5 Best Practices For Conference Partnering

Usually when attending conferences in the life sciences industry you have the opportunity to make use of a so-called partnering program. These programs are promoted as the ultimate chance to meet your next fabulous business partner, a deep-pocketed investor, or someone who might be your next big client. This blog explains how to get the most out of a partnering program.

Is it worth it?

Although all of the claims these different programs make are obviously somewhat exagerating, they do hold some promise. But only if you're ready to deliver some input. And the next best argument is probably: why not? Because it's usually included in your delegate fee, so you're paying for it anyway.

Who should be using it?

If you're going to a conference and you want to actively 'sell' whatever it is you're selling, whether it's a hot new antibody-drug conjugate, CRISPR-based gene therapy or new kind of hot tech 'on-a-chip'. Keep in mind that most of the other attendees are like-minded professionals and although you won't alway be talking to the right person all these companies need each other at some point. And besides that you're expanding your network with each meeting you have.

Some best practices

1. Personal & Company Profile

Your personal profile

Thank god for technology because with most partnering programs you just click a few buttons and it imports your LinkedIn profile. If you haven't really put in a lot of effort into your profile on LinkedIn yet, have a look at this blog! If you can't import, then list your major accomplishments and regular stuff like your position, capabilities and responsibilities.

Your company profile

Different story for this one. People generally start with scanning company profiles to see if there is a possible match. Therefore, you really want to hit the bullseye here. There are usually loads of fields you can fill out like:

  • Details on your product(s) and your goals for it

  • Your services, areas of expertise, and who you're looking to talk to

  • The network you're representing and the partners you work with

  • All these details should be in there but make sure you have a good general description; your elevator pitch perhaps.

2. Preparation

So you're registered. Where to start?

You'll want to create an excel file in which you select all the companies that might be of interest to you or your company. So, what I always do is just export a complete dump from the program (or put in some filters first) and copy it to a file you feel comfortable with. Colomns you definitely want to have are basics like, company name, industry, company type, company size, descriptions and an extra one for notes which always comes in handy. And of course, you want to keep track of who's interesting and who's not and what you'd like to pitch to them. If you seem to have way to many companies on your list and you're not sure if you have enough time to message them all, add a priority column as well.

Next step in prepping is actually reading up on what it is these companies do and determining if and what you want to pitch to them. Once you have your list ready, your know who might be of interest and possibly you've prioritized it's time to start messaging some people.

3. Messaging

Before reading my strategy ask yourself:

  • What would I respond to?

  • Would you react well to a message that doesn't start with your name?

  • Will you be eager to talk to a person who clearly used a copy-pasted message?

  • Is first thing you want to read about how great a company is?

I'm guessing you don't, so try to keep these messages personal to some extent. Use a first name and drop their company's name in there as well from time to time. Don't start by mentioning you 'noticed he has a lovely wife, three kids and a labradoodle on facebook' but definetly try to relate because you share a similar background, you've worked for the same company, or you have a common professional interest.

As for the actual message, try this structure:

Hi Bob,
I was hoping to share a cup of coffee and get acqainted during the xxxx.
I noticed your company does xxxxxx and was wondering if you're interested in improving your xxxxx. If you have the time, I'd like to share some of the experiences we've had so far witch companies just like BoBPharm to increase their xxxxx.
JustPushPlay's main focus is on assisting companies like these in very specific areas whenever you require.
Looking forward to hearing from you!

You'll probably end up with 4 - 5 different messages which you can adapt slightly to be even more specific.

Keep in mind that you'll be disappointed a lot in the process sometimes as well because response rates aren't always what you'd hoped for e.g. while popular new therapies might attract a lot of interest, a seemingly low-priority consultancy service might not.

4. The meetings

If there's such a thing as magic then this it where it happens. For a more in-depth blog on a sales meeting, try this one. Things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you know stuff about the company

  • Set up a goal for the meeting beforehand

  • Set an agenda because you only get half an hour

  • Shut up and ask questions

  • Follow up your questions

  • Bring some brochures

  • Make sure you wrap up properly and agree on follow-up

5. Follow-up

Not much to say about it except for: do it!

Many potential partnerships are lost somewhere in between a great meeting, flying home and walking into your first office meeting again. Set a deadline of 1 or 2 work days for yourself to have all this finished. This actually means that when you know you'll be at a conference for # days also clear your schedule for a day or so afterwards. Not only will this make you and the company you work for look professional but it'll increase your chances of selling something dramatically.