December 28, 2010

Conference Panel

Some people are big on spring cleaning - something about the first breeze that doesn't chill you to the bone and little buds on naked trees brings out the inner organizer in most of us.  I love spring cleaning as much as the next person, but for me there are a few other times of year that trigger a life 'clean-up' project.  A big one is this week, after the Christmas madness and before the tradition audit busy season (because I know when I kiss Shawn goodbye next Monday morning to go to work, instead of "see you tonight" we'll be saying "see you after March"!).  Yes, I do some physical cleaning in this time, particularly trying to actually sort, fold, and organize my clothes so when I'm bleary-eyed on a Thursday morning and already 40 hours into my work week I can find SOMETHING I'm not embarrased to wear.  However, this is mostly a time for a mental airing-out; to close out all those projects I've left half-done or neglected altogether.  And so, I think it's time I blogged about my conference panel experience with WEGO that I probably mentioned a half-dozen times but never actually reported about!  (Hey, this one is only from Novebmer, my 'Suddenly Visible' experience actually occured in October...let's be happy for any improvement!)

DTC Perspectives, Inc. is an organization aimed at improving comsumer marketing through education and innovation.  In addition to their usual offerings to those in the marketing professions, they organize events to bring together professionals in various industries with experts and consumers to help them renovate their approach.  In November, DTC held a national conference for healthcare industry marketing professionals...with a special focus on the internet and social media.  A quick Google search will give you ample background on the recent discussions about the current lack (and quickening development) of regulations for the healthcare/pharma industry related to social media communications.

As part of this two-day long conference, WEGO organized a special live panel presentation that apparently created a lot of excitement - they brought in 3 health activists working in social media along with their own VP to host a question-and-answer session to be the grand finale presentation.  As it would turn out, the organizers approached us while the four of us ate lunch to ask if we would be willing to move our presentation seems a lot of people had to leave a little early to catch trains and flights home, and they didn't want to risk missing our session!

Thank goodness we had at least a short time to chat together before our presentation - none of us had met before and I really saw a huge benefit in the way we levereged each other's responses during the session (since we had already discussed most of the questions asked over lunch) instead of vying with each other (which I suspect would have been the case otherwise). 

The panel was very interesting - I was clearly the beginner in the group, which I expected:)  Not that I was treated as such, I was given the same respect as the other women and Bob (WEGO's VP / panel moderator), and even if a relative 'newbie' I'm sure I have a perspective to offer that may be useful to the conference attendees.  I've mentioned Bob Brooks, VP for WEGO (you can see his bio along with the rest of the WEGO team here), who has decades of experience inside and outside the healthcare industry.  Bob worked with us via email to get our thoughts on 3 key concepts, compile slides, and prepare for the presentation as well as moderating the session.  I also got to meet and connect with two more experienced activists than myself - Lee Ann Thrill and Lisa Emrich. 

Lee Ann authors The Butter Compartment - her blog (and related network) about life with Type 1 diabetes (the title is a reference to where in their refrigerators many diabetics store their insulin - once I found out what it meant I think it's extremely clever).  One of Lee Ann's projects that I find most interesting is her art made with materials such as glucose test strips.  She repurposes a product vital to living with her chronic illness but which evokes a real love/hate relationship for most diabetics in a medium she uses to communicate with the rest of the world!

Lisa authors Brass and Ivory - her blog about living with MS and RA.  Lisa also is the driving force behind an MS Carnival of Bloggers and has begun venturing into Vloging.  The title of her blog refers to her livelyhood, playing and teaching music!  It logically follows, therefore, that she also explores the ways music can be used to help those with a chronic illness.  I had the added pleasure of spending a little extra one-on-one time with Lisa after our panel presenation when I dropped her off at the train station (since I drove up to the venue).  Another wonderful in-person bonding session brought to me courtesy of WEGO! 

If I ever someday come into some phenomenal financial windfall, where I don't have to worry about earning a living and can pursue all the glorious academic pursuits my heart desires, I think I'll have to do some real studies on the whole networking phenomena.  It's absolutely fascinating to me the ways my in-person connections led to my web connections which REALLY led to an explosion of other web connections...and all roads led back to more in-person connections!  For someone who avoided as many networking events in college as humanly possible, I really have come full circle.  I am very grateful for all the people involved in my (continuing) growth, but especially the person (whose name is now lost in the abyss of my bad memory) that gave me the best advice I've ever heard: if you're passionate about something or have a dream, talk about it to everyone you meet at every chance you get.  You never know who's going to have the connection, spark, or resources you need to get to the next step!

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