The life sciences industry has always been a space for innovative thought, creative collaboration, and scientific discovery with the potential to affect change on a global scale. As simple as this may sound, those global changes are brought to life when life sciences professionals come together to meet. And the meetings, conferences, and congresses that take place within the industry are crucial catalysts for supporting the development of potentially life-altering scientific discoveries.
Over the last two years, life sciences professionals, planners, and customers have had to drastically shift the way they meet to navigate the challenges presented during the pandemic. In an instant, an industry that was heavily reliant on face-to-face interaction to spur innovation was forced to find ways to maintain connection without sacrificing safety. With meeting in person longer viable, the industry—like many others—had to rapidly adopt virtual formats to conduct business, utilizing tools, tech, and strategies to keep business moving forward.
Since then, finding creative ways to prioritize meaningful engagement within a virtual environment has altered the way meeting professionals approach life science clients and events. Which begs the question, how have these teams within the meetings and events industry adapted to the challenges brought on by the pandemic? And how will they navigate the future of this space as we begin to move into a post-pandemic world?
In this post, we speak with our Senior Global Account Director in the UK, Darim Mohammed, to learn about how life sciences teams have evolved over the past couple of years.
Q&A WITH DARIM:
HOW COVID-19 HAS CHANGED LIFE SCIENCES ROLES
Darim Mohammed, Senior Global Account Director
Tell us about your career journey
My experience has afforded me the ability to cover operations, sales, and account management over the last 30 years in both travel and meetings and events. When I joined BCD back in 2017, my role was as Global Account Director for a technology company and I moved to a Senior Global Account Director for a global life sciences client in July 2020. There has been a learning curve, this being the first life science organization I have managed. Moving accounts in the middle of a pandemic was a challenge in itself, but it allowed me to take time to learn and understand how a life sciences business operates.
How have life sciences meetings and events changed in the last 24 months?
As I moved to a life sciences account after the pandemic started, I saw a dramatic drop in meetings as well as a demand for engagement and a shift from stakeholders to virtual meetings. At the same time, meeting owners looked at BCD for guidance on how best to manage these types of meetings and what platform to use for them, and importantly, how to keep attendees engaged during these virtual meetings, since most attendees were at home with all of the distractions that this has. As we now start to move slowly out of the pandemic moving towards a return to travel and meetings, we are expecting to see 20% of meetings remaining as virtual.
What are some of the challenges the industry has seen in this vertical?
One of the key elements of having in-person meetings with Health Care Professionals (HCPs) is networking and sharing best practices. Virtual meetings were challenged on how to still achieve this to ensure it was still possible to be creative with solutions to enable the networking for the HCPs. However, for many stakeholders in-person meetings were the only way that their HCPs wanted to engage and now we have a pent-up demand and we are seeing a sudden increase in meeting requests being requested for Q2 onwards.
What else has changed for your role/team?
Managing my time to ensure I can have a good work/life balance was a big challenge for the first 12 months. Now that I have got into a stride, I am able to balance out specific days of the week where I take late calls or early calls to ensure that I am connecting across all regions to be able to support the team across the 37 countries that we manage our client in. I have had to really listen to the team ensuring they have the right tools they need to be successful in their roles. The pandemic has affected people in different ways and my role is about providing different levels of support for different team members. Being a good listener, sharing advise while being empathetic has been a key skill I developed over the last few years.
How are you feeling about the future & why?
Things are looking very encouraging as governments around the world look to open borders while the number of vaccinations increase. We are seeing the highest number of requested meetings from my client in our top markets and regions of North America & LATAM. I expect 2022 to be a bumper year, post-pandemic, still not close to the pre-pandemic levels, but a positive sign that the world is moving in the right direction. Our stakeholders have pent-up demand for in-person meetings and for people to start traveling again. There still may be local COVID-19 requirements that our teams will continue to review and check to ensure stakeholders have a smooth meeting. Our customers continue to look for BCD M&E to guide them for the foreseeable future.
Finally, what are you most proud of from the last year – professionally & personally?
Despite the ups and downs of 2021, it was a year that our global team pulled together and drove engagement with stakeholders around the world, pushing the boundaries of the team. I'm very proud of our global account management team. Personally, I have learnt to be humbler, to listen and support in different ways to ensure the team are appreciated on different levels.