Archive for the ‘Meetings’ Category

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


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…


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.

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I was recently asked by a consulting client to explain the value of making site visits to suppliers of digital platforms. I believe in the value, but until I started spelling it out in more detail, I didn’t realize just how important I know it to be!

While it may be appropriate to make vendor decisions for smaller projects based on a proposal and a client-site presentation, that approach is probably inadequate for larger-scale (and long-term) digital platforms. Over the years, I’ve seen some sub-optimal digital learning/communication platform decisions. The results are not pretty.

I thought I’d share my reasoning with you, in case you’re thinking about adopting a major platform (especially for use with iPad deployment – many are now looking beyond individual apps to multi-functional systems for meetings, comms, training, etc.). Your comments and insights are most welcome in the comments:


Evaluating digital solutions providers can be complex. Generally speaking, for a smaller-scale point solution (say, a specific app), it is not necessary to perform a site visit. However, for a large-scale solution that will be a strategic and growing communications platform, it is often worth a deeper look under the hood at the technology, and the solution provider (who will become a long-term partner).

Site visits: Better solution/company evaluation process

The four aspects of the platform that need to be analyzed more deeply are:

  1. Technology framework of the solution – specifically, how the underlying software is designed, and what interface capabilities it has (and will have) at the middleware and database level to work within a larger enterprise structure. This typically involves direct discussion with people in a software engineering role.
  2. Roadmap of the platform – it is vital to have a detailed discussion of how and why the solution evolved into its current state, and what the development plan is for the next 3-5 years. A snapshot of a solution at one moment in time is less revealing than a view of its developmental context. Digital provider and platform direction need to align with anticipated client needs.
  3. Current functionality – general group presentations often gloss over details of what actually works (and how it works). A more meticulous advance examination can reveal platform strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to determine what is currently rolled-out to living clients, and what is still in an earlier development phase.
  4. User experience – many solutions seem great on static slides, or with brief, scripted demonstrations, but the overall user experience (for end users, administrators, and managers) needs to be carefully examined in-depth. The quality of the interface design will make or break the adoption of any system.

In addition, deeper interaction with multiple personnel at a potential supplier site can give a clearer sense of the corporate culture and talent pool, which often cannot be accurately detected at a client-site presentation with a few representatives. In most cases, this type of decision is just as much about the partner company as it is the specific technology solution.

Site visits: Better decision-making process

A visit on-site by an expert makes the entire platform evaluation process more efficient by allowing in-depth assessment with a range of technical and strategic personnel – many of whom cannot be uprooted to be part of a client sales presentation. Also, potential suppliers that don’t make the cut can be eliminated in advance instead of creating a waste of client (& supplier) time and money going through an entire sales presentation/proposal cycle, only to be found unsuitable later. In addition, client-site presentations can be made much more efficient as a variety of detailed questions can be pre-answered through the prior provider-site visit.

Site visits: Summary


-More in-depth look at the “guts” of select platforms

-More complete evaluation of user experience

-Deeper assessment of leading potential provider partners

-Potential elimination (or escalation) of particular providers earlier in the process

-More efficient use of client and provider personnel resources during process


-Up-front time/travel investment (1 person) for site visits

What do you think? Does your company do site visits for these larger-scale platform decisions? And do you employ consulting expertise in the process?


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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Patenting genes called into question. Frankly, this is a legal/medical/sociological discussion that needs to happen.

Cephalon‘s jet lag indication on Nuvigil may be stuck on the runway for a while.

When companies – and agencies – can’t count. An expensively amusing tale.

The Top 20 Drugmakers, listed.

Another experimental cancer drug hits the wall. That’s two in two days. Bummer.


POA/Sales Meeting Training – If you are responsible for training during periodic “live” meetings, let’s discuss the programs you’re looking for. The Impactiviti partner network can undoubtedly help.  Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) for recommendations.

The latest Impactiviti Connection e-newsletter is up! You can subscribe here.


Huw Tippett, head of global sales for Novartis, explains his firm’s new focus on creating customer value and unlocking value from key accounts – Why Pharma Needs a New Commercial Model.


What’s really inside your computer? Intel….or her?
EVENT – Coming up May 11 – BDI’s Social Communications and Healthcare Case Studies and Roundtables. I’ll be attending/facilitating. Use discount code IMPACT for $155 reg. rate: http://ow.ly/1sAT8


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This week, I was privileged to take part in the 9th annual ePharma Summit, put on by the folks at IIRUSA. This event had the misfortune to be located in Philadelphia during the Smomaggeden III incident, so a number of folks (including me) felt compelled to bail out before the worst of the storm hit on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, the conference was exceptionally well-attended – sold out, in fact. This was encouraging after seeing such slim crowds at pharma events last year.

I went to the Advanced Social Media Boot Camp the first day (Monday), which featured such speakers as Shwen Gwee (Vertex Pharmaceuticals), Mel Halkyard (Eli Lilly), Fabio Gratton (IgniteHealth), and Lance Hill (Within3). Most helpful in my mind were the group exercises, led by Fard Johnmar (Enspektos), where we broke off into roundtables and brainstormed social media approaches to various scenarios. The discussions were lively and creative. The Within3 folks kindly hosted a very nice networking reception that evening (thanks, Lance and team, and congrats on the launch of the ACG GI Circle community!), which was followed by a wonderful Tweetup on the ship/restaurant Moshulu, generously hosted by Pixels and Pills.

Pixels and Pills also conducted a series of mini-interviews during the conference; I had a chance to give my 2 cents here. They also recently launched a cool application recently called the Health Tweeder – check it out!

The meals were excellent, though some folks encouraged statin use by overdoing it on desserts. No names (like, for instance, John Mack) will be mentioned about the guilty…

The main conference, running Tues-Wednesday, was packed with a solid variety of presenters. Highlights for me included Dennis Urbaniak‘s (Sanofi) thoughts on innovation, and the presentation of UCB’s Epilepsy community. The most negative twitter back-channel feedback surrounded PBS Health Analyst Susan Dentzler’s overview of the Democratic health plan in Congress – relevance to eHealth was essentially non-existent and the tone was quite partisan.

Most touching on the heartstrings was the description of Acorda Therapeutics efforts to support the MS community, well in advance of the launch of any commercial product.

Kevin Nalty (“Nalts“) talked about video and YouTube, in his usual entertaining way, and comScore’s John Mangano tossed a bunch of intriguing statistics on the screen, though there seemed to be a veil over any raw data underlying it.

I left early the next morning, in advance of the worst of the storm, and experienced something I’ve never seen before – uncrowded major highways between Philly and North Jersey in the morning! For those who stayed (about 100), there was a shortened day of presentations, and for some, an extra night at the Hyatt Penns Landing as it was not easy to escape Philly by any means as Wednesday wore on!

By and large, the audience was fairly quiet throughout the conference – Q&A, discussion, and live engagement were muted for whatever reason, which is a shame. There was a good number of exhibitor/sponsors, including Klick Pharma, MC3, and Kyp – all of whom provide solid pharma eMarketing solutions.

It was great seeing so many members of my pharma network during the event, including (besides those mentioned above) Wendy Blackburn, Sally Church (Sally’s conference review on her blog here), Paulo Machado, Mike Myers, Xavier Petit, Daphne Leigh, Ellen Hoenig, Dave DeBronkart, Phil Baumann, Chris Truelove, William Martino, DJ Edgerton, Eileen O’Brien, Marc Monseau, Zoe Elliott, and others.

What was the tone regarding the use of social media in pharma? By and large, though there is still uncertainty surrounding the FDA stance, I sensed more of an atmosphere of inevitability – a bit less of “if” we’ll use social networking, and more of “how.” That’s a good thing. J&J launched a couple of new initiatives, in fact, in the days surrounding the conference. I’m looking forward to more tangible and creative initiatives in 2010 that will help break down the barriers of fear and demonstrate how these technologies and approaches can ultimately make for better healthcare.


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I was in downtown Philadelphia earlier this week for the inaugural ePatient Connection 2009 conference, a first-time event by the relatively new Kru Research (headed up by Kevin Kruse). I’ve known Kevin for years through our mutual work in pharma training/eLearning, but this was his first venture into organizing a conference.

KruseKimballCount me impressed.

Unlike last week’s Digital Pharma conference, which took encouraging steps in the direction of a more “unconference” format (review here), ePatient Connection had a more traditional, structured format. But unlike others – and I’ve been to MANY over the years – it was fresh, interesting, and basically…it rocked. The two days each flew by quickly.

I’m not going to attempt a content overview – that has actually been nicely done by Eric Brody here. And PharmaExec on-line gives a nice quick scan here, including some of the juicier quotes. Suffice it to say that the speakers were diverse, knowledgeable, and well-chosen. I’m saving my two thumbs up for the following:

thumbsupThis event was tight. By that, I mean it was run incredibly efficiently and smoothly. Sessions started on time, ended on time, did not drag, and the speakers were clearly prepped with directions to keep it focused and well-structured. The audio/visual setup was one of the best I’ve seen, even to the point of having a photographer going about the entire time taking a tremendous variety of pictures (immediately uploaded to Flickr). The Wi-Fi was strong. There were outlets/extension cords along one entire side. There was a Twitterscreen. Sessions were captured on video. The attendee goodie bag was one of the best ever, including several books, and even an iPod Touch! There were standard presentations, panels, interviews, open forums, 1-on-1 sessions, and even a Pecha Kucha (20 slides, each for 20 seconds) slot. Vendors had a chance to briefly show their wares up front, which is a great way to give them exposure without turning sessions into sales pitches. All in all, other conference organizers could learn a lot from this freshman endeavor. Kudos to Kru & crew for pulling this off.

thumbsupThis event was well-targeted. It’s way past time to start bringing together people from the pharma/device industry, the ePatient community, and other stakeholders in healthcare. Hearing from bloggers with medical conditions, and getting their perspectives (not only on stage, but actively throughout the conference on Twitter), was both inspiring and enlightening. Folks on the business side and on the consumer/patient/people side need to better understand one another, and this was a very helpful format to move the dialogue forward. The fact that we had a late entrant show up from FDA/DDMAC (Paul Loebach, a really nice guy) was a huge bonus.

I had the privilege of co-facilitating, with Jack Bilson and John Mack, two lunchtime discussions on Developing Guidelines for Social Media. Those sessions could have gone on for hours – very rich interaction and a high level of interest among the participants. But, of course, everything was running on time (I told you it was tight!), so we had to move along by 1:45 pm!

It does seem to me, after the last few weeks, that we really have turned the corner when it comes to use of Twitter in pharma/healthcare industry conferences, as there was an incredibly active and informative Tweetstream (hashtag: #ePatCon). Many, many people were “tuned in” to parts of this conference from around the globe, and participating virtually. And, of course, we enjoyed social occasions and a tweetup, where many of the pharma “early adopters” renewed friendships or met each other for the first time – always very rewarding.

This event was an exhausting and exciting pleasure to be a part of. Looking forward to the sophomore edition!


Pharma Social Media resources: SocialRx

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Now Available – My archived interview on Social Media in Pharma with Paul Chaney – feel free to forward the link (http://bit.ly/29kAoN) to your colleagues.


BMS/Astra diabetes drug cleared in Europe ONGLYZA is indicated as a once-daily 5 mg oral tablet dose in adult patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus to improve glycaemic controlmore

FDA panel gives thumbs up to new GSK cancer drug –  A Food and Drug Administration panel Monday unanimously backed a proposed GlaxoSmithKline PLC drug for treating kidney cancer, despite agency concerns about a risk of severe liver injury. Glaxo is seeking FDA approval of the drug, pazopanib, to treat patients with advanced kidney cancer. The product was reviewed by outside medical experts who serve on the agency’s oncologic drugs advisory committeemore

Novartis CEO Vasella comes out swinging against animal rights terrorists. Good for him.

Physician smartphone usage – on the rise!


Virtual Worlds and other on-line platforms for training or meetings. Impactiviti’s suite of partners can help you design and roll-out these advanced applications. Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) to talk.


Eighteen minutes that will rattle your world and challenge your assumptions about motivation in business. Dan Pink at TED – a great presenter, and very thought-provoking.


Dilbert on management evaluation.

Coming up this month:


Oct. 19-21 – eXL’s Digital Pharma conference, Bridgewater, NJ. This event will be quite progressive, with more of an informal “unconference” format to maximize interaction. I’ll be co-leading a pre-conference workshop on the 19th on social media, and live-blogging/Twittering. Here’s a discount code for 15% your registration: P615WOO


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It’s only Monday morning and already the news hopper here at Impactiviti is brim-full with pharma social media stuff. That’s a good thing!

The Biggest Deal – Finally, after months of cajoling from all quarters (and John Mack gets a big handclap for his relentless calls to make this happen), the FDA has decided to call a public hearing on the use of social media/Web 2.0 approaches to pharma communications. This makes a lot of us very happy! Fabio Gratton put this post out on Friday as the news broke, and you’ll also want to read John Mack’s overview of the specific questions FDA will seek to address. One word of caution – there can be a very long time lapse between holding hearings, and taking action, when you’re dealing with FDA. But hey – it’s a step in the right direction, anyway, and long overdue!

Also, finally, the FDA is now on Twitter. It’s just one-way communications about drug info, but once again – a start.

And, while we’re at it, the use of social media tools among healthcare professionals is getting more attention.

Plus, this week’s conference on Pharma Marketing (with lots of emphasis on eMarketing/Social Media:


I’ll be speaking at this conference on “Where’s the low-hanging fruit in pharma social media?, and live-blogging/Twittering. There will also be a tweetup at Princeton’s Triumph Brewery on Wednesday evening – here’s the invite.

How about a live streaming audio event on Tuesday. Sure – there’s an app for that. John Mack hosts a discussion with some of the organizers of the upcoming Digital Pharma conference (yes, I’m included – I’m planning to be at four ePharma conferences this fall) at 11:00 am EST. Sign up here!

From last Friday – my listing of your Top Four Pharma Social Media resources.

Oh, and why is J&J leading the pack in pharma social media? Read this interesting interview with Marc Monseau. In my mind, here’s the money quote:

One of the unique aspects about Marc’s Twitter profile is that he openly represents Johnson & Johnson without losing his personal identity. This might not sound particularly groundbreaking; yet most pharmaceutical corporate Twitter profiles are stripped of personal identity, whilst most pharmaceutical communicators use Twitter for personal, non-corporate communication only and are cautious about mentioning their pharmaceutical employer.


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