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Warning: What You Need To Know, If Going To BIO!

May 22, 2014
The following article, reproduced in full below, was originally published at Life Science Leader.

This year’s BIO International Convention will take place in San Diego from June 23 to 26. Going to BIO is like going to the Louvre in Paris or the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., because even with extensive planning, you can’t possibly see everything. What I hate about the BIO event is that there are so many sessions, so many booths, and so little time. You won’t hear me use the excuse of “BIO being too BIG” as a rationale for why I won’t attend — and neither should you. It’s BIO’s “bigness” that attracts big-name speakers such as Richard Branson and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The show also attracts companies of all sizes, from all industry segments, and from all over the globe. So whether you hold a position requiring a very macro industry perspective (e.g., senior executive) or a highly specialized position where success depends upon a discipline-specific, micro approach, here are my tips to make your BIO experience significantly better.

Life Science Leader’s Top 10 Tips For Getting More Out Of BIO

1.      Plan On Ditching Your Team - True story. When working in pharma I was attending a national plan of action meeting (POA) where members of the company were brought together from all over the world. Viewing this as a great networking opportunity, during meal times I deliberately sat with people beyond my immediate team. After all, we had been sitting in meetings together all day long. Get this — I was actually accused of being “anti-social” for trying to meet people! Don’t let this happen to you. Have a plan for when to be a team player and when to ditch the team, and then communicate your intentions in advance to your teammates. If you want to see some of the people I have networked with at BIO, start looking at some of Life Science Leader magazine’s covers. If you are always hanging with your own crew, you might as well stay home. By the way, page 30 in the preshow planner has some planned networking opportunities you won’t want to miss. But don’t wait for these, have lunch with a stranger, breakfast with a competitor, or coffee with a chief editor – drop me a tweet - @RfwrightLSL or an email – so we can plan accordingly.

2.      Step Out Of Your Session Comfort Zone – Whether your position benefits from having either a macro industry perspective or micro/discipline-specific approach, don’t use this as a crutch to avoid broadening your horizons. I challenge you to choose a session beyond your comfort zone of expertise. Here’s why. Experts are less likely to have creative breakthroughs due to fixed mental paradigms. By stepping outside of your area of expertise, you may find the solution to your problem. Don’t just pick a session based on a catchy title or the subject matter. Instead, take the time to look at the speakers as well as their backgrounds. If you determine a session to be interesting, it is likely others will have as well. Plan to arrive early to avoid being turned away because the session is full. Here is a list of top 10 session picks for this year’s show.

3.      Tweet This – Social media, used properly, can be a great networking tool. However, there is far too much detail for me to cover it all here, especially if you are a novice. However, don’t wait until after BIO to get in the game. Some of my best networking began with a tweet. Before you go to BIO, take the time to install the Twitter app on your phone, possibly HootSuite as well. I use both at an event so I can Tweet and follow what is going (use the #BIO2014 hashtag). Want to find a HOT session? Often, Twitter is the ticket. Maybe next year we can get some social media gurus to put on a social media clinic of do’s and don’ts?

4.      BIO Tools – the event has a number of tools to help you pick sessions, networking opportunities, and so on. To get started, set up your myBIO profile with a PICTURE! I know this takes time, as does taking advantage of the partnering tools. However, it can make a big difference in your experience. Last year, I visited two booths of companies in the same business, directly across from one another on the show exhibit floor. One executive commented on the value of BIO, and the quality of the booth traffic. The other booth’s executive, who had to cut our discussion short because they had to jump on a conference call, was lamenting the slow booth traffic and pondering if their company would even be exhibiting the following year. The company that was pleased with the booth traffic had taken full advantage of BIO’s exhibitor booth partnering, while also putting protocols in place so people working the booth were not expected to try to field problems from the home office. If you are traveling to a show, be present and in the moment.

5.      Business Cards – You may think this common sense. But I can’t tell you how many times I have had people tell me they are out of business cards at shows. I take enough cards for just such an occasion, having them jot their information on the back of one of mine for safe keeping. If you are a fan of electronic business cards, great, bring a bunch of paper ones anyway for those of us old folks who still like paper. When you grab a stack of cards to put it in your luggage, go back to your desk, and grab three more stacks. I have given out cards in the taxi cab line, checking in at a hotel, splitting a cab on the way back to an airport, on the plane, and even going through customs. You get the idea. However many you think you need, take extra. Also, please wear (6) comfortable shoes. Last year, I got on an elevator after a long day with some other BIO attendees. One woman’s feet were actually bleeding from a poor shoe choice and worse yet, there were two days left to go! (7) I take a roller bag rather than tote a shoulder bag around all day. In it I have all sorts of essentials, mints, note pads, pens, gum, ChapStick, (8) phone chargers, headphones, Advil, eye drops, a mini umbrella (better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it), and (9) Sunscreen – it is San Diego, folks.

10. Don’t Skip The Exhibit Floor – Last year I was speaking to someone who complained about not making it to the show exhibit floor. Don’t let this be you. If you ever wonder where good ideas come from, it often starts with one person having a “hunch” on something and then having a “collision” with someone else who is having a similar “hunch.” By being organized in zones, BIO’s exhibit floor facilitates collisions. To entice a few collisions of my own, I just put four new books (one for each day) into my roller bag to give away while at BIO. Be the first person to mention to me having read this blog, and you could walk away with a FREE copy of Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human, or James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s The Leadership Challenge. We don’t have to be standing at the Life Science Connect booth (1203 Hall - A), but we do need to be on the exhibit floor, as this is where some of the best networking “collisions” take place. Several current members of Life Science Leader magazine’s editorial advisory board, I met while walking the exhibit floor at BIO.


Rob Wright is the editor-in-chief for Life Science Leader Magazine.