On apples, endings and new beginnings

The clock changed. Once again, it’s dark when we start work, and dark when we stop. Luckily, the daylight hours are sunny, and the sky is a summery blue. The trees resplendent in breath-taking reds and yellows. A cycle ends and a new cycle will begin.

Today’s topics:

– On apples, endings and new beginnings
– Virtual Conferences that Impact Reality for HCPs and other stakeholders
– Innovation – a plant based COVID-19 vaccine
– The benefit of trust

On apples, endings and new beginnings

My cat is old. He is ill. I took him to the vet. Needing her to confirm what I knew. She agreed it’s time. But recommended one attempt to get him back on his feet. She gave him antibiotics, painkillers, infusions, and an appetite stimulant. He’s home. He sits in a chair. He sleeps. He eats. I administer SC fluids and painkillers. I hope he will decide for me. I know he will not.

As a clinician you don’t control life and death. You just do your best. I used to find this very comforting. But, as a pet owner, it’s different.

Taking care of my cat has made me think about endings. How hard they are. How often we remain in unsatisfactory situations because the alternatives are frightening. Hoping that with time the right path will become clear. Honesty is important. Sometimes the decision is obvious, but we hesitate. This is not a bad thing. Patience is important, time does bring clarity and I think there is a right time for everything. It’s a good time of year to be thinking of endings.

Autumn is all about letting go. Nature is letting go. Leaves are falling. The last flowers are in bloom. Frosts are on the way. Energy is conserved in roots. Out of sight. Everything pauses, waiting to emerge, renewed in spring. Sometimes the right decision is to wait, reflect and conserve energy. Imagine an impatient plant sending out shoots into the cold December air. The shoots would freeze. The plant would likely not survive the winter. And at work, if your organisation is undergoing an extensive reorganization. It’s likely not a good time to initiate an unrelated global transformation.

In the situation I am in, it comforts me to think, that when the time is right, I will know. In the meantime, as I navigate endings and beginnings, I share two quotes that speak to me.

“An apple falls from the tree only when it is fully ripe. You cannot hasten this process. If you pick it before it is ripe, you will damage the twig it is on.” Catherine Gruntz

“Enjoy the journey! Each time and situation – even the most difficult ones – has blessings and joys associated if you look and appreciate them.” Dave Puterbaugh

Virtual Conferences that Impact Reality for HCPs and other stakeholders

More endings and new beginnings. Virtual conferences are here to stay. Many of us don’t like them. But we could focus on the things we keep from face-to-face meetings, where possible. Identifying what we want to let go. And celebrating new possibilities. After all, there are positive aspects to virtual meetings. Attendance fees are lower. Making the information presented more accessible. Indeed, in a presentation at MASC 2021, a speaker shared that polled HCPs said they only signed up as it was virtual. We may be reaching more HCPs than ever before! In addition, virtual interaction offers different ways to engage. And chat and polling work nicely, especially when people are shy.

A good virtual conference depends on the same ingredients as a face-to-face conference. You are vying for your audience’s attention. If you don’t captivate them, they will leave.

There are three areas that should be in focus in my opinion:

1) Logistics and accessibility. Send out invitations for the virtual meeting to block participant’s calendars. Ensure they need to use minimal links to access the conference. Don’t make them switch back and forth between platforms. Ensure that the platform you use is easy to navigate. That content is easy to find. If they need to keep two windows open, while they switch from one platform to another, don’t play music on one of the platforms. In the breaks, showcase content from the conference participants are at. Instead of advertising other conferences that are not relevant for the target audience.

2) Content, content formats and presentations: Content blocks should be short. Speakers, confident and well-prepared. Presentations professional. Concise, low on text, high on graphics. Run breakout sessions with qualified moderators. Address audience questions in panel discussions. Provide breakout rooms for networking. Offer specific topics for the networking rooms. This will attract more participants. Provide all content on demand as well, so that participants can make the conference work for them, not the other way round.

3) Pre-care, Care, Aftercare: Pre-care: before the meeting, ensure your customers have all the information they need, so that they can optimally plan their attendance. Maybe you can hold some pre-conference engagement activities depending on the topic and the audience. Care: During the meeting, provide networking tools, a virtual booth, highlights of the day in video, podcast, newsletter format, engaging sessions, obviously, as well as a helpdesk that is perpetually staffed, for any tech and other needs. Post-care: provide your participants with post-processing opportunities, extend the discussion in the wider community. Leave content online for on-demand access. Provide a space for interaction between participants potentially for Q and A addressing of questions that were raised, but not addressed, at the meeting.

Of course, ensure that your materials are compliant, reviewed by the relevant teams and that for booth activities, you have a strategy in place for addressing promotional content, as well as for directing your customers to a scientific engagement team in a different part of the site, for any medical information questions.

Innovation – a plant based COVID-19 vaccine

The pandemic has given us toilet paper shortages, silly videos, conspiracy theories and also a frightening demonstration of how algorithms, that identify our interests and then feed us more of the same data, influence individuals, and shape and polarize societies. Beyond these things, the pandemic has also accelerated telemedicine, virtual engagement channels and taught us that the impossible is possible. Being human, I fear we will forget this last teaching very fast. People perform their own nasal swabs, discuss where to access the Moderna vaccine in front of the ladies changing room at John Lewis in London (Vaccination Centre in Wimbledon, for those of you who are curious) and almost everyone has an opinion on vaccines, “test and trace”, COVID certificates and mask mandates. What the pandemic has also given us is, accelerated approval of novel mRNA vaccines, among others. A wide range of platforms is used to develop COVID-19 vaccines, including protein subunits, DNA, RNA, virus like particles, live attenuated virus, viral vector (non-replicating) and others, according to the article linked below. Beyond these, more traditional approaches, plant-based vaccines are in focus as an alternative to rapidly produce affordable COVID-19 vaccines. Clinical trials are ongoing. More information here: Plant based COVID-19 vaccines, status, design and development strategies

The benefit of trust

On a recent bike ride, I stopped at a village store and discovered fascinating cheeses, yoghurt, honey, and homemade biscuits, all from small producers. I love trying new things. At the till, I was informed they only take cash. I haven’t used cash since the dark ages. I was ready to leave my bounty behind, when the owner came to the register and said, “Not to worry, I’ll give you my bank details, you can transfer the money to us.” I gave him my name and address. He didn’t want a copy of my ID, which I offered. He thanked me for visiting his shop. I left with a warm fuzzy feeling. I think of the shop with fondness. The products are great. But the feeling of being trusted is better. It made me feel happy in the world that day. The shopkeeper didn’t know me. He couldn’t know I would pay. I’m sure he has great instincts on people. But still.

Trust is a powerful thing. Trusting someone to do the right thing is a reward in itself. As companies monitor employees and managers worry about productivity and virtual working, perhaps the village shopkeeper has something to teach us?

If you are facing a complex challenge and would like a sounding board or you’d like some help to implement globally, contact me for a chat.

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash