Monday, October 15, 2012
With the 2012 ADA Annual Session coming up in San Francisco, I thought it might be worth sharing some insights I have regarding events such as this with my dental colleagues. Like most of you, I have attended many of these meetings. As dentists, we like to call these affairs “Dental Conventions” or “Scientific Sessions” or even “Symposia.” The people on the other side of the table call them “Tradeshows.”
I have had the relatively uncommon experience of attending these meetings as both an Attendee and as an Exhibitor. I have worked in various capacities for manufacturers for almost 7 years and attended well over one hundred tradeshows as an exhibitor. There are an increasing number of dentists who are finding ways to contribute to the manufacturing and distribution industry that is such a vital partner in our profession, and personally I think that is a fantastic trend. The more communication there is between practicing dentists and the people and companies who are developing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the tools of our trade, the better.
My first experiences “working the booth” were eye opening for me. It is much harder than it looks. Standing for 8 hours and being at the top of your game for 3, sometimes 4 days in a row is grueling. I have developed a new respect for those on “the circuit.” A typical scenario for an exhibitor is: Fly in on Thursday; go to the hotel; work at the booth all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; head straight to the airport directly from the exhibit hall. Changing out of my suit in an airport bathroom into clothes comfortable enough for a 6 hour flight home became my sarcastic definition of “the glamour of business travel.”
When I began working at these meetings, I found most sales reps to be very knowledgeable and motivated. They generally are very respectful of the dentists prowling the floor. On the flip side, most dentists also seem to be respectful of the sales reps. They understand these reps can have a great deal of expertise about a small area of interest, as opposed to the dentist who has a moderate amount of knowledge about a much broader information base. This combination can make for a very rewarding experience at a tradeshow, which is interaction you cannot have when ordering supplies or equipment online.
Despite this, there has always been a bit of an adversarial nature to these shows. Sales people are there to sell. Dentists are there to look, and MAYBE buy. There are meetings where I have had both an “Exhibitor” and a “Dentist” badge if it was a meeting sponsored by an organization I belonged to. It is a very interesting sociological experiment walking the floor wearing the different badges. I either felt like the competition or a target. Either way, it can be a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I was fish or fowl.
But after all the trips I’ve made, the bottom line is I have come to love the tradeshow, err…convention. It is a fabulous place to connect with classmates, see new technology and get out of your office for a few days. All the exhibitors are polished up, looking their best and ready to update you on all that is new. It is an exuberant celebration of the dental profession/ industry partnership. DON’T MISS IT!
Two final words of advice: 1) If an exhibit hall has been open from 10 - 6, please don’t stand there negotiating with a rep at 6:15 or 6:30. When they turn the lights off, go home for goodness sake. And, along the same lines 2) No, manufacturers aren’t going to give away product on the last day so they don’t have to pack it up. The deals don’t get better at the last second.
Hope to see you in San Francisco!