Once upon a time in a faraway place a long, long time ago, my brother and I volunteered to drive my eldest daughter’s car from Raleigh, NC to AZ. She and her husband would be moving to Tucson and rather than paying to ship it, we thought it would be a fun trip for Jon and I. We took the opportunity to visit friends along the way. Our second night stop was in Houston, TX and a visit with FOCM member and friend from high school, Kristen Meaders. Here are her notes from the Houston FOCM chapter meeting that night:
An impromptu FOCM meeting was held in Houston in July 2012. For security reasons, it was touted as the Annual Genu Varum Society Conference (AGVSC) to avoid the paparazzi, INS, and undesirable party crashers. Large amounts of Mexican food were consumed due to Our Leader’s unwillingness to stray from a mandatory Mexican food theme. No arrests were made but Jon is now on a de-tox program. Stock prices for Patron dropped precipitously since Chris’s discovery that he has “the sugar.” Mimi was crowned Ms Genu Varum Houston 2012. Something happened to the photographic evidence such that I cannot include it.
The following evening we were in Tucson, AZ and had dinner with FOCM member and friend from college, Art Coppola. Art’s notes were in reply to those of Kristen’s.
That must have been a ‘home-cooked’ Mexican meal judging from the surroundings. Here is a shot of the twins at the subsequent FOCM meeting held in Tucson and as you can see, it was held in a dark back room location at a participating Chicken and Waffle house where our leader had his with Jalapeños to continue his insistence on getting back to his roots. For this there was proof of the event:
Can you believe it? These are the meeting minutes from the November 5, 2018 event in Boston. Many of the attendees were in town for the Outsourcing in Clinical Trials New England meeting. My sparse notes indicate that this was held at the lobby bar in the Westin Boston Waterfront.
We had great attendance with my hastily written down names on a piece of paper indicating the following individuals were in attendance:
Roy Ovel (we worked at ICON Clinical and have known each other 13 years) Scott Keddy (known each other for 6 years) Mike (last name not written down, so its clearly a good friend who I should remember or predict) Matt (going to guess this is Matt Comstock – known each other 5 years and attended the same high school in Yuma, AZ) Vicky Martin (known each other 16 years; also worked together at ICON) Kate Mullis (known each other for 4 years) Bonnie Phillips (known each other for 3 years, met via networking in NC) Daniel Frederick (known each other for 3 years, met via networking in NC) Bryan Clayton (known each other for 7 years, worked at YPrime together) Katherine Cloninger (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together) Ted Gastineau (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together) Bill Taaffe (known each other 18 years, worked at ICON together) Brian Langin (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together) Chris Utterback (known each other 4 years and we the same birthday) Susan Cook (known each other 2 years, I think we met that night, Brian Langin invited her, I believe) Adam Blackburn (known each other 7 years, worked at YPrime together) Cory Winters (known each other for 3 years, Vicky Martin brought him into FOCM) Dave Rosa (known each other 11 years) Paul Eisenmann (known each other 20+ years, worked at Quintiles together) Jennifer Carpe (looks like an n, then….; could be Carpenter from BioTel; colleague of Cory?) Lianne Kloppenburg (known each other 9 years) Kristina Wolfe (although my notes indicate Figueroa was the last name at the time; known each other 3 years, we both live in Wilmington, NC) Nicole Powell (known each other 5 years)
For those of you in this industry, this list reads like a list of all-stars, right? Unfortunately, photographic evidence of the gathering was not collected that evening.
FOCM is all about connecting with each other for fun, mutual benefit and to be helpful to others. On December 9, 2020 we held a virtual fundraiser, wine tasting and networking event.
FOCM values connections be they new or old. This event certainly crossed that spectrum. The idea for the event – wine, charity and networking – came about from a LinkedIn post that I saw from Amy Berwick. I first met Amy in 1998 when we both worked at Quintiles (nka IQVIA). Amy’s post had to do with the role she had taken on with OneHope Wines and I wanted to find out more and catch up with her. I knew I wanted to do a year end virtual FOCM networking event and thought this might be a fun option.
I met (virtually, of course) with Amy and her OneHope colleague, Shelby Wildgust and learned that in addition to 10% of the wine purchased supports the charity of my choosing, each individual bottle purchased supports a non-profit cause (e.g.; pet adoption, military veterans, reforestation…). I decided this is the event I wanted to have.
When they asked me what charity I’d like to support, I said the Jeffrey Coombs Memorial Foundation. http://www.jeffcoombsfund.org/blog/ This foundation was started by Christie Schmitt Coombs in memory of her husband who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack on America. The Jeff Coombs Foundation was formed to assist Massachusetts families who are in financial need because of a death, illness or other situation that challenges the family budget. I’ve known Christie for 45 years. We both grew up in Yuma, AZ, went to Kofa High School and the University of Arizona.
Attendees and in parentheses, how long I’ve known them were: Deb Jendrasek (15 years), Shelby Wildgust (1 month), Jeff Gould (4 months), Michael D’Amico (3 months), Jon Matheus (his whole life), Zulma Varela (2 months) Christie Schmitt (45 years), Denise McNerney (6 months), Mike Strand (~15 years), Jenny Neurath (my whole life), Greg Cohee (~15 years), Susan Cook (2 years), Amy Berwick (22 years), Wayne and Kay (1 hour), Lauren Sherwood (3 years), Sean (1 hour) and Robin Whitsell (3 years), Amy Matheus (her whole life), Jamison Lloyd (2 years), Lindsay Goldman (her whole life), Nathan Goldman (9 years), Thomas Goldman (3 years), James Goldman (48 hours less than his whole life).
Amy and Shelby made it easy to manage. They drafted the email and messaging content for me to review, they set up the OneHope website specifically to track our fundraising progress and we used their zoom account. We tasted 3 different wines: 1. The Vintner Collection Sauvignon Blanc – this bottle helps reforestation, so far, ONEHOPE has been able to plant over 100,000 trees through the sale of this wine. 2. The Vintner Collection Red Blend – this is a 96 point Award Winning wine that funds Team Rubicon, an organization aimed to reunite Veterans with a sense of purpose in civilian life. 3. The Vintner Collection Pinot Noir – this is a 90 point Award Winning wine that has funded over 96,000 pet adoptions! Purchases made up until January 8 contribute toward the fundraising goal we’d set. Here is the event link to make purchases: https://www.onehopewine.com/event/a366bd14-e43d-446e-94d9-6c44efeae9d9
Imagine if you will, that the social distancing required in this era of Covid-19 were to continue for 5 more years. How would that affect the type of businesses and individuals who depend on the meeting of new people in order to promote and introduce their products or services?
This scenario came up while having a discussion with a new connection, Joyce Blatt. As you know, I love connecting to others and remembering people’s backgrounds so I can connect them with people who need their services. One of my business partners, Tom Ryan was on a virtual biotech networking meeting and met Joyce and recommended we connect. Well Joyce and I hit it off and quickly realized, we’re both connectors. It was Joyce who was questioning how can we work in this environment. How do we keep our ears to the wall and be helpful? Without in person meetings, we have to learn other ways to connect – face to face at someone’s office allows you to look at the pictures in their office to pick up on their interests, etc. We need to utilize other methods – use LinkedIn during the meeting to see where someone lives, went to college, hobbies and interests, etc.
When you meet someone new in person, you usually get a quick read on the person’s energy, helpfulness, personality and can identify who will be good to connect and follow up with. Yes, in virtual meetings where they allow for “networking” time, you can and I have enjoyed making new connections in a few such meetings. But it’s different in both good and less good ways. In the less good way, you can’t meet or reconnect with as many people as when you work a room. In the good way, you really focus on the conversation because you’re not distracted. When in a one-to-one zoom, you’re not “working the room”, which often means you’re looking over the person’s shoulder scanning to see who else you know and might be more important.
While talking with Joyce, I had an aha moment. I was complaining how some of these virtual meetings have no dedicated networking time, so it feels unproductive to attend them only to be able to say “hi” in a chat window to someone you know or want to meet. The “aha” moment is this: I would routinely attend a small, industry meeting of around 30 people with three presentations about issues they face routinely or new regulations to address. There would be a morning and afternoon break and lunch. I had a co-worker attend one when I wasn’t able to. His reply was “what a waste of time, why do you go?”
I go, acknowledging that I am getting no other work done while being there (other than checking email on my phone), because I believe to sell in this industry requires a relationship of trust, understanding and dependability. By attending this meeting, I’m seen as a member of their community, I know the issues they’re facing AND at the breaks and lunch, I’m networking. It might be just one or two people I talk with, but its worth it in the long run. One example of the value of attending – to be helpful – an attendee asked the group for help providing items for pharmacy school graduates. I was able to get pens, notepads, flash drives, wireless mice, (promotional items from several vendors including my employer), etc. At that point and from then on I am seen by her as a friend, no longer just a salesperson looking to sell her.
Okay, so back to the aha moment, so I would go to those meetings all day just for a couple of conversations. I need to continue attending the virtual meetings, for the opportunity to make new contacts and maintain existing ones. While it feels a waste of time, I can be productive during the sessions and can interact during Q&A or in the chat window and I need to continue to attend these for the very same reasons: be a part of their community, understand their issues, and be helpful.
2020, the year of the COVID-19/Protests/Riots/Presidential Election and the year the clinical research industry’s annual convention went virtual.
The noteworthiness of this made me think to jot down my observations.
I have been attending DIA since 1997. That year it was held in Montreal. Last year was in San Diego, which is probably the best place to have it in terms of weather. The conference is always in the 3rd or 4th week of June. The heat and humidity in Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston has often been close to unbearable.
The biggest differences for me were:
I didn’t get to co-host the FOCM Networking event with my friends from Zymewire
I missed seeing everyone! Not seeing friends in person (this event is very much an industry reunion) and not getting to socialize with them makes it more difficult to maintain relationships
Seeing so few friends in the virtual exhibit hall (Thanks Adriana Grado, Cory Winters and Amy Zastawney for taking time to meet with me). Every year I make a point to walk the entire exhibit hall to make sure I see and catch up with as many people as I can and to see what new and innovative products and services are available
I didn’t stay out too late (there was no virtual Transperfect party or vendor parties of any kind)
I didn’t drink too much.
I didn’t have a Fireball shot at the Barrington James exhibit.
I didn’t welcome any new FOCM members and hold any card ceremonies (I’ll have to re-write the card ceremony SOPs – the handshake may have to be eliminated)
Here it is the last day and I’m not exhausted.
As I have often told people younger and/or with less conference experience than me, at DIA – you will stay out too late and drink too much. I point out that you HAVE to do this (it might even be in the SOP binder), because if you don’t, it wouldn’t be the tradition that it is.
A couple months ago I held a virtual FOCM Networking event with about 10 industry friends. I asked them if DIA were to be held in person, who would travel to DC for it. The answer was no one. Comments made were: it’s too risky, I don’t want to get on a plane, stay in a hotel, take a cab or Uber and go to a conference with 5000+ people.
We in this industry are proud of the role we’re playing and demonstrating to the world the value, the need and the method for discovering treatments for COVID-19. The need to utilize recent innovations in big data, AI, high throughput screening, lighten cumbersome regulatory hurdles will serve the world well for developing new treatments for all diseases.
During this Covid-19 Quarantine/Social Distancing, we’ve all seen an increase in the use of virtual meetings, virtual networking via videoconferencing tools. Zoom, Hopin, GoogleMeet, FaceTime, Microsoft Teams, Free Conference Call are ones that I’ve been involved with to-date.
It is very interesting to hear how people are using these tools in a variety of clever ways. That’s the impressive nature of human-kind: creativity, innovation when circumstances impact us.
I know of families having weekly Zoom calls to stay in touch. One includes playing a trivia game on each call, after catching up with everyone. Whoever wins the trivia game controls the questions for the next game. The Hopin (thanks GCPCafe and Nadia Bracken) tool has limits on the number of people who can be on camera at one time, while many more can participate via chat room to interact with the others. This is good for interactive presentations by a few speakers. It also has a one-on-one video networking that I really enjoyed. You’re put into a “room” and are waiting for someone else to enter the “room” and then you see each other and start talking. It felt like meeting someone new at an industry conference reception without all the background noise and distractions.
I have held four FOCM virtual networking events using both Zoom and GoogleMeet. A friend said, ‘hey you’re the networking guy, you should be doing something during this time of isolation.’ I took it to heart and held events in the evenings on April 16, April 23, April 30 and May 13. Like I do when I would travel (remember that? – airplanes, hotels and rental cars?), I would email everyone I knew in the area to see who could meet up that night for drinks/dinner. So at first I held a FOCM event for the Philadelphia metro area, then for the Raleigh metro area, then the Boston metro area. It was about the April 30 Boston event, that I realized, I was no longer bound by geographic constraints. So the May 13 one was national (I did invite members from Europe, but it would have been 1 a.m. for them).
Attendance was taken, as per FOCM SOP: April 16: Bryan Clayton, Dave Gibboni, Ryan Gibson, Chris McArthur, Chris McCracken, Pete Nieto, Mike Strand
April 23: Mike Burrows, Renee Brown, Brian Horan, Lauren Sherwood, Kate Mulllis (tried)- meeting minutes already published on www.focmnetworking.com/networking
April 30: Paul Bilden, Israel Bocanegra, Mike Burrows, Clint Craun, Scott Freedman, Brian Langin, Dan Weddle, Amy Zastawney Observations: Two people had to exit early to attend other web calls, one for a birthday celebration – perhaps a glimpse of our future; night-time schedules of “virtual” meetings to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I attended a friend’s birthday party on May 2 via Zoom.
May 13: 159 people were sent google calendar invitations, 111 never opened it (do that many people not receive google calendar invitations into their email inboxes? 24 said yes, 10 no and 14 maybe. There were some issues with people being able to talk and/or to see their faces. We were on for an hour. To manage it, we opened with a cheers! Then I called on people to share whatever they wanted on how they were coping or what they were learning. Using the chat feature I let the person who was up next know I’d be calling on them. I know we didn’t get to everyone and I wish we had. It was great to see and hear from so many FOCM members. Kevin Boos, Mike Burrows, Nadia Bracken, Renee Brown, Greg Cohee, Kevin Collier, Scott Freedman, Dave Gibboni, Heather Hollick, Askold Kozbur, Brian Langin, Jon Matheus, Chris McCracken, Lynne McKerlie, Karen McPoyle, Sarah Meister, Lorraine Mercer, Adrian Pencak, Roxann Pinguelo, Lauren Sherwood, Dan Weddle, Wayne Whittingham, Michael Williams.
Screen Grabs of the event were sent to me and they are shown below. The first one was sent to me with the subject line “ScreenGrab Tonight”. Proof that enjoyment of sarcasm and wit are fundamental to the FOCM code of behavior.
I would like to hear of other interesting, unique, clever ways people are using these tools in this current time of reduced in-person gatherings. Use the comments box to share things you’re seeing or doing.
The world certainly has changed in the last few months. A big part of life is our relationships and interactions with others. With quarantining and social distancing, that has blocked this part of our lives. Some might say that introverts are loving this time and some might be. More than likely their lives (work and personal) require some personal interaction and as such they’re also feeling some angst.
What it is doing is teaching us how to do things in new ways. Both at work and in my personal life, I’ve noticed a few things:
the use of Zoom, Google Hangouts, Free Conference Call, FaceTime and other virtual meetings wherein we can see each other; families I know of are having these weekly
Large conferences are holding their already planned meetings such that they’re all online, using the above tools as well as pre-recording content to air while allowing live interaction during the pre-recorded presentation
Interesting to note that this format actually appears to provide more intimate participation in the event – wherein some people wouldn’t ask a question in a room of 200 people, quite easy to type in your question into the message board tool
Connectability is still available – if you are watching a talk you like, while on the meeting, you can look at the speaker on LinkedIn, learn more about them and if valuable, send them a LinkedIn request.
I have held two virtual FOCM meetings so far;
one with the political wing of FOCM. There are 6-8 of us who have been emailing on political topics for probably 10 years. Two weeks ago we had a GoogleHangout, where some of us got to “see” each other for the first time.
the other with the Philadelphia metro FOCM chapter last week. We had about 8 attend.
I’m having one this Thursday with the Raleigh-Durham metro chapter.
The minutes of the Philadelphia FOCM meeting are:
Last night, the 16th day of April, 2020, a virtual FOCM Philadlephia area meeting was held via Google Hangout.In attendance: Pete Nieto, Dave Gibboni, Mike Strand, Bryan Clayton, Mark Eberhart, Christian McCracken, Chris McArthur, Ryan Gibson Topics discussed: too much couple together time could result in strained marriages and possible divorce; alcohol consumption was visible (bts, the meeting was not recorded), predictions of return to the new normal (end of June was voiced), Arena International meetings status – virtual; DIA annual – virtual; BIO annual – virtual; ASCO annual – virtual.
While, in my opinion, we’re very close to moving to a policy of unquarantining everyone and quarantining only the at-risk, the symptomatic and those who test positive (as seen in my video blog below), some of these changes we’re being forced to make will continue and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The July networking event for the Wilmington Pharma/Bio/CRO Networking Group was held at Dockside in Wilmington. Dockside is located on the west side of the IntraCoastal Waterway. This is the site for this group’s events in the summertime. Wilmington Pharma/Bio/CRO Networking Group can be found on LinkedIn where updates to monthly events are posted.
Fortunately someone snapped a photo at some point so that we have some record of attendance. Not that attendance is ever taken and far too often we forget to take a picture.
The annual Drug Information Association (DIA) conference in 2019 was held in San Diego June 23 – 27. It was a busy, busy conference making it memorable and historic. On Sunday night FOCM, Zymewire along with Almac, MC10 and Medable hosted “Clinical Reconnections”, the pre-DIA networking event at Social Tap Eatery. This was the 4th year of this event. Over 320 people attended.
Along with Michele Sacher, we presented on Self-Branding for Social Media. We added Christina Cantrell for the next workshop on the importance of knowing yourself for effective networking.
Several months ago I posted about Jodi Andrews receiving her FOCM card. There were two other card ceremonies, one each for Meghan Alonso and Rhonda Rusinski. I’ve known Rhonda from the early 2000’s having met while we were both working at ICON Clinical Research. Meghan had recently joined Clinipace and she asked her colleagues who would be a good person to connect with, someone known as an industry connector. They directed her to me. It was a pleasure to welcome them both into the organization.
According to Sillman, “Networking” is a strange term. If you are a person the world perceives as good at networking… all that means is that you have great relationships.
The only way to do that — to build relationships — is to have a genuine desire to learn about someone: What they do, what drives them… some aspect of their life that interests you. Getting relatively close to someone means you know a lot about them, they know a lot about you… and you’re much more inclined to help each other. I actually think I’m a terrible “networker.” But I do have good relationships.
A few take aways from the
When you go into a meeting or a conference, or approach people with the thought that you’re going to network… it’s transactional. You’re just trying to meet people that can immediately help you. And they want the same thing.
Building relationships is totally different. First you learn about the other person; only then can you start to build a relationship. Which never happens when you’re networking: People can tell in seconds that you only want to meet them for some kind of surface-level transaction.
Building relationships requires patience, just like any other relationship. Think about your friends: You didn’t go into those relationships looking for something. That’s why they’re your friends.
What he says is so true, in both Heather Hollick’s book, “Helpful: A Guide to Life, Careers, and the Art of Networking” and Porter Gale’s book “Your Network is your Net Worth”, both authors are adamant that successful networking is not short-term transactional – ‘who can I meet today that can help me get x.’ Successful networking is first being helpful. Porter Gale describes networking as a give, give, get. Do two helpful things to a new contact before asking for one in return. Heather Hollick shares that it is innate that we want to help others. By asking people what they’re working on, rather than what do you do – you gain information on what is important to them and thereby, how you could best help.
A good exchange occurred re: making introductions – Sillman said he used to immediately introduce people to each other when asked. He points out that he failed to take into account the value of other people’s time and realized he had to do some filtering. He also pointed out that when you make introductions, your credibility is on the line. You shouldn’t vouch for people you don’t really know, don’t have a relationship with, don’t know their interests and goals.
concludes with: People don’t want to be a transaction. If you aren’t interested in the actual person, if you’re only thinking in terms of a transactional relationship… that relationship will never be fruitful. But when you build a relationship, everything else follows: You won’t have to ask the other person how you can help them. You’ll know. And you won’t have to ask for something you might need. The other person will know your interests, your goals… and will offer to help. You’ll both offer to help. And you’ll both mean it.