Comments on Biotech Showcase Webinar 
Posted by Carlos on Dec 14, 2015

This morning, our friends at EBD and MacDougall Biomedical Communications presented a very good webinar on preparing for the upcoming festivities in San Francisco. In case you missed it, I believe the video will be available in the near future.

Even if you are an experienced attendee of the January “H&Q” event, the webinar gave some very good tips and suggestions for getting the most out of the week. Two which stood out in our mind are:

Party Hearty – One of the presenters (forgive us for not remembering who made this point) made the important point that introverts need to get out of their shell and participate in evening receptions. Now note we said participate.

This means two things. First, participate means to network as much as possible or pre-arrange a meeting or two at a reception. We’ve seen where people just go to receptions to get a free meal and free booze. This is a mistake. Grab a seltzer and shake hands and exchange business cards instead.

Second, don’t be bashful about excusing yourself from one reception in order to attend another. We’re all there to network. We’ll understand.

An Exercise in Planning – All presenters agreed that planning is critical for making the week in San Francisco a successful one. The week is a tricky one because there are 10,000 industry folks in town that week, yet there may be only 3-4,000 spending all of their time at the Westin Hotel at the JP Morgan conference, maybe less. There may be 3,000 or so registered for the Biotech Showcase, but again, few will spend 100% of their time there.

So what does “planning” really mean for an event where there isn’t a single, captive audience or location?

We think there are a few elements to planning for this week (some of these ideas were presented in the webinar):

  1. Use Biotech Showcase as a “base camp” for the week, but schedule meetings with others at the various other hotels around Union Square (especially the Hilton). We typically block off a half a day from Biotech Showcase partnering as “unavailable” to spend time in meetings outside the Biotech Showcase (typically Monday morning).
  2. Aggressively use LinkedIn to a) let your contacts know you will be in town, and b) send messages via LinkedIn or email to schedule meetings. But don’t simply say “I will be in San Francisco…message me if you want to meet.” Keep in mind that only a small percentage of your contacts will see anything you post on LinkedIn. So a single post is unlikely to result in a full calendar. Review your contacts and proactively reach out.
  3. Coordinate with your colleagues who are in town with you. For example, if one meeting is running long, one of you can leave early and start the next meeting on town (I think Dennis Purcell made this point, which is a good one).

Here are a few other tips and suggestions, based on our experiences attending the San Francisco conferences:

Know your percentage – What percentage of your meeting invitations are accepted? Declined? Don’t know? You should. Keeping track of these data for each conference over time will help you plan more effectively.

Now these data will vary by company, conference, objectives, and so forth. In our experience, anywhere from 15% to 40% of our meeting invitations are accepted.

But regardless of the “correct” number for your situation, this has planning implications.

If your goal is 30 meetings, with a 20% acceptance rate, you need to send out 150 meeting invitations.

Now think about that number for a moment.

How long will it take you to send out 150 meeting invitations? Especially if you do the right thing and customize (within reason) every one? That’s easily 40-50 hours worth of work. Maybe more.

This means you need to start sending invitations and scheduling meetings weeks in advance. But not only that, this has to be done well in advance because calendars will fill up quickly. Start this process on January 4, and you will be lucky to have 5 meetings scheduled instead of the desired 30.

Poor Man’s BIO –  For many people, the second week in San Francisco is the only partnering week they attend. And why not? There are plenty of flights to San Francisco from everywhere. And, while hotel prices are very high that week, you could (in theory) schedule meetings in hotel lobbies and save the cost of a conference registration.

This may have been a viable approach when the Westin St. Francis had an open door “meet me under the clock” policy. But those days are long gone. It’s still possible to schedule a sufficient number of meetings using email and LinkedIn and hotel lobbies, but San Francisco in January should be a part of an overall partnering plan, which encompasses multiple conferences across multiple locations (with at least one of them in Europe).

Your Deck(s) – Two comments here. First, we are big believers in presentation customization. Even if you are meeting 10 investors as you raise a Series A, there should be some level of customization. Maybe each deck has one custom slide for each investor. Or perhaps half of them emphasize one item, while half emphasize something else. The point here is that each meeting should be viewed as a singular event, and the presentation should reflect that.

Second, some meetings in San Francisco will be longer, so there will be time for delving into details. However, some meetings will be very short (15-20 minutes), and some will be 5 minutes after bumping into someone walking down the street!

This is where brevity is necessary in order to get to the next step, which is the scheduling of the next (more formal) meeting. Sometimes, flashing 1-3 slides from a tablet is all that is needed (along with the exchange of business cards, of course), to get to the next step. So be prepared to have multiple versions of your presentation, preferably on a tablet organized for easy accessibility.

Want to meet with us in SFO? We’ll be primarily at the Biotech Showcase. Look for us in partneringONE. We can help you plan your entire partnering and presentation strategy for licensing and fund raising purposes.

MacDougall will soon have a mobile web site with maps, lists of receptions, and other useful info. It will be made available too at For a look at last year’s version, visit

P.S. In reviewing our own historical data, it is true that our acceptance rate at the Biotech Showcase is slightly (not statistically) lower than BIO and BIO Europe (Fall). This is partly due to our particular business mix, as we do not often need to meet with investors or very early stage companies (this year being an exception).

However, there are multiple conferences going on simultaneously, and people are engaging in meetings at multiple locations around the Union Square area. As a result, it is quite likely that folks who register for the Biotech Showcase will not have a wide open calendar, as they would at a captive conference like BIO or BIO Europe.

So we will have fewer open meeting slots at the Biotech Showcase, and a correspondingly lower Acceptance rate.
Keep these dynamics in mind as you plan your activities. The key…start engaging in partneringONE as soon as possible!

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