"See you...out there"

By Mark A. Spaulding

In a welcome respite from my usual Comments editorials in Converting Quarterly that provide a rundown on the technical-paper topics in an issue, I instead this quarter wrote one devoted to a subject near and dear to the hearts of just about everyone on the planet: Getting out and about again and returning to some semblance of “normal” while the COVID-19 pandemic recedes into history.

While I personally have been working from home since 2010, I’ve always been busy traveling to the many conferences, annual meetings and trade shows of interest to our audience, be they as close as Chicago or Milwaukee or as far away as Israel or South Korea. You can certainly understand my anticipation in getting back out there for in-person events. And while businesses of all kinds (AIMCAL included, of course) have worked extra hard in the past 14 months to keep things moving and bring value to their customers (and members), Zoom calls and virtual programs just cannot replace being face-to-face with colleagues and friends.

So, it comes as very welcome news that a recent survey by Chicago-based Q1 Productions shows four out of 10 respondents say they’ll be comfortable attending an in-person event this fall – with another 19% feeling the same way by next year. In addition, as of press time, more than 100 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just eased its guidelines for mask-wearing and social-distancing by this third of the population. All in all, there’s a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

Right now, my first excursion looks to be the Converters Expo in Green Bay (WI) this summer, followed by a handful of September events. But mark your calendars now for the return of an in-person AIMCAL R2R USA Conference / SPE FlexPackCon from Oct. 17-21, co-located with the revamped ICEC USA 2021 trade show in Orlando (FL). Show organizer Reed Exhibitions and the Orange County Convention Ctr. have already implemented a long list of health and safety protocols to welcome you back. Along with scores of technical presentations on various R2R processing methods and emerging markets over three days, AIMCAL’s Fundamentals Seminars will kick off the technical conference. It’s bound to be a very busy week and one you and your staff can’t afford to miss by being there – in-person.

Now, I’ll reveal my sci-fi nerdiness. As Q said to Captain Picard at the end of the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation: “See you…out there.”