The life sciences industry is known for its innovation, with discoveries that often translate to entirely new areas not readily or easily defined by conventional language. Your company may find itself in unchartered waters, whether through addressing a rare disease, modulating a relatively unknown therapeutic target or method-of-action, or forging a new course with novel technology. In moments like this, it may necessitate creating entirely new language and messaging to define that space. Daunting as it may sound, it also presents an opportunity to create buzz for your approach and to build credibility for your company as a leader from the very beginning.

To accomplish this, one of the best tools in your biotech’s communications toolbox is hosting an event that is focused on your approach. Creating a custom event allows your company to drive the narrative for the space and also allows you to cherry pick your ideal roster of participants and attendees. Events such as a scientific symposium, a Research and Development (R&D) Day or a virtual webinar/roundtable are all options to consider. Your company’s stage of development, as well as the desired scope of the event will drive which of these options would be most appropriate.

Scientific Symposium

Symposia are typically half- or full-day events, which can be held in-person, virtually or in a hybrid model. Researchers, clinicians, key opinion leaders (KOLs) and other members of the scientific community involved in a particular field are invited to speak, whether it be about research, challenges or opportunities in the space. Speaking opportunities could be individual presentations, panel discussions or both – followed by prepared remarks and a moderated Q&A. These events also lend themselves to post-event materials such as whitepapers, videos and social media campaigns. Hosting a scientific symposium will help to establish your company’s executives as thought leaders in your specific space while raising attention for the therapeutic area, target or technology that your team is leading innovation in.

R&D Day

R&D Days, which can also be called “investor” or “analyst” days, are typically utilized by public companies to educate the investment community on their story and approach. They share elements of a scientific symposium but are typically briefer (a half-day at most), focusing on the company itself (though the involvement of external KOLs is advantageous) and its financial elements, such as market size, position and opportunity. R&D Days are an opportunity to showcase your company’s management team and establish them as subject matter experts while differentiating yourself from your competitors.


A smaller-scale option to consider is a virtual webinar or roundtable featuring KOLs and representatives from your company. The goals and topics are similar to those of a symposium, but these events are much shorter – typically an hour or two long – and being virtual, the logistics are typically less complex. These events present an opportunity to establish your company’s presence in an emerging area while avoiding the more intensive planning processes that often come with events such as symposia or R&D days.

Hosting a custom event can help your life science company brand an emerging space and establish your position as a leader in the field. While there is flexibility in format and style, each event requires end-to-end event planning support, messaging and content development, KOL and audience outreach, design and creative work. This may sound like a lot – but MacDougall is here to help!

To learn more about recent events we have helped to orchestrate for life sciences companies or if you are interested in hosting such an event, give us a shout!