How to Get the Most Out of Pharmacy Conferences

Here are the ways to save money, time, and keep on track with goals at these industry meetings

In the competitive pharmacy market, who we know and how we provide value to them and their networks will provide us with the ultimate leverage to open doors for anywhere we want to go with our careers. In other words, our networks are our net worth. Meeting people and presenting ourselves as a brand of value is the best thing we can do to not only make this happen, but to truly live out our life purpose and mission.

Wouldn’t it be great to share our message with others to help those just starting out? How about collaborating with a like-minded colleague who is on the same path? Or better yet, learning from someone who has already achieved what we have set out to accomplish? There is a place where all 3 groups of people meet. No, it is not Hogwarts or Narnia. It is, conferences. Yes: Real-life people in a physical space whom we can meet in person. There is certainly tremendous value and benefits to online or summit-based conferences on the web like the phenomenal PharmacySummit, but that does not replace personal interaction. Learning people skills only comes from building skills with people. We can read and rehearse all we want, but until we get in front of people and learn the nuances of nonverbal communication, make mistakes, and perfect our pitch, we will never truly be masters.

For those who have never been to a conference or even for those who are rusty, nervousness or feeling scared or unprepared are normal. But these feelings are positive for 2 reasons: the comfort zone is nice, but nothing ever grows there, and if we find ourselves to be the smartest people in the room, we need to find a new room.

Moving to unfamiliar territory with untapped potential for learning something new from those more advanced is exactly what we want. Another thing to keep in mind: Proper preparation prevents poor performance.

Looking back at my time in pharmacy school, I feel blessed to say that I ended up going to 7 national and regional conferences, and I continue to attend them to this day. I made a lot of mistakes and had some major “learning moments” over the years, so here are 4 of my best tips:

1. Dress to impress. There are 2 big mistakes I hear pharmacy students make when it comes to dressing professionally: either “I have to buy an Armani suit/Gucci dress” and go over the top or at the other end of the spectrum, “Jeans are OK, right?” Great news: Dressing professionally does not have to cost an arm and a leg, and knowing the financial stress that many pharmacy students face, I suggest the following: Check out TJMaxx or Marshalls (not recommended as a last-minute option); Google the store name, plus the word "coupon;" join favorite clothing stores' email lists to get deals; use the site Honey, as it will automatically scan any website where a purchase is made and instantly apply any available coupons, free of charge; and visit outlet stores, as they have lots of discounts.

2. Set goals. Arrive at conferences with clear goals in mind. Think about who you want to meet, what you want to learn, and what contacts you want to make? Do some basic information-gathering once you answer these questions. Look on the website to get professional biographies and/or contact information. Even reach out ahead of time. Doing research allows for preparation before meeting someone. Almost no one does that at conferences, so those who do stand out from the crowd.

3. Fuel Up for success. We cannot focus or be at the top of our game when we were starving. Packing some simple snacks prevents a growling stomach and helps avoid overpriced conference food and unwanted. The bests food for en route to the conference are homemade yogurt parfaits, jerky, pre-made shakes, protein bars, and water, because hydration is key. The best foods while at the conference, given that events often have continental offerings, if any at all are oatmeal, pre-prepped meals, protein shakes; and quick snacks. Do not forget money for eating out, just in case.

4. Exercise. A sharp body means a sharp mind. Keep fitness simple, and make sure to pack workout clothes and shoes, headphones, and a water bottle.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article that details the best tips for nailing interactions while at conferences. Find more advice and articles at my website, thefitpharmacist.com or on my Instagram page (@thefitpharmacist), or contact me at thefitpharmacist@thedietdoc.com.