When I got invited to attend The Leadership Meeting, an event for high-level biopharmaceutical executives held immediately prior to the 38th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM) I thought, “Do I really want to add two more days on the front end of what is already a pretty jam packed and chaotic week?” Answer. “Hell yeah.” Why? Well, for starters, if you’ve ever encountered travel issues on your way to JPM, then you know how frustrating and disruptive it is to be showing up late for our industry’s annual kickoff. Because JPM isn’t just one meeting, but a whole week’s worth of meetings.
But the big reason c-level biopharmaceutical and medical device company executives should attend The Leadership Meeting is that it gets you in the proper mindset to succeed during JPM (along with placing you in the nearby vicinity a day or two early). However, I feel it is important to note, that while some might think it would be better to attend a pre-JPM meeting much closer to Union Square because it’s, “more convenient,” I believe doing so would be distracting, and as you are more accessible, increases the likelihood for not being fully committed and engaged. And trust me, as this was my second opportunity to attend a CRUSH Life Sciences’ pre-JPM meeting (see last year’s recap of The Board Meeting West), I can attest to the caliber of content and speakers these folk have proven capable of wrangling.
What’s Said At The Leadership Meeting, Stays At The Leadership Meeting
Here’s the rub, at least for me. Unlike the majority of the meetings I attend, The Leadership Meeting is completely off the record. This means no tweeting, no pictures, and certainly no post event recap of who said what to whom and when. I would imagine management at many media outlets might struggle with the notion of having a member of its team attend an event where there won’t be any “scoops” involving juicy quotes. Further, it has been my experience that many (not all) conference organizers of “off-the-record meetings” take a similar short-sighted approach (i.e., no media). But thankfully, Life Science Leader and CRUSH Life Sciences take a big picture perspective. Because the value in my attending a meeting isn’t in being the first to capture who said what, but getting ideas for future articles that could prove valuable to our readers, while networking with executives who can help us to execute and deliver. In fact, here is a list of informative articles that have appeared in Life Science Leaders’ print edition, all generated from having attended last year’s meeting.
But there is value for conference organizers as well. Just because a meeting is, “off the record,” doesn’t mean I can’t write anything about it. Afterall, The Leadership Meeting has an agenda listed online. Thus, me telling you that there was a “Fireside Chat: The Real Deal—Leadership When Navigating a Deal,” that included George Golumbeski (former EVP at Celgene), can’t possibly be construed as “letting the cat out of the bag.” And I wouldn’t feel I was in violation by sharing that Golumbeski prefaced some of his remarks by informing the audience “Don’t tweet this.” No worries here. In fact, the only thing I tweeted on the day of The Leadership Meeting was a picture of me with George, something I always try to do when connecting in person with a Life Science Leader cover feature. So, just imagine the stories he shared, let alone those from other executives throughout the day’s sessions. For example, there was a panel, “It’s Lonely at The Top: Lessons Learned from CEO’s and Chairs on How to Run the Show,” that included Jodie Morrison, CEO, Cadent Therapeutics (participant in this article from 2018); Edwin Moses, former CEO, Ablynx (article participant in 2010); and Pascale Witz, board member, Horizon Therapeutics (featured in 2015). The day included a session on corporate culture, involving Ed Frauenheim, senior director of content at Great Places To Work — you know, the company responsible for producing the 100 Best Companies to Work For rankings published annually in Fortune. And I don’t see how describing a session (e.g., “Perfect Alignment: Developing a Successful Strategy for All Parts of Your Corporate Body,” involving Michael Castagna [CEO of MannKind], Mark Mallon [CEO of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals], and David Parkinson [president and CEO of ESSA Pharma]) as being, “unbelievably transparent” and “incredibly instructive,” could possibly be construed as spilling any beans.
Finally, unlike most events that conclude with a show stopper in an attempt to keep attendees in attendance, The Leadership Meeting kicked off with one (i.e., Keith Ferrazzi, author of NY Times Bestsellers, Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back?). While I don’t want to sound like a kiss ass, the reality is (cause I was there), Ferrazzi’s 90-minute talk set the tone for transparency, and not only did the discussions and content go up from there in value, but they provided plenty of wisdom for those leaders to take home. And as I reflected on The Leadership Meeting throughout my week at JPM, I found myself thinking how many more life science leaders could benefit from attending a conference specifically curated toward improving their professional development. Perhaps I’ll see you there next year – eager, engaged, and most importantly, ready to learn.