A “Return to Normal” is a phrase we all hear a lot everywhere we turn. It seems to be at some point in time one of the most encouraging, if slightly inaccurate ways to describe what we see happening as the world begins to re-emerge from the chaos we’ve all experienced since late 2019.
After almost two years of canceled industry events, followed then by what felt like an eternity of “virtual conferences” (which, I hope we can all agree did NOT work, so let’s never return to them again) our industry - along with industries around the world - is finally returning to face-to-face events and conferences once again. During the pandemic, Attentive has been keeping a close eye on the policy of industry organizations, particularly in context of their annual conferences to assess when in-person meetings can become more possible
Earlier this month, our team traveled back from San Diego, California after almost a full week of one of the industry’s most prominent trade shows, SOT - the annual Society of Toxicology meeting. And while it was wonderful to see so many things begin their “Return to Normal” (even just earlier this very week, the mandate to wear masks on flights was finally lifted nationwide), it is safe to say that “normal” will not see a full return for quite a while - if ever - in the way we remember.
That is not all bad, though.
A few experiences from the return of SOT this year:
Everyone who attended seemed very glad to be in person! If the 2-3 years of various levels in lockdown taught us anything, it was that “virtual meetings” are challenging. The entire dynamic a fully-interactive meeting provides is stripped away when the event essentially becomes a days-long zoom call. The vendors see no real engagement, and presenters aren’t able to have a meaningful back-and-forth with their audience in the way that an in-person meetings allows.
It may have been the time away, or the fact that we hadn’t seen one another in so long, but every interaction this year at SOT had a positivity to it that has been missed. Everyone seemed to be genuinely excited to be walking around, interacting and talking directly to one another.
Attentive works to be as collaborative as possible to help our clients during their drug development process. For us, the personal touch is integral to building solid business relationships. Being forced to rely on email and on-line meetings can’t really compensate for the ability to chat about core business and develop an understanding of our clients’ personal preferences and how we can best work with them. However, for those of you who need to remain virtual, we will continue to provide you options for oversight and accountability.
The industry knows who we are! One of the most interesting things we noticed is that during the pandemic, Attentive made a name for itself - and the industry took note!
While the talent we’ve put together have literally decades within this industry, it’s easy for us to forget that the Attentive brand was unveiled at the beginning of the pandemic, so the majority of our time in business has played out during the pandemic. Our methods of engagement and interactivity with clients have revolved around the ways the world has changed since 2020.
That said, we were pleased to learn that our methods have worked well… many recognized us, despite SOT being our first official conference! So many of you came by to visit and introduce yourselves, letting us know that you had seen our materials and are ready to move forward with your projects using our facilities.
We even had competitors (the “big boys” as we call them) approach us to discuss working together. While we expected this, we did not expect to hear some of the things they said: “look, you’re less expensive and can get people into your space twice as quickly” …we couldn’t have said it better ourselves!
The “Return to Normal” may never be absolute. Realistically, it could be a long time before the world of 2019 returns; the fact is that there may be many things that never really go back. Masks may never fully go away. The fear of a new variant will likely “lurk” for years to come, influencing the confidence we have that this is all fully “behind us” for good.
That said, the return to in-person events is a major - and quite welcome - step forward toward a return to the business and industry we all enjoyed before the world changed drastically over the past few years.
We were thrilled to see all of you earlier this month in San Diego, and we plan to see you again throughout the year at other events - so stay tuned to Attentive as we announce our next in-person industry event!