Posted 01 August 2017
By Zachary Brousseau
Your time is valuable. We respect and appreciate the time you take to attend the Regulatory Convergence, and we want you to get as much out of RAPS’ signature annual event as you can. After all, it is an investment in your job, your career and your regulatory knowledge. So we have a few tips to help you make the most of your Convergence experience this year at National Harbor on the DC Waterfront.
1. Plan Ahead
With more than 75 sessions and over 200 speakers in five distinct subject-area tracks, including concurrent educational sessions, plenaries, mini-sessions, preconference workshops and “Conversations That Matter” roundtable discussions hosted by RAPS Fellows, there is no way you are going to be able to attend everything. To get the most bang for your—or your employer’s—buck, you should plan ahead. Go over the full Regulatory Convergence agenda beforehand and note the sessions of most interest to you.
If others from your company will be attending, coordinate with them as well. You may want to split up interesting sessions that will be held concurrently and compare notes afterward. If you find yourself in a session that is not exactly what you expected, don’t be afraid to try another session that may be better suited to your needs. And don’t forget about the exhibit hall. There will be more than 130 exhibitors, so it could be easy to get sidetracked and not make it to that booth you really wanted to visit.
2. Go Global
The Regulatory Convergence is the world’s largest annual gathering for the healthcare product regulatory profession. Speakers and attendees come from all over the world to learn, network and exchange ideas. This is a golden opportunity to hear from global thought leaders and meet regulatory professionals from all over without having to travel extensively. This can be particularly cost-effective if you’re from a small company.
There will be a more than 20 speakers this year from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), notably including Commissioner Scott Gottlieb giving the opening keynote. But there are also regulators on the agenda from many other key agencies around the world, including the European Medicines Agency (EMA); the World Health Organization (WHO); the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA); Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA); the National Regulatory Authority of Cuba; Health Canada and other national and regional health authorities.
If you’re not a conference speaker, it doesn’t mean you are limited to a passive role at the Convergence. Talk with as many people as you can. Share your observations about the conference sessions on social media and participate in on-site activities. Follow what others are saying about the conference on Twitter using the hashtag #2017RAPS and through the Convergence smartphone app, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation. And hey, if you think you should be on the agenda for next year, we would love to hear your ideas for a session at next year’s Convergence.
4. Ask Questions
If you have questions you would like to ask one or more of the speakers at a session, go for it. Chances are your question may be relevant to others as well, and you get more from the experience by ensuring your concern is addressed. Maybe your question will spark an interesting exchange, or, if your question is more specific in nature, or you don’t feel comfortable airing it in public, approach the speaker after the conclusion of the session. Most will be happy to stick around and continue the conversation.
5. Take Notes and Follow Up
Take notes with the intention of following up. Whatever your preferred method of note taking, do so while asking yourself not only what the takeaways are, but what you plan to do with your new knowledge. Some find it helpful to note three next steps they will take when back in the office based on what they’ve learned. If your colleagues are in attendance, discuss the next steps with them, too.
6. Build Relationships
The Regulatory Convergence offers a great chance to meet new people who understand the challenges of your work, and to catch up with colleagues you may not see often. RAPS is your professional network, and this conference is the largest face-to-face opportunity of the year to tap into that network. Cocktail hours, dine-arounds and between-sessions hallway conversations are not just times to relax and catch your breath; they’re also valuable networking opportunities. And don’t forget to bring your business cards.
7. Practice Your Intro
Speaking of networking opportunities, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes practicing how you will introduce yourself. The Regulatory Convergence is one gathering where you won’t have to explain regulatory affairs to someone who doesn’t quite get it. However, you still will need to tell the people you meet about yourself, your specific work and why you’ve come to the Convergence along with 2,000 or so other regulatory professionals and interested parties. If you haven’t had to do this in a while, get a general outline of your “elevator speech” together in your head and be ready.
8. Pause the Smartphone
No, we don’t want you to leave your iPhone or Android behind. We know you will need to check in with the office or your family, and we encourage you to engage with other participants through social media and the Convergence app. Just be sure to put the smartphone, laptop or tablet away for a while to chat with people, or give your full attention to that interesting speaker you wanted to see. Don’t forget that a big part of the value proposition of a face-to-face meeting is the chance to connect with people in person.
9. Get RAC Credits
This one only applies if you have the Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) credential, but if you do, you can earn RAC recertification credits by attending the Regulatory Convergence or one of the 10 pre-conference workshops. Attendees receive 12 credits for attending the conference, 12 for a two-day workshop or six for a one-day workshop. Since RAC-credentialed professionals must collect 36 recertification credits every three years to maintain the RAC, attending the Convergence alone could represent one-third of your RAC professional development requirements over that period. If you add a workshop, you could be two-thirds of the way there.
10. Take Advantage of National Harbor
If you are not from the Washington, DC, area, you might not know much about the National Harbor, where this year’s Convergence will be held. Technically in Maryland, the mixed-use development is situated on the Potomac River just south of Washington, DC, and directly across the river from Alexandria, VA. The location offers easy access to DC, Northern Virginia and the entire National Capital Region. You can even take a water taxi conveniently from the waterfront by the Gaylord Resort to locations along the river, including Nationals Park if you wish to catch a ballgame. However, there is no need to leave National Harbor at all if you would rather stay closer to the hotel. The Harbor offers a wide range of dining options, as well as shopping and entertainment. For an overview of some of the most popular attractions, see 10 Can't-Miss Things to Do in the National Harbor.