In just several short weeks it will once again be time for the ADA Annual Session. I believe that despite the buzz around social media and digital marketing there is still a place in marketing strategy for traditional tactics such as trade shows. As I’ve written before, the ADA is one of my favorite dental trade shows, and this year it should be as good as or better than usual as it will be held in San Francisco in conjunction with the CDA. The shows in San Francisco are always good, not only because they are in a great city, but also because of the collaboration between the two organizations. So with thoughts turning to dental trade shows, here are 3 reasons you should not miss the ADA Annual Session.
For dental professionals:
1. Network – Getting out of your office and community provides a great chance to meet and talk with other members of YOUR profession. Exchange tips, share challenges, maybe even make a new friend. The ADA show provides an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, meet some new people, and expand your professional network.
2. The Exhibit Hall – I have a couple of secrets for you. First, at most of these dental association events, there is a space where providers of products and services set up small (sometimes not so small) exhibits. Second, yes, we do want to sell you something. Now that those little secrets have been revealed, there really is value in visiting the exhibit hall. You may actually need to invest in a product or service. Here, you can compare and contrast. Even more valuable is the chance to tell us why you choose not to invest in our particular product or service. Only with your feedback can we on the industry side of the profession augment our offerings to serve your patients, your practice, and you better. If you pretend we’re not there, we operate in the dark. That doesn’t serve either of us very well. And make sure to stop by a booth of a product or service you know nothing about. You may just learn something.
3. Learn – In the few hours when you are not in the exhibit hall, you have many opportunities to learn through a variety of lectures and workshops. Here again is a chance to expand your comfort zone. Attend a course you would normally not choose. Open your mind to at least one completely new or unusual topic for the sheer enjoyment of learning.
For industry professionals:
1. Network – Whether you’re a sales professional who spends the average day with lots of windshield time or a marketing professional who spends the average day with lots of monitor screen time, the annual session provides an excellent opportunity to network with other industry professionals. And not just your buddies from the last national sales meeting. Make an effort to meet new people, exhibitors from other companies who are also your colleagues in this profession. Take a rare chance to expand your network in person with a hand shake instead of a “friend” request or invitation to link in.
2. The Exhibit Hall – You’ll likely be “stuck” there for most of the show. Use this time to get feedback from attendees on your offerings. Especially those who don’t or won’t buy. Make an effort to find out why before you go back to gazing at your smart phone. If you can, make some time to take a walk through the hall. Seeing what others, not just your direct competition, are doing may spark some ideas of tactics you can employ to improve your own exhibit experience and outcomes.
3. Learn – In addition to the market insights and stroll around the hall mentioned above, there are other opportunities to learn during the show. Talk to the new people you’ve networked with about the challenges you are both likely facing. Exchange ideas. If you have the chance, actually attend a lecture. Expand your clinical and/or practice management knowledge. Marketers, get to know members of your sales team. Yes, they can be a pain in the backside, but they are your customers. Take them to lunch or breakfast and learn from what they are experiencing in the field and on the booth. Learn from each other what you can do collectively to serve your customers and grow the business better.
There are of course other reasons to attend the ADA Annual Session this year, but the three listed above are top of mind. I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on this show and other dental meetings. And if you will be in attendance at the ADA Annual Session, enjoy it and please send me a note with your impressions and reviews.
Note: When I originally wrote this article, I was not going to be able to attend the ADA show. Recently that changed, and I will be attending for a couple of days. I have since edited the original article.