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“Sorry, I was on mute”: Tips for perfect life science partnering during upcoming digital events

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The world has changed for us all due to COVID-19, and it can feel like we’ve jumped five years into the future in terms of online interactions using video-conference platforms to get things done. Companies need to adapt to survive and thrive in the new way of interacting with others, so global connections are more important than ever. This blog post is here to help you make the most of your partnering experience at events like ChinaBio® Partnering Forum Digital in August, BioPharm America™ Digital in September, and BIO-Europe® Digital in October. We’ll give you some tips, but also some slips to avoid, and help you be virtuous in your virtual experience.

“Sorry, I was on mute”: How many times have you heard that this year? It’s almost as common as “my wifi’s unstable” or “I’m having trouble with my camera.” If we each made a small donation to a charity of our choice for every time we utter these embarrassing words the world would be a better place. Make sure everything is working well and you really know how to use the various functions on the conference platform, including how to share documents and make comments, how to turn your camera and microphone on and off, and that your headphones are working properly. Have you got wireless headphones? Now’s a good time to invest in those as they give you more freedom of movement. Practice with some internal calls.

Oh, hello Mister Tiddles!”: Who hasn’t yet experienced a cat walking into the shot, as it cutely clamors for attention while clattering across your keyboard? While amusing the first time around, it does take up valuable time to shoo the adorable little animal away and get back on focus. It’s in your best interest to ensure you can make your partnering call uninterrupted. You can feed Mr. Tiddles between meetings and give yourself a micro-break as you do.

“We didn’t have time to…”Partnering, especially for first time connections, is a moment when you really want to look your best. If you haven’t been able to view the video, or check the corporate brochure, or peruse the factsheet before the call, it can suggest you’re not really interested. So, do a little homework before the call, as who wants to look lazy and unprofessional? That’s not going to help you seal the deal and help drive your life science partnering forward.

They call me Jane, but that’s not my name”: Admit it, have you ever forgotten someone’s name during the middle of a partnering meeting, and you didn’t have their business card on hand as a prompt? A big advantage of digital partnering is you can see the person’s name all the time, right under their image. It should therefore be easy to casually use it in conversation and create a bit more of an emotional bond. Maybe someone’s name is hard to pronounce—but if you’re planning to work with them for years, isn’t now the time to start getting it right? Plus be friendly if someone can’t quite pronounce your name: it’s ‘Shove-lay-both-ham’ not ‘Shufflebottom’. From little things do big relationships grow.

“Tick Tock Tick Tock”: Few things can frustrate more than the other party not turning up for a call. If you can’t make it, say so in advance, even if five minutes before. If Mr. Tiddles is hungry, it can probably wait thirty minutes. If there’s more than one of you on the call, have the first person make apologies for the lateness of others, and cover whatever can be done before they arrive. If the key decision maker can’t make the call, it's probably best to cancel rather than press on. It’s all about showing respect by not wasting time. But before you switch your camera on, especially if joining a call in a rush, pay special attention to the next tip.

“Location, location…”: While we’ll likely be calling from the comfort of our home, do carefully check what is visible in your background. Does your laundry, or the cat litter tray, really need to be in shot? Now, it’s easy to drop in a custom background, how about a simple one showing your company logo, or maybe your labs, or even a pre-lockdown team shot? Also get the foreground right: we want to see your face, not your coffee cup, or just your left ear. If calling from outside, be conscious others may be under lockdown (again), and may not appreciate a background of a Bavarian beer garden in full swing, with you sipping from a glistening Stein of Hacker Pschorr, one of Munich’s finest beers.

“…location”: Location really is so important, so we’ll talk about it twice. To give the other party a feel of where you work, can you send in advance some photos of the office/lab? Maybe there’s a walk through that you could film, highlighting key parts of the organization, even with some great drone shots? These are not complex or expensive to do. If the other party can more easily imagine themselves working with you, there, that makes it easier for them to want to be working with you.

Suits are just so not hot right now: Given we have all gone over to much more casual wear it really isn’t necessary to dress completely formally for partnering calls, especially as only your head and shoulders will be in shot. Who even knows how to wear socks anymore? For men, this is the best opportunity you’ll ever have to ditch that terrible tie! For everyone, you can still be smart, and maybe show a little cultural color from wherever you’re calling from, as this can make you feel more comfortable, but also helps people remember you.

“Could you say that again?”: Audio is not always perfect on video conferences, and maybe the person you’re speaking to is not using their first language, or you yours. So, be slow and be clear, especially on technical vocabulary and acronyms—did you say NMR or MRI, in vitro or in vivo? Think about the important messages you want to get across, and ensure you cover those early in the call, so the other side has a chance to ask about anything they don’t understand. As you’re on camera, but not in person, it’s easy to have a few notes just out of shot, or on script cards, just like a TV presenter does.

“I really need a coffee”: The biggest difference between a physical event and a virtual one is we may not all be in the same time zone. On partneringONE® all partnering meetings will be scheduled over 24-hour timeframes to accommodate time zones across the world. What may be early for you may be late for the people you’re calling. If you need a coffee to get started, and be less of a grumpy bear, have it well before your first call, as the other party may not understand why you are sluggish and they are in top form, especially as we don’t necessarily know what time zone the other person is in. Also, do take breaks: you’d do that in the real world, and Mr. Tiddles probably needs letting out by now. We’re human, not machines, unless you have found a way to have a digital avatar or chat-bot do your partnering calls while you snooze in a beer garden. If so, please urgently let us all in on the secret of how to do that.

For more tips on successful digital communication, check out this Informa Connect blogWhy eating seven M&Ms daily is essential for digital communications success at BIO-Europe Spring®.

EBD Group is offering a Virtual Passport to attend all three of the remaining 2020 fully digital partnering conferences. Attendees from all sectors of life sciences can access the unparalleled partnering and content offered by ChinaBio® Partnering Forum Digital, BioPharm America™ Digital and BIO-Europe® Digital with a Virtual Passport at a substantially reduced fee.

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