You Don't Know What You Don't Know, Until the Trade Shows

By Mary Anne C. Murphy, OD April 10, 2017

Ah, another trade show under the belt. This time it was one of my favorites. I'm returning from Vision Expo East and my long flight home allows me time for my tradition of rummaging through all the flyers, swag, and paraphernalia that I picked up at the show—not to mention all the receipts from purchases made that I hadn’t planned on making ahead of time, but undoubtedly won’t surprise my practice administrator when I get back.

I imagine most of you are like me. We don't know what we don't know before we go. We didn't know that Zeiss was coming out with a new UltraField camera. We didn't know that there would be such a screaming deal on the newest LipiFlow devices and cameras. We had no idea how many nutraceuticals were on the market. We couldn't even begin to fathom the frames and accessories they were practically giving away. And how could I resist the Eyefinity EHR platform; have you seen how amazing the iPad version is? We just can't be blamed. 

Trade show exhibit halls are like a candy store to me. Being a gadget junky, I get to see all the coolest stuff and create my wish list for the coming year. If you're like me, we don't have time to read every journal that comes across our desk. Even if we did, surely we'd likely skip most of the ads even if they're revealing the latest and greatest equipment. Even if I had the time to read every word about a new gadget, I still need to be able to see it and touch it. One of the best parts of a trade show is being able to actually experience new gadgets, but an even better part is that competitive products are usually less than 50 feet away, giving us all the opportunity to compare and contrast.

Another reason I attend trade shows is for the continuing education opportunities. My peer lecturing about glaucoma was intriguing to me because he spent the last month or so doing research about what's on the horizon for the particular topic. While I’m focused on today, he or she will tell me what's going to happen tomorrow—as it applies to instrumentation, medications, therapies, etc. So I can either spend months doing the research for some of my favorite topics like glaucoma, AMD, dry eye and contact lenses, or I can spend four hours of CE learning from others that have already done it. To me, it is simply about efficiency. 

Lastly, the most important reason I attend trade shows is to see my optometric colleagues and industry friends. It's rare anymore that we all get together. How often can I dine with both my Zeiss rep and Optos rep at the same time and sit back while they duke it out over whose technology is better? It is the energy of my friends and peers that sends me home with the desire to move my practice forward along with the industry. The passion of our peers is contagious and makes optometry exciting, and it motivates me until I can attend another show. 

I hope that you are able to make time for national trade shows. As I see it, the three days I spent in New York will arm me for at least six more months of practice. Now, if only I can spread this energy amongst my staff without them rolling their eyes. But that's a topic for another day. 

What do you take away from trade shows you attend?

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