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Last night over a glass of wine on our back patio, I gave my wife a glowing report about the LTEN conference (from which I had just returned). And it struck me afresh how upbeat this year’s event truly was.

I mean, it was in Scottsdale, Arizona – so how could things NOT be bright and sunny?

LTEN Scottsdale

I know that the LTEN staff (always great to see Dawn, Christine, Miki, Gregg, Nanette, and Tim!), who worked so hard on the event, were thrilled with the attendance numbers, including a growing number of folks from medical device and other related companies.

LTEN crowd

Board Members and Advisors were actively engaged throughout the week, constantly visible in sessions and on the exhibit floor.

LTEN Board

John Constantine, Corey Padovano, Jim Page

This was John Sjovall’s last conference serving as President, although his imitation of Elton John (LTEN John – get it?) did not put him on a yellow brick road to Vegas for nightclub bookings, we all appreciated his steady leadership over the past two years.

LTEN John Sjovall

This year, I didn’t attend a lot of workshops, instead focusing on networking with individuals on both the client and vendor/partner sides. And that was wonderful. In fact, the main keynote was by Keith Ferrazzi, on the building of community through networking. Keith’s material was solid and very practical – I’m always going to applaud encouragements to build professional networks.

The most creative and interesting workshop that I did attend was put on by the folks at Campbell Alliance Learning Solutions (John Bye and Celeste Mosby) – a very cool board game to teach market access fluency. Some of the talks I attended were too didactic, but this one was full of energy as the various teams worked together to try to figure out where the decision-making power resided in a simulated managed markets setting.

And then there was the conference app – a quantum leap above any other mobile application we’ve had in the past. This one, created by DoubleDutch, encouraged direct person-to-person interaction and easy posting of updates/photos. For years, getting social media integrated into the LTEN conference has been a slow ride, but I think we finally crossed the river this year. Utilization of the app was off the charts!

LTEN SW Jim

The evening social events (Monday and Wednesday nights) were very pleasant and relaxed networking times. Monday was a bit weak on the food side of the spectrum, but Wednesday certainly was not! The Learning Labs (mini sessions in the exhibit hall during lunch hours) seemed to be received quite well; and, for the first time, there were LTEN Excellence Awards, including posters of entries. Nice touch.

Since my Impactiviti business is about matchmaking life sciences companies with optimal vendor/partners, I tend to spend a lot of time on the exhibit floor, interacting with my many vendor friends. Having been on the provider side for many years, I’m acutely sensitive to the mood of our vendor colleagues, and often there have been complaints about how little traffic there is in the exhibit hall. But this year, we seemed to hit an inflection point. The mood among vendors was very upbeat, all week – lots of solid interaction happening. I think the combination of better scheduling (more free time in the hall); a simple and intuitive layout of the facility (exhibit hall centrally positioned and all meeting rooms extremely close); and the lack of “outside” distractions at this particular resort made for a much better community experience. Also, it was a privilege to be able to connect many vendors and clients “live” at the conference, which is always a highlight of my year.

Next year’s event will be held June 13-16 at the Gaylord National D.C. Resort; for our friends in Medical Device and Diagnostics companies, there is a gathering in Chicago this year on October 6-7.

Do you want to stay updated throughout the year on the latest life sciences training news and resources? Subscribe right here to the twice-monthly Impactiviti e-newsletter and get better connected to your community! And call on me at any time for advice on your training needs: asksteve@impactiviti.com

-Steve Woodruff, President, Impactiviti – the eHarmony of Life Sciences Training

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(there is now an addendum at the end of this post – a single question to help you network more effectively with your peers; PLUS a single question for vendors to ask potential clients as they meet/talk with them)

It can be an overwhelming experience to walk into a trade show exhibit hall – so many booths! Wall-to-wall companies! And they all seem to do the same thing!!

Sound familiar?

Some people* even shy away from vendor interaction because the exhibit hall experience can be so overwhelming, and there’s always a sense that you’re a target being sold to.

*(hello, fellow introverts!)

Well, I want to give you one simple tool to cut through the bull and help you find out if a vendor is potentially a right match for you. It’s a straightforward question demanding a straightforward answer. Here it is:

sweetspot
Here’s the thing to understand – vendors are in a dilemma. They’d really prefer to get only the business that’s an optimal “fit” for them, but they feel the pressure to cast a wide net and portray themselves as providers of “this, and that, and the other thing, too.”

Don’t let them. Go directly for the bulls-eye. Gently force each vendor to define their sweet spot with precision. Have them describe the kind of project where their blood pumps fastest. This is also, by the way, where they’ll have the best case studies (follow up by asking for a case study of how/when they did this for another client).

That’s it! With that one question, you can move past the fluff and get to the heart of the matter. And if a vendor insists that they can do 10 things well and they’re the ideal one-stop shop, just smile and move on.

ADDENDUM

>>So, you’re a vendor and you want to go beyond the usual canned question(s) when a potential client walks up (so, what are you looking for? Have you seen our such-and-such?) Here’s what I suggest: break the selling mode by introducing yourself, and then asking, with a sincere heart: “What are your goals for attending this conference, and how can I help you?” Then, be helpful – share your knowledge and advice and contacts. Focus your attention on that person, not on your pitch.

>>As an attendee, sometimes it can be awkward to strike up conversations with your peers. We know the standard questions (so, what do you do? How do you like working at ___company___?) Here’s a different question that I find leads immediately to a deeper level of conversation: “I see that you’re working for ___company___ – can you tell me your 2-minute story? How did you your journey bring you to this position?” Then shut up and listen. Give others a chance to tell their story – it’s always more fascinating than a bare exchange of facts. And it will usually open up a much-longer-than-2-minute discussion!

For my biopharma training clients, I hope to see you at the annual LTEN Conference next week in Phoenix. Want to meet up for coffee or breakfast to brainstorm your vendor needs? Just ping me at stevew@impactiviti.com and we’ll set up a time to meet with you and/or your team!

Additional reading: Conference Effectiveness Training: Don’t Leave Home Without It by Mark Goulston (and including some perspectives from Keith Ferrazzi who will be keynoting at the LTEN conference next week).

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Impactiviti provides vendor-client “matchmaking” services in the life sciences training area. Our business model is built on a unique trusted referral network model.

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First, a provocative thought, just to get you in the mood:

Right?

Anyway, last week, I attended the 6th annual Digital Pharma East conference, put on by the fine folks at ExLPharma.

I think I’ve been to all of them – maybe I missed one? – but it’s pretty interesting to reflect back on what the event looked like a few short years ago. In the earliest years, I decided to live-blog the event, which was unheard-of in the industry. Would my laptop and I get arrested for real-time pharma updates?? Now, just about everyone has a tablet or laptop, and we’re increasingly living this digitally-connected reality that once we were only talking about.

Refreshingly, we finally seem to be past yammering over our Phase 1 Problems (P1P) – whether or not we even should participate in social media; what to do about off-label discussions; can (or should) we even be on Twitter; etc. This year, discussions were more focused on practical doing, and less on regulatory hand-wringing. That’s refreshing.

The event was attended by over 600+ folks – a pretty stellar attendance number – and it ran over 4 days. The first day was pre-event workshops; the next 2 days were the main event; and Thursday was Mobile Day. Chairing the event were two pharma digital veterans, Batman and Robin Shwen Gwee and Marc Monseau (each formerly worked inside pharma companies, both now on the agency side).

I like to give high-level summaries of events like this, so here is my string of thoughts and observations:

1. Digital Pharma East was well-planned and well-run. Bryon, Jayson, Jason, Warren, and the whole team did a solid job organizing, and were constantly circulating to make sure things stayed on track. Kudos to the ExL Pharma group.

Random thought: good food really does help the mood at an event.

2. The exhibit hall was packed with some pretty interesting vendor/providers – and I’m pleased to observe that we’re finally beginning to move from first-generation iPad apps (the one-off approach) to more robust system-level platforms. I have some definite opinions about this, and for pharma/biotech/device companies who are looking to do a digital technology audit and roadmap, I can help you with recommendations (commercial plug for my client-vendor matchmaking service).

Random thought: Having the meals and social events in the exhibit hall is smart. Also, if you’re going to give out water bottles, make really cool ones, like Klick Health did! —>

3. The social media backchannel (Twitter) was quite active during the entire event, with good participation from folks who were not physically present. However, live audience participation was somewhat muted, and this is a matter of concern – part of it, I suspect, was due to the lighting (audience in darkness), but also, we’re simply not effectively incorporating audience interaction strategies. Passive listening joined to a few minutes of Q&A at the end of a talk is so 2005. We need to do better here.

Random thought: Do not put unreadable type on your slides and expect the audience to be OK with it. That transgression lights up the Twitterstream!

4. Sometimes panel discussions can be a bore, but we did have some good ones. Tuesday’s Driving Innovation panel, led by Paul Ivans joined by Peter Justason (Purdue), Joan Mikardos (Sanofi), Melissa Bojorquez (B-I), Joyce Ercolino (CSL Behring), Alison Woo (BMS), and Patricia Choumitsky (UCB) was lively and informative.

Random thought: Along with industry expertise, it’s always nice to have a sprinkling of speakers from outside the industry at any event. New perspectives are generally quite helpful!

5. For me, and I believe for many attendees, the two most striking talks were back-to-back on Wednesday – Sinan Aral took us to school on the topic of Social Networks, Viral Hype and Big Data – Distinguishing Hope from Hype with Science. This was followed by the personable and entertaining James Musick of Genentech with a session on Social Engagement & Brands, talking about a unique digital/social experiment they did exposing people to genetics. Great stuff.

Random thought: It’s always a good idea to have some presenters who know how to have a bit of fun, especially if accompanied with an accent – like John Pugh of Boehringer!

6. Mobile Day was a reinforcement of a message that still seems to be very slowly sinking in – mobile is the new normal, and we are woefully behind as an industry even in the most basic stuff like having mobile-ready public-facing websites. This is truly the low-hanging fruit for digital development in pharma. We had sessions underscoring the tensions between centralized site development (to deal with multiple mobile platforms) vs. platform-specific creativity, and the main message here is that all of these details are still quite in flux. But mobile/smartphones/tablets are going to predominate, and it was refreshing to hear at least one speaker advocate for the approach of developing for mobile FIRST, then worrying about a “desktop” version. In my opinion, that’s the only approach that makes any sense if we understand current trends correctly.

Random thought: Presenting to doctors via iPad is not necessarily intuitive – training is necessary (this is also true of facilitating virtual classrooms, etc. – don’t assume that the same skills carry over!)

7. I did lead one magical session/discussion on The Future of Digital/Social/Pharma/Life, encouraging people to skate to where the puck is going when it comes to our new world of People (24/7 human connectivity), Pockets (mobile), and Pipes (data streams from devices and information stores). I think that many are still not aware that networks of things, information, and people are rapidly converging; and that forces of disintermediation/new-intermediation are changing our culture wholesale in ways that will totally re-shape business.

Random thought: Photoshop can make any presenter into a plasma-tossing superhero!

Reconnecting with old long-standing friends (like Wendy Blackburn, Kerri Sparling, John Mack (OK, he’s old), Chris Truelove, Zoe Dunn, Carly Kuper, and Jay Bryant is always a highlight of this conference; as is the opportunity to make new connections. I always look forward to this event and may even venture out to the West Coast next year for Digital Pharma West. Philadelphia is OK and all, but San Francisco + Digital stuff? C’mon…

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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I’ll be attending two pharma-focused conferences during the autumn months of 2012 (both in Philadelphia) – hope to see many of you there!

ePatient Connections has become one of my favorite annual events. I love the mix of speakers, and the emphasis on healthcare from the patient (not merely industry) perspective. Great lineup of presenters as usual, including Mark Bard, Kevin Kruse, Arnie Friede, Carly Kuper, Kerri Sparling, and many others. More information can be found here.

Digital Pharma East is a wonderful gathering of everything tech/digital/mobile in the pharma and healthcare world. I really like the fact that there is a dedicated mobile day on the 18th. This is a great event for learning and networking! More information here.

Both of these events are put on by the fine folks at exl Pharma.

ALSO – on November 8th, I’ll be presenting (in conjunction with the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) a one-day Successful Vendor Management workshop, in Florham Park, NJ. If there’s one area that seems to be consistently left out of on-boarding training for managers (training, marketing, & communications), it’s how to spec out and manage a project, and how to select and manage outsource vendors. We’ll be covering all of that in a practical and actionable manner during this well-received workshop – please join us! More information and registration here.

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors through our unique trusted referral network. Need something? Ask Steve.

Learn more about us here.

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Last week, I had the privilege of once again attending the Digital Pharma East conference (put on by my friends at ExL Pharma). I have attended most or all of these annual events in past years, and have enjoyed watching it grow and morph. Grow it has – this time there were about 600 attendees, and a very full exhibit hall! Kudos to the team (Bryon Main, Jason Youner, Jayson Mercado) and  the two co-chairs (Marc Monseau and Shwen Gwee) for an exceptional job organizing and running the show.

When covering these events, I tend to give immediate, real-time impressions and factoids via my @Impactiviti twitter account, then after a few days reflection, write up a blog post giving higher-level observations and thoughts. This post is that!

1. The Mobile Bandwagon – The exhibit hall was filled with companies showing off mobile tech, and one entire extra conference day was dedicated to mobile. As well it should be – mobile is rapidly becoming the new normal. Frighteningly, we saw plenty of statistics showing how woefully behind the 8-ball many pharma (and other) companies are in having even their basic web sites mobile-optimized – let alone having a well-thought out mobile strategy. The awareness that mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are rapidly moving into first-screen status simply has not sunk into the place where practical implementation is being done. That will change!! (note to pharma clients and vendors – this is the lowest-hanging fruit imaginable).

2. Mobile is huge – The adoption rate of mobile devices among doctors (especially iPhones and iPads) is breathtaking. These devices are being integrated increasingly into the healthcare delivery chain. Pharma companies are (or should be) looking for ways to add value and provide service outside of merely peddling drugs. Get some innovative thinkers working on mobile approaches – not mere e-detailing or e-signature apps, but whole new ways of providing information and connectivity among patients, healthcare professionals, and industry. This will happen and is happening via mobile – be part of it or be left out of the equation (hint: you don’t want to do that).

3. Compliance and mobile – Not only is mobile-optimization a far easier task to tackle than thorny culture-shift issues like social media, but it may even become a regulatory issue. Did you know that information optimized for a standard website may not show up properly on a mobile device? It’s not hard to foresee a time in the near future when digital information presentation has to be vetted for fair balance, accuracy, etc. across platforms.

4. Sales forces are going to go mobile. And, most exciting to me, I’ve been in contact with a company that reached out to me after I wrote this post in August about having an intelligent “middle layer” engine to make sense of iPad apps/deployments in pharma. They showed me last week what they’ve developed, and I am very encouraged…if you’re looking at deploying iPads to the field, we should talk! Maybe we can keep you from the iPad “freaking mess” I described in that post…

OK, have I made my point? MOBILE IS HUGE! Now, we did discuss many other digital initiatives at the conference, including social media and the like, but I really want to highlight the lowest-hanging fruit that will have the most near-term impact. And that’s mobile. Mobile is not simply “another channel.” It’s the new normal.

Now, onto two other observations – categorize these under “soapbox ramblings”:

– A lot of folks still don’t effectively engage the audience when presenting. We really need to improve. Please read this post and apply as needed. I know we can do better. Some of the presenters, however, were outstanding (including Olivier Zitoun, Aaron Blackledge, and Seth Perlman – I’m sure there were others but I couldn’t be in every track!)

– As these conferences get larger, it’s increasingly difficult to foster an environment of open sharing and discussion. I did lead one “unconference” session, which was quite lively (and could have gone on for much longer – we were just getting warmed up!). Over the past 18 months, I fear that we’re starting to slip back in our more cutting-edge pharma events into the old default mode of up-front presenter and passive audience. We’ve got to pro-actively design sessions to maximize engagement way beyond the old, “I think we have 5 minutes left for questions…” mode.

Oh, and for those who care about such things: Shwen Gwee and I finally found our Texas-style BBQ “home” in Philly. It’s called Percy Street BBQ. Highly recommended!

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about us here.

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Each year, I select a few pharma-oriented conferences to attend – sometimes as a blogging journalist, other times as a speaker/facilitator.

Here’s where I’ll be this fall:

September 20-21, 2011ePatient Connections (Philly)

One of my annual favorites, bringing people from the pharma/healthcare industry together with engaged, on-line patients. Always a high-quality production. (Tweetup on evening of the 20th)

>—<

This conference will be preceded by:

September 19, 2011SXSH Social Health (unconference format) (Philly)

The top names in healthcare social media. Great times of interaction in a more intimate setting. (Tweetup on evening of the 19th)

>—<

October 17-20, 2011Digital Pharma East (Philly)

I attend this one every year, and it keeps getting better. This is THE fall conference for pharma eMarketing.

>—<

November 2-3, 2011Digital Innovation in Pharma Summit (Boston)

Another long-standing conference, with an outstanding lineup.

I’ll also be speaking at Social Media Masters in NYC, on September 23rd (topic: Trend Currents in Social Media).

Let me know which ones you’ll be attending so we can meet up!

Recent Impactiviti posts:

What are You Outsourcing?

Are You in Compliance?

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Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.

Learn more about our free services here

_________

Sign up for the Impactiviti Connection weekly e-newsletter (see sample), chock full of news and resources for pharmaceutical professional

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Last week, I had the privilege of taking part in the annual SPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) Conference (Orlando this year – but next year, New Orleans!)

My review will consist of scattered thoughts on topics that stood out to me. So, here we go…

Facility: we were housed at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. The place was humongous, with a great variety of restaurants and bars, and capacity to accommodate multiple events easily. It is more of a corporate destination than a family resort, but if you do like golf and poolside lounging – well, you’ve got that big time at the Creek. Plus, my reserved room wasn’t ready upon check-in so I got upgraded to an executive suite. No, I did NOT argue – especially since my bride of 30 years came down for a few days afterward and we got to remain in the suite (thanks, front desk folks)!

Did you know that Orlando’s Shingle Creek is the headwaters for the Everglades? Neither did I.

Organization: I will make a prediction right now: next year’s SPBT event – and all that leads up to it – will be very different from what we’ve seen in the past! We’ve had some transition during 2010/2011 and I think that new directions being set by Managing Director Kevin Kruse, President Mike Capaldi, and others will be very exciting. This year’s show seemed quite well-organized, and it was good to see Scott Sauve, Christine Gaudet, and Miki St. Clair (among others) actively making things run smoothly. There’s a lot of fresh thinking going on behind the scenes. Stay tuned!

Exhibit Hall: This year, the facility layout allowed the exhibit area to be right next to the main ballrooms, plus all the workshop rooms were in easy walking distance. We’ve had some difficulties with layout in past years but this event was optimal for creating booth traffic. Booths continue to be more modest in size compared to some of the go-go growth years. And, as expected, there were lots of iPads about, with various proto-apps being shown. I maintain that iPad development will be one of the few bright spots in training development over the next two years.

It was great to see my pals from Advantage Performance Group exhibiting for the first time at SPBT!

Keynotes: Dan Pink, author of the book Drive (among others), was fabulous. And while it was good to hear directly from Jim Lovell (of Apollo 13 fame – a wonderful milestone in our space program), his talk was little more than a re-telling of the tale you saw in the movie by Tom Hanks. Yes, it’s an inspirational story, but to be perfectly honest, there was nothing in the keynote that was particularly new, instructive, or actionable. It may seem heretical to say it, but I was kind of disappointed.

Workshops: As always, a mix of really good and maybe-not-so-great. Of course, I was only able to attend a handful among the dozens offered. Some of the workshop rooms were too small (upstairs), while some of the downstairs rooms had 35-foot ceilings that swallowed up the speakers and acoustics. For people in the sales training business (both client and vendor side), I’m still perplexed by how many don’t create immediate audience engagement through skillful storytelling; and there is still far too much Powerpoint-as-data-delivery-device going on. Sigh. (note: Brian Lange’s session on Rock Star Openings was a great example of audience engagement and actionable info – I actually made changes to my next-day workshop on Advancing your Career Through Social Media based on Brian’s content!)

Social Media: There is slow uptake of social networking among pharma professionals, and still plenty of hesitation as evidenced by the attendee input during my workshop. The Social Media Shack in the exhibit hall did have some visitors, however, and some folks got started on Twitter during the conference. The good news is that much of the new leadership “gets” social media and is helping to raise the profile of digital networking. I put up a link with some networking resources, including an updated e-book on getting started with social networking, as a follow-up. SPBT on Twitter, by the way, is @spbt_tweets.

Networking: The great value of SPBT for me is the networking, with colleagues new and old. It was absolutely non-stop this year, including two very enjoyable dinners out (thanks to my friends at Verilogue, and Yukon Group). After about 15 years of rubbing shoulders with him at SPBT gatherings, I got to have an in-depth talk with Jim Trunick (Allergan) during one of those evenings and was delighted to see how the passion to excel still burns bright in him.

Our industry is in transition, and SPBT is in transition as well. I’m looking forward to seeing where some new ideas and approaches take the organization in the coming years. Can’t wait for New Orleans in 2012 (though Orlando sunsets are hard to beat)!

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