An Acceptance Rate is simply the percentage of meeting requests which are accepted at a given conference.
At Lacerta Bio, we have been tracking Acceptance Rates for conferences since 2011. We track it for every conference at the corporate level, and also at the client level.
But why bother?
Daily Planning – Using historical data, we have a very good sense as to what our Acceptance Rate will be for an upcoming conference.
For example, for BIO Europe in November, we can estimate that our Acceptance Rate will be between 25%-30%. If our goal is 40 meetings, then we know in advance that we need to send out ~150 meeting invitations to fill our dance card.
Knowing this number, we now know how many meeting invitations to send out per day in the weeks prior to the conference. This is a critical number to know, as it helps schedule our time intelligently.
Performance Tracking – Did you ever wonder if your outbound meeting invitation text is effective? Tracking Acceptance Rate is one way to measure and compare invitation text.
While copy/paste text is a good starting point for sending meeting invitations, we strongly encourage the customization of each and every outbound meeting invitation.
Customization alone can greatly improve the number of meetings accepted, especially if you are a service provider.
Reporting – As a service provider, we provide our clients with detailed reports on our activities at conferences. Acceptance, No Response, and Decline data are an important (but incomplete) component for us to gauge industry interest in whatever assets we are out-licensing, especially when the Decline responses are detailed.
What is a “good” acceptance rate?
That depends on your company, your offering, and the conference itself.
Companies – Generally speaking, service providers will have much lower acceptance rates compared to small companies with assets available for licensing in popular therapeutic areas and indications.
Single-digit acceptance rates for service providers are typical. But, they can be improved through customization and more effective targeting.
Your Offering – Having an asset which matches what Big Pharma is looking for is the ideal situation, and the Acceptance Rates can reflect that. In this situation, a small company may only have 5 meetings at a large conference, but those 5 meetings could be with large, multinational companies who are eager to execute licensing transactions.
So the right fit could result in few meetings, but an astronomical Acceptance Rate.
Similarly, companies looking to in-license, acquire, or invest in assets or companies will have difficulty finding open slots in their schedule due to high acceptance rates (driven, in part, by a large number of incoming meeting requests).
Indeed, we have observed that in years when we are in-licensing assets on behalf of clients, we can achieve Acceptance Rates approaching 40% at BIO and BIO-Europe, but only 18-20% when trying to meet with Seed/Series A investors at the Biotech Showcase.
Conference Differences – Different conferences have different attendee mixes. As a result, they have different acceptance rates. For example the Biotech Showcase in January tends to be more investor focused.
Companies looking to out-license assets to multinational pharmaceutical companies can expect lower than average acceptance rates at the Biotech Showcase, but relatively higher ones at BIO.
The Biotech Showcase does have the added complexity of being one of multiple simultaneous conferences taking place. So a low Acceptance Rate at the Biotech Showcase does not necessarily mean it was a poor week in San Francisco if a number of other meetings were held that week.
A similar dynamic is taking place this year in San Diego, with RESI and BIO partnering overlapping on Monday afternoon.
Smaller conferences, like Biopharma America, can be unpredictable. It really depends on the local mix of attendees. For instance, high levels of investor attendees could cause a very low Acceptance Rate if you are seeing licensing partners.
Tips for Improving your Acceptance Rate
An improved acceptance rate means you spend your time either with more meetings, or with fewer, but more focused (higher quality) meetings. Either or both of these outcomes is good, depending on your business and your conference objectives.
Fewer meetings allows more time for on-site seminars, sightseeing, or an earlier flight back home.
So how can you improve your Acceptance Rate?
Customize – There are two facets to outbound meeting request customization that are important. The first is remembering that you are meeting with a person, not a company.
Thus, any references to past meetings (formal or informal) and mutual connections can only help your cause.
The second is to use “keywords,” especially when trying to meet with a large company. Inbound meeting requests are sometimes scanned by administrative assistants before being accepted or further processed by in-licensing scouts.
So it is critical to ensure that your messages match the language used by the prospective meeting counterpart.
Copy/Paste The Right Way – We have no problem with crafting some text to be used in every outbound meeting invitation. But the standard text should be the starting point of a customized meeting invitation, not the end.
Living in this click bait environment that we do, it is becoming increasingly easy for us to spot copy/paste text.
Yes, it will take more time to arrange meetings at conferences by customizing every message. This is why starting early is so important.
If a lack of time is the issue, then this activity can be outsourced to someone who knows what they are doing.
Note that because customization is so important, having administrative staff arrange meetings is not a good approach.
Start Early – If your goal is 40 meetings, with a 20-25% acceptance rate, you are looking at sending out ~150-200 meeting requests. Assuming each one is customized, sending 5-10 per day will still require a month of work.
This is precisely why it is so important to start sending out meeting invitations as soon as the partnering system opens. Starting early also improves your Acceptance Rate by having your meeting accepted before the counterpart’s calendar is full.
Remember, just because you have availability for 40 meetings does not mean that your counterparts also have similar levels of availability.
Pick Conferences Wisely – Not every conference will be a fit. There is an argument to be made that BIO is a “most attend” given its size. Similarly, BIO Europe in the Fall is the largest partnering conference in Europe. But if meeting with investors is your focus, are these the right conferences for you? Maybe. Maybe not. Plan accordingly.
So what do I do now?
Even with BIO coming up fast, some of these ideas can be incorporated immediately. Certainly the copy/past/send nonsense can stop immediately. However, with two weeks to go, calendars are largely filled by now.
However, there are always companies who register late. Sorting by “Modification Date” and targeting accordingly could result in a flurry of scheduled meetings.
Looking ahead to BIO Europe in November, for example, it is wise to start planning well in advance. Core text for outbound messages should be prepared by September 1, ready for partnering to open in mid-late September.
Lastly, start gathering these and related data for each conference. Getting into the habit of tracking Acceptances on a daily basis during the run up to a conference. Then, review the data over time and make adjustments accordingly.