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On the MSL Society’s recent MSL Insights Weekly Show, Dr. Samuel Dyer and his guests Linda Traylor, VP of Clinical Development and Medical Affairs at Biodesix Inc., and Marc Taylor, Executive Client Director at H1 discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by MSLs conducting speaker training during the COVID-19 pandemic. As both MSLs and KOLs adjust to presenting in a virtual environment, Dr. Dyer and his guests shared their best practices on what to do and what not to do when presenting to an audience through a camera. The entire show can be heard here and the key takeaways from the show are summarized below.

If you appreciate my summary, do let me know. Enjoy!


MSLs need to help KOLs use technology effectively and efficiently

  • It would be unwise to assume that all KOLs will transition seamlessly to a virtual environment but with preparation and practice, MSLs can bring real value to their speakers. Whenever possible, MSLs should request KOL run-throughs or practice sessions so that they and the company know the sound and visual quality is strong, the background is appropriate, etc.
  • The panelists shared their tips from their own experience for tackling technological hurdles (see below graphic). 


The presentation content and delivery might have to change

  • If a KOL wants to stay on the speaker circuit, they may need to be more polished than they might have been with a live audience. There are a few things to keep in mind.
  • Consider updating the content and slides to be more engaging in a virtual setting.
  • Modernize the language and use contemporary vernacular wherever it’s appropriate.
  • The presentations may need to be shorter.
  • If using a pre-recorded talk, make sure it is no longer than 10 minutes long or you will lose your audience.


In the virtual environment, speaker training goes beyond providing a fair and balanced look at the data.


Some of the most dynamic speakers in front of a live audience may not be the best speakers in a virtual environment

  • In the virtual setting the speaker may be faced with a broader audience geographically, by specialty, expertise, or otherwise. The MSL can help the speaker prepare and adapt to this change.
  • Speakers should expect some level of audience inattentiveness. Without live audience feedback, MSLs and speakers need to identify creative ways to keep the audience engaged. Evolving technology is making this more possible all the time. For example, real-time surveys can help keep the audience engaged while providing interesting data and can double as a measure for audience attentiveness.
  • Typical session openers such as “how is everybody doing” will not work the same way in a virtual meeting. Um, ah, like, right, and other dysfluencies will be more obvious and exaggerated in a virtual session than in a front of a live audience. Practice with the speaker ahead of time to help capture the audience’s attention at the start of the session and maintain the flow throughout.
  • Stop apologizing for the mute / unmute blunders and just get on with the presentation.


 Practical tips for success

  • Practice the technology with the speaker: passing over control of the slides, advancing slides, muting, unmuting, asking questions, etc.
  • Expect the unexpected and have a plan: have a tech backup ready to go.
  • Run through the data and the slides as you would for a live event.
  • The most successful speakers and MSLs prepare for all the little things that could go wrong.



  1. All information is summarized from the Medical Science Liaison Society’s MSL Insights Weekly Show on the topic of ” The Evolution of KOL Speaker Training in the New Virtual World,” which aired on September 4, 2020. (   
  2. Images courtesy of



Darina Frieder, B.Sc., Ph.D. – Founder and Writer at Science Nerd for Hire

Darina Frieder is an experienced Medical Affairs professional and is currently a Medical Science Liaison at UCB Pharma. She also runs her own medical writing business, Science Nerd for Hire. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, 2 kids, and 1 temperamental cat. She is passionate about many things, a few of which are gardening, creating delicious meals for family and friends, and reading as many books as she can.