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While e-mail is quick and convenient, it's too easy to hide behind and, ultimately, faceless.
My job has many good points and just the occasional bad one. Overall though, the best part has to be the networking. I'm appreciative that as an Editor I get the opportunity to meet so many different people in all areas of the pharmaceutical industry, including lab technicians, product managers, senior scientists, CEOs and politicians — not to mention all the press and PR agencies.
Now, while it's easier to maintain these relationships by e-mail (and like most people I do this every day), I prefer getting out and meeting people in person — for me, that's the key to building successful networks and friendships. But, it has to be done in the right way; for example, during my first CPhI 4 years ago in Paris, I would try to blitz my way through the exhibition, walking onto as many stands as possible, thrusting business cards into strangers' faces and thinking that everybody would send me an e-mail the minute they got back into the office. How wrong I was and how quickly I learned.
This year's CPhI expo (ironically back in Paris) was a much better experience as I once more blitzed through the halls, but this time it was all about renewing acquaintances, catching up with people I hadn't seen since the last CPhI, meetings over a coffee and croissant, and catching up on all the 'off the record' industry gossip. I still met my fair share of new contacts, but unlike previous years, I now understand that the process of developing a meaningful business relationship from that initial meeting will take time. Of course, there's no upper or lower limit as to how long it will take, but what I do know is that the foundation will be one of trust and understanding, which will only develop from meeting in person.
Personally, I find that while e-mail is quick and convenient, it's too easy to hide behind (particularly when you're too scared to say something in person) and, ultimately, faceless. Speaking from experience, I believe it's simply a very lazy way to do business. My advice? Be constructive and get out there, network at industry events and be seen; but most of all, just make the effort to meet new and existing contacts in person — it's much more rewarding.