Same Time Next Year
Allison M. DiMatteo, BA, MPS
Planning to attend dental meetings now can benefit your career, your practice, and your patients
For today’s busy clinician, the time and expense of attending a dental meeting must be weighed against both professional and personal return on investment. The advantages of attending the various dental meetings put on by regional, specialty, and national/international professional associations are many. These meetings are invaluable for providing “one-stop” venues for education, training, intellectual dialogue, and comparative purchasing, not to mention a refreshing change of pace. Because professional acumen cannot be sustained without stimulated interaction with others and ongoing, participative skills development, some assert that dental professionals owe it to themselves—and to their patients—to avail themselves of the many opportunities offered by today’s organized professional dental conventions.
And there are quite a few choose from. More than 200 dental meetings will be held across the United States in 2006 alone. Organized by various dental associations with a regional or specialized interest, they are supported largely and collectively by dental product manufacturers, although some are billed as a member benefit and funded by annual dues and registration fees, a few with additional charges associated with specific courses. They may be scheduled independently or concurrently with larger society meetings (See Mark Your Calendar, page 64).
The dizzying array of single-point educational arenas and product marketplaces is simultaneously fortuitous and draining to both sponsors and attendees. The rabbit-like proliferation of meetings jockeying for professional and manufacturer attendance has left many in the industry feeling frustrated and apprehensive about the future of organized agendas. Selecting which to attend is an exercise in balancing costs (eg, travel, accommodations, registration and/or exhibit fees, time lost from practice or regular work duties) and anticipated return on investment (eg, continuing education value; increased product knowledge; savings/discounts on product purchases; and new sales, prospects, or business relationships).
Rest assured, the overall trends for dental conventions and tradeshows—at least the major regional, national, and specialty meetings regarded by many to be the cornerstones of the industry—are steady and stable, if not increasing in some cases (See Table). Manufacturers are continuing to support them, and the meeting planners themselves are working diligently to maximize the experience for everyone.
In fact, Tracey Shorle, manager of communications and research for the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, comments that of the 10,310 business-to-business tradeshows hosted throughout the United States and Canada, 2,000 are in the healthcare sector, thereby comprising the largest business sector. What’s more, in terms of attendance at these shows, while the business-to-business tradeshow industry as a whole experienced only a 1% increase in attendance over recent years, tradeshows in the healthcare sector—of which dental tradeshows are a part—have experienced an average attendance increase of nearly 2.7% annually, according to data from the 2nd Annual CEIR Exhibition Index published by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research in 2005.
So, you can still use ink to mark your calendars for the same time next year. Here’s the Inside look at why you should, what may be affecting your choices, and what makes the array of choices possible.
Why You Have to Be There
Ask different meeting planners or manufacturers why you should attend organized dental sessions and you’ll get a variety of different answers. The experience of just being there is an education unto itself, many say, but most important is an attendee’s ability to immerse themselves—if they truly “get into” the meeting—in all that is new and influencing their chosen profession.
1. Live, interactive continuing education from outstanding clinicians. Dental meetings are increasingly expanding the array of scientific programs and hands-on courses available. Depending on the show, these are available either free of charge (ie, as part of the registration fee) or for fees ranging from minimal to substantial. “Today’s dentist is demanding and appreciative of the ability to do hands-on workshops, meaning small groups of people working with the clinician who is actually doing the procedure,” observes Les W. Seldin, DDS, the 2005 general chairman of the Greater New York Dental Meeting.
Incorporated into the educational program of most meetings is unique content, some of which may include presentations of the latest research findings on a given topic. According to Jim Donovan, director of the Council on American Dental Association (ADA) Sessions, this is information that dentists might not be able to obtain anywhere else.
“In the 35 years that I’ve been a dentist, I’ve had to re-educate myself a half dozen times,” says Morton Tau, DMD, a 61-year-old dentist from New City, NY. “Of everything that I do today in dentistry, none of it did I learn in dental school. That’s one of the reasons you have to attend meetings.”
2. Access to the latest technology presented by manufacturers, distributors, laboratories, and anyone else who provides a product or service to the dental profession. “On the tradeshow floor, attendees have the potential to look at all of the products that they have either never seen before or only heard of,” notes Debi Irwin, who has served as the vice president of scientific sessions for the California Dental Association (CDA) meetings for 15 years.
Additionally, many products and services are introduced for the first time at many shows. As such, manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to staff their booths with experts who can demonstrate and fully explain a product’s features and benefits.
“I think we all would like to ‘kick the tires’ before we buy something, and I think these meetings provide that opportunity,” explains Gary Price, executive director of the Dental Trade Alliance (DTA). “To interact with company representatives is a learning experience in itself, and I think dentists can appreciate that.”
Randy Grove, executive director of the Chicago Dental Society, notes that the Chicago Midwinter Meeting continues to be the showplace for the introduction and launch for many manufacturers’ new products. “There is nothing in my view that matches seeing and trying a product for yourself and speaking with a knowledgeable representative,” he said. “The tradeshow floor enables dentists and their staff to do just that.”
3. Networking with colleagues. “Most dentists are solo practitioners who don’t get to talk with other dentists as frequently as they should,” says Seldin. “Dental meetings promote social and intellectual interaction with your colleagues.”
But, more than that, notes Grove, the dental “family” promotes a sense of camaraderie that reaches across the states and reunites at association meetings. “Attending a meeting like the Chicago Midwinter affords you the opportunity to get back together with that family, renew your acquaintances, and establish new ones,” he says. “If dentists never venture out of their practice setting, they miss that great opportunity.”
4. Entertainment. This year at the Yankee Dental Congress, you’ll have Jerry Seinfeld. In Chicago, you’ll see Bob Newhart. If you were at recent ADA meetings, you heard former President Bush, Bob Dole, Rudy Giuliani, and Katie Couric, among others. From dinner and dancing to wine tasting and more, the dental meetings of today provide attendees—and their families—with multiple reasons to make the trip.
“We try to give the dental office the ‘whole’ experience,” assures Michelle Curtin, senior executive director of the Yankee Dental Congress. “We offer a lot of things for spouses, schedule many evening activities, and offer an attractive weekend package that makes the Yankee meeting enticing as a winter get-away.”
For Tau, attending dental meetings is a great way for him to pursue continuing education and simultaneously take a vacation—getting away from the office and recharging his batteries in a city or town he enjoys or has wanted to see. He regularly attends the Greater New York Dental Meeting and the Yankee Dental Congress with his son, who is also a dentist. Tau also takes advantage of his many professional memberships and regularly attends several corporate-sponsored meetings at diverse locations, including Bermuda and Hawaii.
Who’s Going Where and Why
Industry experts agree that location is a key factor when professionals select the meetings they plan to attend. Major show organizers cite the regional location of their meetings as what primarily drives attendance. They respectively draw the greatest percentage of attendees from their local region. However, timing and a reputation for being “the show” where new products will be introduced also play a role.
“I think attendance is locally driven, and we have taken a look at ours, and the bulk of our attendees are California dentists,” notes Irwin. “There is uniqueness about each show, so obviously the choice comes down to a personal decision. But given that choice, attendees usually go to their local meeting first.”
After all, travel costs are significant. Although meetings are able to negotiate good hotel and airfare rates, those rates are based in part on previous years’ meeting attendance.
Selected speakers and program styles contribute to each meeting’s individual flavor and to whether or not it’s attractive at that given moment to a potential attendee. Much depends on what’s being offered, says Bruce Ashendorf, DMD, general chairman of the 2006 Hinman Dental Meeting.
“If you’re offering top programming in a convenient location, then it will be easy for people to get to the meeting and they’ll be accustomed to it,” he notes. “But for general meetings such as ours, the attractive factors are quality of programming, convenience, and accessibility.”
And attendee sentiments reflect that observation. According to Jason Fligor, DDS, who practices in Woodinville, WA, what drives his meeting-attending decisions are a meeting’s location, content, and who’s presenting. Nearly 4 years into his career, Fligor is among the young dental professionals seeking contemporary venues that demonstrate “the what and how” of modern techniques, equipment, and materials.
“I’m going to these meetings wanting to see how the other guy does it,” Fligor says. “For me, as a younger dentist, it’s invaluable to be able to talk to some of the more experienced dentists and see what’s been successful for them.”
Curtin notes that much of what drives regional attendance is economics. If you’re considering bringing your staff to a meeting, it’s much cheaper to bring them to a local meeting for 1 or 2 nights than fly them around the country, she says. What’s more, many of the same speakers and educators make the rounds throughout all of the major shows.
“Because the same speakers are appearing from region to region, there’s no need for dentists to feel as if they have to travel,” Curtin elaborates. “Sure, if a group—such as the ADA—is holding its meeting in Hawaii or Las Vegas, then dentists might want to attend that meeting for the destination.”
Manufacturers Make It Happen
Indeed, manufacturer, technical, and vendor exhibits are very supportive of dental meetings, making possible the presence of many key speakers, lecturers, and educators. They invest millions of dollars across the playing field to see and be seen by members of the dental profession in the exhibit hall (See The Exhibit Floor—Supplementing and Supporting the Educational Experience, page 58). Unfortunately, the introduction of a large number of new, smaller meetings is stretching support dollars to their limit and, some say, diluting the marketplace.
And this is a concern to exhibiting manufacturers, admits DTA’s Price. Specifically, attempts to conduct a meeting or tradeshow on every corner of the United States, he explains, reduces the overall effectiveness for exhibitors of any one show.
“To be most effective for the exhibitors, a large community of attendees is needed to congregate in one place,” he says. “So, the desire would be fewer shows with more attendees for greater cost-effectiveness. I think manufacturers would be willing to contribute more to making an exhibition interesting if there was a better return on their investment.”
That investment, again, is substantial. In addition to the exhibit space charges, which currently range from $1,900 to $3,350 for a 10' x 10' space (note that most exhibitors purchase multiple booths to accommodate their space requirements), there are fees for shipping, unloading, and setting up the exhibit. There are liability insurance costs, as well as registration fees for personnel in excess of the number allowed for a given space. These line items don’t even begin to cover the travel, lodging, meal, and salary expenses associated with maintaining a presence at each selected show.
“These meetings could not take place without manufacturer support or their exhibits,” Ashendorf admits. “We couldn’t provide education to the masses on a large scale.”
Considering that many manufacturers Inside Dentistry spoke to attend a minimum of 12 shows and as many as 200 per year, it’s easy to see how they spend into the millions annually to support dental meetings.
“It’s of no small consequence for manufacturers, laboratories, and distributors to commit themselves to these opportunities,” Price notes.
What’s needed, thereore, is a conscientious appreciation for exhibitors as demonstrated by traffic through the tradeshow floor. To enable this, Price says, dentists need more time in the conference agenda to readily—and without conflict—meet with manufacturers.
“You can make the exhibit floor interesting and attractive, but if you don’t provide the dentist with the time to get there, then—frankly—all of those changes or enhancements are useless,” Price says.
Today’s dentistry is dynamic and evolutionary; materials, procedures, and standard operating protocol are changing. Actively participating in continuing education courses is paramount to staying acclimated with what’s shaping the profession. Call them what you may, dental conventions and tradeshows provide an excellent opportunity to do so, and then carry home what you’ve learned so that your patients can be best served (See Making the Most of Your Dental Meeting Experience, page 56).
“We all need advancement,” notes Ashendorf. “We aren’t going to walk away from dental school and have all of the knowledge that we’ll need for the rest of our professional careers.”
Curtin would agree. She notes that probably 75% of what dentists need to know today has not been taught in dental schools. This new knowledge base needs to be acquired through continuing education and familiarity with new products and methodologies.
“You really have unbelievable opportunities during 1 or 2 full days at a major dental meeting,” Seldin says. “These venues provide you with an enormous amount of information that you cannot access in person, all at once, any other way.”
The Inside Look FROM...
Without the candid comments shared by our interviewees, this inside look at dental conventions and tradeshows would not have been possible. The staff and publishers of Inside Dentistry gratefully acknowledge the following individuals, all of whom made valuable and insightful contributions to this presentation.
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Vice President of Sales
President of Sales, North America
Harry J. Bosworth Company
President & CEO
Vice President of Clinical Sales
Pentron Clinical Technologies
Chief Executive Officer
Dental Trade Alliance
Vice President & General Manager
Making the Most of Your Dental Meeting Experience
1. Plan ahead. Thoroughly review the programming, seminars, and events/ activities available to determine what you and/or your staff would like and need to attend. “If you plan your time, you can take greater advantage of your attendance,” emphasizes Bruce Ashendorf of the Hinman Dental Meeting. “You can see the greatest concentration of the most innovative things at a dental tradeshow.”
2. Pre-register. Whether via snail-mail, online, or over the phone, registering early will enable you to walk through the door without the worries or hassles of standing in line or missing out on the courses you wanted because they were closed out.
3. Continue your education. Ashendorf and others encourage meeting attendees to review what courses they need to keep their licenses valid. According to the most recent information available from the ADA (www.ada.org/prof/prac/licensure/continuing-ed.pdf) continuing education requirements vary by state in terms of the total number of credits required, what the cycle terms are, and the manner in which credits may be earned. For example, not all required CE credits can be earned from print or online media sources; hands-on or in-class learning is mandated.
4. Make a list of your supply inventories. Tau notes that he purchases 65% of his supplies at a meeting because of the deals that are still out there to be had at the shows. A week or so before he attends a meeting, one of his staff members inventories all his supplies, makes a list of what’s needed, and he’s good to go. “If you can purchase enough of a product to take you through 75% of the coming year—providing the expiration date is going to be later than that—then the pricing is going to be cheaper,” he explains.
5. Map out your walk through the exhibits. Meeting programs and agendas can be very dynamic, but it’s important to view the emerging technologies on display in the exhibit halls. Show organizers are working harder to adjust the hours that CE courses are in session, as well as the hours the tradeshow floor is open, to provide attendees with more time to see and do everything they’ve got planned. What’s more, many now make the exhibitor booth numbers and locations available online before the meeting, so you’ll know ahead of time exactly where you need to be for what you want. Gary Price of the Dental Trade Alliance advises that mapping out the tradeshow experience is akin to planning a vacation. “Without planning, you’ll be overwhelmed,” he says.
6. Reunite with friends and colleagues. “If you’re locked up in your office only treating patients, nobody is overseeing you and you’re not talking with and learning from others,” Tau says. Networking remains a huge benefit to meeting attendance and a means to grow both personally and professionally.
7. Take a break and recharge. See the sights. Enjoy local entertainment. Add a day or two to the front or end of a meeting just for you to relax and unwind. Today’s meetings are finding interesting ways to incorporate the local sights and sounds into their agendas of available and included activities and events. Often, participation through the meeting itself affords attendees a discounted rate on some of the locations’ most sought-after attractions.
The Exhibit Floor— Supporting and Supplementing the Educational Experience
The dental convention tradeshow floor. It’s a dazzling arcade-like showplace that stimulates the senses with all conceivable sights and sounds. Elevated from table-top displays to state-of-the-art multimedia extravaganzas, today’s exhibit floor is a concentrated marketplace of everything innovative in dentistry. But, more than that, it’s an invaluable opportunity for dental professionals to put manufacturers to the test—live and in person—and comparatively shop by touching and feeling what they might not otherwise be able to.
By some accounts, it’s the best place to learn exactly how to use which item for what specific purpose to achieve what kind of results. And if you don’t like what you hear, just walk 50 feet further and see if someone else has a better mousetrap.
And the manufacturers that present at anywhere from 12 to 200 dental society meetings a year—at an annual cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions—are hoping that you will. Or, at the very least, they’re gambling that you’ll venture into the exhibit hall to begin with.
For some, the bigger shows are the best shows for providing the greatest possibility that a larger number of prospective contacts will stop by an exhibitor’s booth and interact with the representatives. That’s when the education can take place. Sure, they’re hoping you’ll make a purchase on the spot. More importantly, however, they’re looking to nurture a congregation of educated consumers that only an organized dental meeting can attract. But if the attendees aren’t coming, will the support necessary to sustain the meetings continue to be so readily forthcoming?
“What the doctor may not know is that most of the continuing education at these meetings is really being paid for by exhibiting companies through the tens of thousands of dollars that we spend to hopefully get in front of that doctor,” explains Michael Bocian, vice president of sales and marketing for Darby Group.
In today’s economy, everyone is looking for ways to help the bottom line, and dental meeting exhibitors are no exception. Some predict that the shows that are not going to be supported in the future are the ones with very few interested dentists visiting the exhibit floor.
“If dentists want manufacturers to continue to support their organizations and help fund their meetings, they are really going to have to spend some time down on the floor looking at products and supporting the exhibitors,” explains John Franz, president of sales, North America, for Kavo. “It’s a 2-way street.”
Milly Goldstein, president of Harry J. Bosworth Company, believes that going to the exhibit floor should be taught and impressed upon attendees as a responsibility. Currently, she believes dentists don’t feel obligated to visit the exhibits.
“I think continuing education credits should be given for going to the floor because a lot of education occurs there, but no one is getting credit for his or her time,” Goldstein says. “Your education is not complete until you spend time on the exhibit floor.”
And there’s ample education to be had. From hands-on demonstrations to try-before-you-buy opportunities, the exhibit floor is a way to get up close and personal with new products and prospective suppliers. It’s also an opportunity to judge for yourself if everything you’ve read or heard from an “expert” about a given product is all it’s cracked up to be.
An Education in the Works
“In addition to pursuing continuing education, this is another reason they should attend meetings,” he says. “Dentists have an opportunity on the exhibit floor to gather information and be educated about different products so they can make informed choices.”
For example, let’s say you’re in the market for new office chairs or office equipment. It’s not always practical for dealers or manufacturers to bring samples right into the dental office and demonstrate them. But, the tradeshow environment provides the opportunity for dentists and their staff to “test drive” several different types—and do the same with instrumentation and some materials—that they would not be able to unless they went to a showroom.
“Where else can you go where you have, for example, 4 companies selling the exact same thing right down the isle from each other,” comments Bocian. “It’s like shopping in a mall with Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and Bloomingdale’s to find the right product at the right price.”
Because there is so much taking place in dentistry—from new delivery systems to treatment and diagnostic approaches and more—dentists need to stay abreast of what’s changing. Sales prospects aside, exhibitors at dental meetings—whether distributors, manufacturers, laboratories, and other service providers—want to be sure that attendees know just what is available and just what it can and can’t do.
“We are there, obviously, to help our customers,” explains David Steck, vice president and general manager of Henry Schein. “For some of the larger meetings, we send as many as 100 people to work the booth and help dentists find what they’re interested in.”
And don’t think that anyone is afraid of the competition. They’re not. In fact, they’re hoping you’re going to try and compare on your own, without outside influences. Although companies have a right to sponsor meeting lectures in which a speaker discusses the benefits of a particular product, such courses should be fully disclosed regarding any financial incentives given, asserts Bill Oestreich, vice president of clinical sales for Pentron Clinical Technologies. Further, he says, meeting attendees who are looking to buy a product mentioned during a session should then take advantage of the exhibit floor to learn as much about the product as they can.
“There are so many products available today that many practitioners just don’t know all that’s out there,” says Jerry Collins, vice president of sales for Zenith. “Also, in some cases, they may be experiencing problems with the products they are using, but by interacting with them on the tradeshow floor, we can address it, correct it, and help them lessen their chairtime and make their lives simpler.”
Oestreich emphasizes that if attendees have been at all swayed to consider incorporating products or techniques that were mentioned and/or used in courses or seminars, the exhibit floor is invaluable. They can see for themselves if the products or materials will handle as well for them as they did for someone else. And, they can ask in-depth questions of the manufacturer about their products and demand a satisfactory answer.
“Just because a lecturer mentions or uses product X doesn’t mean that it’s going to work well in another doctor’s hands,” Oestreich explains. “But, they won’t find out until they ask the questions, and all of the manufacturers are at the meetings. So doctors do indeed have the opportunity to play with the product and see what it looks like and how it handles.”
And, as we’ve mentioned before, if you don’t like what you see or hear, you can always go elsewhere. You have the ability on an exhibit floor to move from manufacturer to manufacturer to find out just what it is that makes their product better than the competition’s and evaluate the validity of that information.
“I wouldn’t mind if any of our electric competitors were in our general vicinity,” admits Franz. “The easier we make it for a doctor to try them all at one time, the more informed decision he or she will make.”
Others agree. For Collins, sales are always a goal. But today’s emphasis is on education—eliminating confusion that doctors may have about overlapping products, what they can and can’t do, and how to use them correctly.
“I don’t care if my competition is there or not,” admits Goldstein. “It doesn’t make a difference.”
Be There if You Want Them There
Cosmedent, for example, targets the major meetings, but its selection of peripheral meetings is focused on those that will bring cosmetic dentists together en mass. According to O’Malley, these are going to be what he considers the company’s most successful meetings because the attendees are solely interested in cosmetic dentistry and the development of their skills in those areas.
Therefore, dental meeting organizers are being pressed to drive more traffic onto the exhibit floor. One meeting and one new relationship could classify the show as a success in Bocian’s book.
“If the show is worked correctly, it is a great avenue to meet people, and that is the lifeblood of any company, whether they are a distributor like us or a manufacturer,” stresses Bocian.
Often, exhibitors are competing with scheduled courses for the attendees’ attention. In this regard, exhibitors would like to be given opportunities to provide input to organizers in terms of how meetings are structured, as well as exhibitor pricing based on professional attendance.
“It’s like dollars for dentists,” comments Steck. “If they can’t produce the dentists on the tradeshow floor, we don’t really want to spend the money to be there because the odds say that it’s a bad investment.”
Among those we interviewed, manufacturers are scrutinizing the sales leads that result from the shows they’ve attended. Based on the trends, there will be some shows in 2006 that companies won’t attend.
“I think most manufacturers would like to see fewer shows, rather than having hundreds to pick from,” explains Franz. “We need to get it down to a reasonable number. For that to happen, different societies are going to have to work together, jointly, rather than having everyone try to have their own meeting.”
Those we spoke to encourage dental meeting attendees to remember that the exhibits are part of the overall education experience. They provide opportunities for increased product knowledge, as well as a chance to seek out and find the breadth of information you need and want about equipment and materials you might be considering for your practice and, ultimately, for use on your patients. Then, based on what you learn, it’s an ideal and supportive opportunity to buy.
“Don’t delete the exhibitors—who are spending massive amounts of money to make the meeting possible—from your agenda,” Collins says. “The exhibitors are part of the education process.”
Then, Now, and Beyond — The Changing Face of Dental Meetings
When the Greater New York Dental Meeting started 82 years ago, it was very small, held in a hotel, and limited to only meager courses. Today, it entertains more than 42,000 people, which represents the record attendance achieved at the 2005 show. Sponsored by the New York County Dental Society and the Second District Dental Society, it now boasts more than 300 courses and more than 1,500 exhibit booths, and the meeting continues to grow.
Just 5 years away from its centenary year, the Thomas P. Hinman Dental Meeting, sponsored by the Hinman Dental Society, was considered “the first clinic strictly for serious-minded educational purposes” (www.hinman.org/history.html). Initially named the Atlanta Midwinter Clinic, it was limited to 40 dentists who were honor-bound to return to their state dental societies and present what they had learned in a formal program. By the 1920s the clinic was attracting national attention, and in 1942 exhibits were introduced, with 14 booths appearing at the Biltmore Hotel.
Today, the Hinman Dental Meeting’s focus remains on providing continuing dental education but—as with all other major meetings—now for the whole dental team. Its program addresses the needs of general dentists, specialists, hygienists, assistants, front office staff, and students.
“What has expanded immensely over the last 5 to 7 years is hands-on course programming,” observes Bruce Ashendorf, whose uncle was the general chairman of the 1979 Hinman Dental Meeting. “Attendees are looking for that person who comes around, observes what they’re doing, and helps them learn visually and tactilely.”
The ADA annual meetings also have changed with the times, notes sessions council director Jim Donovan. Challenged by the ADA Board of Trustees to reinvent the meeting in 2002, organizers have since added general sessions and distinguished speakers to the agenda. To better serve attendees and manufacturers, the exhibit floor is now divided into 4 categories: over-the-counter and pharmaceutical, instruments and equipment, dental services, and materials and infection control.
Additionally, in recognition of the fact that it can be daunting the first time someone attends a meeting of this magnitude, the ADA initiated an orientation center for first-time attendees. During the 2005 meeting in Philadelphia, approximately 4,000 first-time attendees availed themselves of this new attraction.
“Attending a conference of our size is an overwhelming experience for a first-time attendee,” Donovan observes. “This orientation center makes them feel welcome and gives them the insight they need to make the most of their 3 or 4 days at the meeting.”
So What Else Has Changed?
“Shows are ranked by net square feet of paid exhibit space,” Dauer explains. “Size is dependent upon paid exhibit space only.”
More hands-on workshops are offered at meetings nationwide in response to attendee demands. However, meetings are hard-pressed to keep up with the demand for these courses. For example, the Yankee Dental Congress currently offers between 175 and 200 hands-on courses, and the demand continues to escalate.
“The ability to bring into the convention setting the latest technology, set it up, and have people use it was not something that was feasible 20 or 30 years ago,” explains Les Seldin of the Greater New York Dental Meeting.
Information technologies are enabling some meetings, such as the Greater New York Dental Meeting, to “televise” procedures being performed remotely. Such sessions are essentially broadcast from Europe or the West Coast, with the clinician talking with session attendees in New York.
“The development of technology has allowed us to provide a much more exciting environment,” Seldin says. “Previously at a dental meeting, you could never watch somebody perform what they were teaching you. At best, you viewed slides or photographs.”
Clearly, from overhead slides to 35 mm slides, clinical education courses and the exhibit showcases themselves have evolved into truly sensational multimedia experiences that encompass sight, sound, and touch. “Today’s set-ups are very intricate and advanced to create the marketing situation that the exhibitors need,” comments Debi Irwin from the California Dental Association.
What’s more, technology is at the heart of easing the typically frustrating processes associated with registration and information gathering. Web site planning and online registration have advanced and simplified certain aspects of the attendance process at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting, notes executive director Randy Grove. Additionally, automated “ticketing” for the most desired courses also has ensured that last-minute room assignments can be made to best accommodate attendees.
“I think you’re going to see more excitement and more creativity on the part of the presenters,” Seldin predicts. “I don’t think the basic format is going to change, but I think the quality and excitement you find at dental meetings will evolve to a higher level.”
Additionally, course content will expand to encompass newer aspects of dentistry. In particular, Michelle Curtin from the Yankee Dental Congress looks forward to increased emphasis at those meetings on innovative technologies, alternative care, and general health/oral-systemic connections.
Staggering course times to provide attendees with more chances to visit the exhibit floor will continue to be fine-tuned. Meetings like the Chicago Midwinter are also investigating the feasibility of such technologies as radio frequency identification to better monitor traffic through the exhibit floor, as well as continuing education programs.
And while some have felt frustrated by what they feel is a decline in attendance, industry analyst reports indicate a bright future for dental tradeshows. In particular, Dauer notes that in the Tradeshow Week Annual Medical & Pharmaceutical Shows Report, 16 of 89 shows included in this year’s medical report category—of which dental shows are a part—are from the dental industry (www.tradeshowweek.com/info).
Combined, they add up to more reasons why this might just be the year that you have to be there.