From The Editor | January 13, 2017

Which Clinical Conferences Are Worth Your Time?

Ed Miseta

By Ed Miseta, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @EdClinical

Which Clinical Conferences Are Worth Your Time?

If you are like me, you get bombarded with clinical conference promotions on a daily basis. Marketing materials likely show up in your mail, email, voice mail messages, and social media feeds. In an age where we are inundated with electronic interactions, connecting with individuals face-to-face has become a rarity. Conferences certainly enable that interaction. Although it would be nice to go to every conference, the requirements of your job prohibit that. So how do you decide which clinical conferences are worthy of your time?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review attempts to answer that question. In the piece, Dorie Clark notes five strategies to help you identify the best conferences to attend. The first is to know where you are in your career. When starting out, you generally do not have a lot of network connections. Shows and conferences are a great way to meet and engage with peers. As you advance in your career, Clark states more opportunities will come to you. But early on in your career, it’s hard to know which opportunities will pan out. Therefore, it’s important to attend as many events as your schedule permits.

That aligns with what I have heard from many of my network connections. In a recent survey of Clinical Leader editorial advisory board members, I asked what is most important to them when deciding whether or not to attend a conference. Networking by far was the number one answer. Therefore, a profile of typical attendees, with job titles and responsibilities, is something they review carefully when determining the value of an event. 

Second, Clark recommends understanding the difference between bonding capital and bridging capital. Bonding capital is connecting with people like yourself (i.e. a clinical executive from another company) while bridging capital is connecting with people outside your profession (i.e. an executive from the auto industry). Clark emphasizes the importance of both. Of course building bridging capital involves going to conferences outside your given industry, a task made all the more difficult by time constraints that barely allow you to attend the clinical conferences of importance to you.

Next, consider the amount of time you will have to be out of the office. A nearby conference that lasts a day-and-a-half will interrupt your workflow substantially less than a four- or five-day event that requires you to fly across the country. Scheduling far in advance will also enable you to get the conference on your calendar so as not to overbook yourself and allow you to get the best possible rates on hotels and airfare. At some of the larger conferences, delaying will also ensure you do not get a room at the host hotel. Going hand-in-hand with this is the next bit of advice: request the time off as soon as possible.

Finally, Clark stresses the importance of proper planning and effort to ensure you have a successful conference experience. If you have advance access to a list of attendees and speakers, peruse the list for individuals you would like to add to your network. Use social media to reach out to them to meet up for coffee or lunch. Scheduling interactions in advance ensures the meetings take place. Waiting until everyone is dealing with the hectic pace of a conference will greatly reduce the chances of those interactions occurring.

This also confirms feedback I have received. After networking, the next most important feature of a conference, according to my editorial advisory board members, is the speaker lineup. Anyone leaving the office to travel to a conference will want to hear from individuals they admire, respect, and who they know can help them address their struggles and challenges.

After speakers, the third most important consideration was session topics. The challenges faced by a clinical executive in a Big Pharma company are not always the same as those faced by the VP of Clinical Operations in a small pharma or biotech firm.

In planning for the inaugural Clinical Leader Forum, we did our best to take all of these considerations into account. I initially reached out to executives from small- to midsized companies to understand their struggles and concerns. All of the topics on our agenda were derived from these discussions. We then recruited some of the best speakers from these companies to come and share their insights and successes. We also tapped presenters from Big Pharma to share their learnings that sponsors of any size can put into action. So you can also expect to hear from experts at industry leaders like GSK, Janssen, Novartis, and EMD Serono.

To summarize Clark’s insights:

  • Your time and money are precious.
  • You can’t afford to attend every conference.
  • The networking opportunities at conferences are too important to not take advantage of.

Check out Clark’s piece; use the advice in it to evaluate the conference opportunities that cross your desk. And use the insights to plan your conference travel in 2017.

Clinical Leader Forum 2017 is a different type of conference. The focus is on issues and challenges important to you, actionable information you can immediately put to use improving your trials, and knowledgeable presenters who have faced similar challenges and overcome them. For more information or to register, please go to