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Well, that was fun.

DFDidn’t I tell you Nashville was a pretty awesome city? And, judging from the smiles on many faces during last week’s LTEN Conference, I think we all had a good time.

In fact, I’ll be selfish here and put in my vote that we do this conference every year in Music City!

As David Fortanbary put it in his brief tutorial on southern-speak, hopefully we all got “afar” (a fire) lit under us to fuel the rest of this year’s training activities.

OLandThe venue, Gaylord Opryland (more a self-contained city than a hotel!), was quite a source of amazement, and I heard regular references to people “getting their steps in” each day without really trying. Not that the exercise was going to reduce any waistlines, because the eating in Nashville – well, if you were there, you know.

There was music, of course – lots of it. And, there was the largest attendance in LTEN history. So all the ingredients were in place for a fantastic conference experience.

S and A

This year, we had three inspirational keynotes – each of them moving in their own way. Melissa Stockwell (Army veteran, Paralympian, and unabashed patriot) told her story about overcoming disability – actually, pushing forward to exceptional victories – after losing a leg to an IED attack in Iraq.

MelissaS

Filmmaker and funnyman Eric Saperston gave a fascinating account of his shoestring voyage across the U.S. in an old VW bus, interviewing successful people and sharing lessons along the way. My favorite quote from him, about his schooling achievements: “I was in the half of the class that made the top half possible.” :>)

EricS

Personally, I was most fascinated by the thought-provoking message of Frank Barrett, who shared vital life lessons that can be extracted from the world of jazz music. As someone who tends to stick to the sheet music, his perspective on learning to improvise, and allow our competency to rise to the surface in a free-flowing environment, was refreshing and challenging.

F barr

This year, I want to far fewer workshop sessions than usual – much of my time was spent in one-on-one interactions with both clients and vendor/partners. But I thoroughly enjoyed what the group from Merck (Jennifer Iannetta, Carla Buono, Tyrus Barker, Alina Tudor) presented about their evolving trainer on-boarding program – a topic that is a deep concern of my own.

Merck

(in fact, it’s such a concern that I released this video just before the conference. Take 90 seconds and let’s see if we can eliminate Training Project Malpractice!)

There were a number of sessions on global training, a topic of growing concern that I’m glad is being addressed:

GlobalPanel

(pictured here: Chris Platanos of Alexion; Lindsay Kirsch; Alison Quinn of BMS; Trey Morton of J&J; Jamie Capistrant of Smiths Medical)

A JusticeOn the last day of the conference the popular 15-minute LTEN talks were a great way to wrap up the speaking portion, with excellent and provocative addresses by Will Thalheimer, Rob Toomey, Mark Hood, and Angela Justice (pictured here) who heads up Learning at Biogen.

What about the networking and social events? Excellent, of course. Plenty of good southern food and drink. And lots of time to mingle, including extended times in the exhibit area (aka Learning Village).

There was a great collection of vendor partners in the exhibit hall and, by and large, the feedback I was getting throughout the conference was positive regarding the foot traffic, and the quality of the interactions.

Exhib

The conference mobile app was well-utilized once again this year, and Mary Myers of Bayer (current President of LTEN) was ever present in the social stream, even when trying to catch dollar bills at the Red Nucleus booth:

ConfApp

Congratulations to all those individuals and teams that won LTEN Excellence awards – there was a record-setting number of entries and, here on the LTEN website, is the list of winners and a couple of great pictures.

This was my 21st LTEN conference, and one of my favorite aspects is the face-to-face renewal of ties with so many quality professionals who have been in the industry for years. I love brainstorming (and joking around) with the many deeply-experienced vendors who work so hard to provide quality training for our clients. And getting to introduce people to each other is one of my favorite activities throughout the year, but especially at the conference.

vets LTEN

(pictured: David Purdy, Garry O’Grady, Sue Iannone, Derek Lundsten, Pam Marinko)

Let’s see, what else? Well, the LTEN staff did a marvelous job orchestrating the event once again. The Best Hugs award definitely goes to Miki White, because – well, she gives awesome hugs (and we hug a lot here in Nashville…). Some of the attendees had the opportunity to go downtown and experience Predator madness, as hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs were occurring alongside our conference dates. I saw plenty of uploaded pictures of people enjoying Nashville’s lively spread of honky-tonks and restaurants, and I heard more than a few amazed expressions about how friendly everybody is around here.

So, I hope all y’all come back soon. Next year we’re in Phoenix again, but let’s not wait so long to do this again here in Music City!

P.S. LTEN has posted a nice 4-minute video summary of the conference on YouTube – don’t miss it!


Impactiviti helps fix all levels of “malpractice” between life sciences trainers and outsource vendors. From providing targeted vendor recommendations, to the unique on-demand Best Practices in Project and Vendor Management workshop, Impactiviti has been the go-to resource in this industry for over 11 years. Steve Woodruff is known as the unofficial Mayor of LTEN.

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If you’re attending the 2017 LTEN Conference in Nashville next week, I have some downloads to suggest to you to make your visit even more productive!

(and, I want to say “hi” while you’re there – scroll down to find out how!)

  1. You definitely want to download the LTEN Conference app – this is your key to on-the-spot updates and networking. Best way to maximize your time at the conference – here are all the directions.
  2. The Gaylord Opryland complex is massive, but you can now use your mobile device to navigate around so you don’t get lost. Here’s the link to Gaylord’s Wayfinding app.
  3. LTEN has launched a SocialLink platform for your networking use year-round. If you’re an LTEN member, login at the l-ten.org website, and go here – sign up at LTEN SocialLink (under Community)
  4. There’s a lot to see and do here in Music City, and if you’re going to have a bit of spare time during your trip, I’ve prepared a little Visitor’s Guide for you to download.

Guide to Nashville 

LTEN Guide

This brief document highlights some suggested places to visit, both downtown and elsewhere. Especially if you’re going to spend one or more free days in town either before or after the event, you definitely want to grab a copy!

Need vendor advice while at the conference? I’ll be your guide! Be sure to say “hi” during the Monday evening reception – to make it easy to find me, I’ll hang out right about here most of the time that night:

At Exhibits

Oh, and one more thing – bring lots of your business cards! Over the years, I’ve heard it so many times: “I’ve run out of cards!” There are prize drawings, there are peers you’ll meet, there are vendors you’ll want to keep in touch with. Whatever amount of cards you think you’ll need – double it!

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I had some interesting discussions last week with training professionals in the Life Sciences industry, and one of the topics that came up was our approach to developing those rotating into (and out of) our training departments.

Some companies have a pretty well-defined training program for trainers, while other have good intentions, but not much of a plan (or too many time demands to carry it out).

As I see it, there should be (ideally) 4 “buckets” of emphasis when on-boarding and developing trainers from the field:

Training-specific skills (basic level) – such things as facilitation; basic ISD; adult learning principles; etc.

Operational/Functional skills – HQ orientation; MLR review procedures; project/vendor management; etc.

Corporate collaboration skills – influence with/without authority; communication (verbal, writing); networking; etc.

Next-role-prep – specific training as the employee gets ready to transition to a DM or Marketing or (whatever) role.

What do you think? Are these the right categories? What are other topics that you cover in your department?

The question also came up as to whether there should be defined competencies at the front and back end of training rotations – seems intuitive that there should be, but I’m not sure many departments have them (does yours?)

By the way, LTEN offers many of these topics in their Total Trainer Certificate Series. Joining those courses with other customized in-house and outsourced workshops should provide quite a strong foundation for the development of trainers into successful corporate performers.

LTEN TTC

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It was over a year in the making. The re-branding/re-naming of SPBT (the Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers) has finally come to pass!

Though the decision was made on the new identity 6 months ago, the annual conference in Dallas last week was the format for “the big reveal.”

Welcome LTEN – the Life Sciences Trainers and Educators Network. A more inclusive name for the more diverse population of learning professionals (including pharma, biotech, medical devices, and diagnostics) that now make up the organization.

As a branding guy, I like it. The name has flexibility. The acronym is simple. The new look is modern. This was a major win (kudos to the LTEN staff and board for the successful re-launch)!

LTEN

LTEN sjovallAnd, it was only slightly disconcerting to have LTEN President John Sjovall march out on stage in a Roman gladiator get-up…!

Over 18 years, I have seen the organization evolve, from its roots as NSPST (National Society of Pharmaceutical Sales Trainers), to the present day as LTEN. And every year, the annual gathering is a highlight of my spring schedule.

The conference this year was held at the Gaylord Texan, a mega-hotel/destination in Grapevine, TX. The vast Gaylord properties can be a little overwhelming, but the facility and the LTEN staff did an excellent job with signage and traffic flow. It was a good choice of venue – especially because there was BBQ (more on that later). Next year’s event will be in the Phoenix area – the first time there in recent memory.

LTEN Gaylord

There was an interesting mix of keynotes. Amy Cuddy opened up the conference with a talk on, for lack of a better term, “power posing” – how the way we carry ourselves physically impacts, not only how others perceive ourselves, but how we feel internally. This was an OK session, though I didn’t feel the theme was uniquely targeted to our particular audience (there was a lot of power-posing going on during the week, however!) On the other hand, double-amputee model and athlete Aimee Mullins had a pretty inspirational story about not viewing disabilities as disabilities at all. Many seemed moved by her message and example. She’s a good public speaker, though with room for improvement on liveliness.

LTEN power

(feeling the Power!)

When Dr. David Rock got up to speak, about Neuroleadership (aspects of brain science on how we learn and lead), one of the people at my table confessed that she was a David Rock groupie after hearing him previously (confession: I tend to snort at becoming groupies of anyone or anything). I then proceeded to become a David Rock groupie after an hour of mind-expanding neuro-psych-analysis. I’ll bet some others were less enamored, but as a college psych major and highly analytical thinker, I was totally energized! The conference keynotes closed with my friend Dr. Karl Kapp (a professor of Instructional Technology) not only talking about gamification, but delivering a thoroughly gamified session – really well done. Karl’s a smart guy.

One interesting twist this year was a series of 3 EdTalks – 18-minute sessions on more limited topics. Other innovations included a much more robust conference app (including a photo game called Play Click), learning stations in the exhibit hall, Dine Arounds (and other networking activities), and early morning fitness opportunties. The fresh thinking that Executive Director Kevin Kruse and his talented staff have been putting into the conference over the past few years really bore fruit in 2014 – I had the sense that we have finally attained a major re-boot in the conference and the organization.

I had the pleasure of co-leading a workshop on Career Choices with the engaging and deeply-experienced Jerry Clor – there is always plenty of professional introspection occuring about staying within pharma, or going out to the “dark side” (vendor community) – we tried to provide some advice and pros/cons about the various options. There were many good workshops – quality is always variable – with occasional photobombers present (thanks, Sue!).

LTEN photobomb

The feedback I was getting from exhibitors was actually quite positive this year, especially regarding the quality of interactions with attendees. The ongoing tweaks to workshop scheduling has led to some very nice, extended times in the exhibit hall. I was disappointed to see that the size and number of booths continues to shrink somewhat, and LTEN has some work ahead to convince past, present, and new exhibitors that setting up a booth at this annual conference is a good return on investment.

One of my favorite aspects of the conference, not surprisingly, is the networking – over meals, after sessions, in the exhibit hall, and during evening events. Getting caught up with folks I’ve known for many years – and always meeting new people -is the chief reason I attend. Many attendees who knew that my family is about to move from NJ to Nashville expressed incredible support and gladness for us – maybe even a bit of jealousy – and this really lifted my heart. My Impactiviti services (consulting and workshop facilitation and client-vendor matchmaking and clarity therapy) won’t change at all; but now, when you make trips to Nashville for business or pleasure, you’ll have someone you can turn to for coffee, or advice. Or BBQ.

Which brings me to the last point. BBQ. Specifically, Bill Lycett‘s suggestion that we try out Hard Eight barbecue pit a few miles away. Bob Holliday, Bill, and I waddled out of there stuffed to the gills with some top-shelf Texas BBQ. I wanted to bottle the aromatic smoky air and take it home with me as a souvenir of a very enjoyable LTEN conference experience (let’s hope Phoenix has something comparable…)!

LTEN BBQ

All in all, a very enjoyable week. The LTEN staff and volunteers were a pleasure to interact with, as always. Looking forward to years of steady progress ahead with this re-energized organization!

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