In about 72 hours, I’ll unplug and get on a plane to do to the annual pilgrimage to the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference, a crowded, business-attire-preferred gathering of investors and representatives of a huge swath of the world’s life science companies.
Ostensibly, the meeting is an investor conference, filled with a staggering 350 half-hour presentations. The formal program is not an entirely comfortable affair: it’s not a cheap ticket to get, and the day is filled with speeches in standing-room-only conference rooms. It doesn’t have to be that way: the presentations are webcast live, meaning that anyone can tune in from anywhere and spare themselves the jostling and neck-craning.
And, yet, the numbers are in: the hallways at the St. Francis in San Francisco will again be as swollen as ever with suit-clad biotech insiders (preliminary numbers suggest 20 percent more official attendees than 2010). The enduring popularity of the event is an intense reminder that, even at a time when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is the reigning Time Person of the Year, there is no replacement for the offline social network.
Proposals will be floated in the hallways, deals discussed over wine. Reporters, seizing on the convergence of so many sources and newsmakers, will pack notebooks full of details from face-to-face interviews, both scheduled and serendipitous. It’s an inspiring, feverish environment that can’t be re-created over a phone line, helping to explain why SFO will be packed this weekend with scores of BioWorld readers.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be social media engagement during the confab: in addition to the webcasts, there is a Twitter hashtag (#jpm11, and check out WCG’s analysis of Twitter activity at J.P. Morgan a year ago), a LinkedIn page, and plenty of Facebook chatter. Adam Feuerstein of the thestreet.com will liveblog as much as he can. And we will, of course, steep ourselves in those conversations.
At the end of the day, we go where the action is. More and more, that has meant spending more time online. Not next week. Next week, we’ll be sweating through overheated breakouts and complaining about the difficulty of snagging a drink from the swamped bartenders around Union Square, just like thousands of others. See you there.