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Kevin Henry is the group editorial director for Advanstar Dental Media and has more than 15 years of experience in the dental publications field. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can follow him on Twitter (@kgh23).
I recently had the chance to sit down with Randy Grove (right), the executive director of the Chicago Dental Society, to talk about the upcoming Chicago Midwinter Meeting, scheduled for Feb. 26-28, 2015. While Midwinter is always one of the highlights of the year in the dental industry, this year promises to be special as it will be the 150th Midwinter Meeting.
Additionally, Midwinter will be a little different this year as the Chicago Dental Society is changing its exhibit hours so as to close early on the last day, Saturday, at 4 p.m. instead of the customary 5:30 p.m.
Kevin Henry: Let’s talk about the 150th Midwinter Meeting and some of the plans you have in place to celebrate.
Randy Grove: We’re saying the birthday continues for us because we started this during the 2014 Midwinter Meeting last year, which was our sesquicentennial year as an organization. This past August, we had a celebration at Shedd Aquarium and showed a video (see below) that highlighted where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. We will celebrate the 150th Midwinter Meeting daily on the show floor by offering cake pops to all who want to celebrate with us. We encourage everyone to stop by and enjoy this occasion with us.
Henry: What prompted the change in the last day of exhibit hours?
Grove: Lisa Girardi (director of exhibitor services) and I advanced this early closure to our Board of Directors because of encouragement to do so from exhibitors, especially those on the West Coast. Such closure could allow them to forego an extra night of lodging and meals for their staff and actually permit those working the booth to get home on Saturday evening and have a Sunday off. Costs to attend dental shows keep going up and exhibitors feel that.
Let’s face it, the last day of the meeting is the last day of the meeting and attendees will come and go as they please. The show floor hours this year will be comparable to when the Midwinter schedule was open from Sunday until Wednesday afternoon. We shrunk that back to three full days and thought that when the courses ended at 4 or 4:30, attendees would come back to the exhibit hall to shop before the hall closed at 5:30. While some attendees do that, this wasn’t the case for many and exhibitors were standing around talking to each other. We wanted to help our exhibitors with costs and changing the exhibit hall hours this year was a way that we could do that.
Henry: How long have you been contemplating this change?
Grove: It’s been in the works for about three years. I think we’re going to see a very favorable exhibitor response. Ultimately, we want this to translate to be a good thing for our exhibitors’ bottom lines and not diminish our attendees’ experience.
Henry: How do you balance the needs of the Midwinter attendee with the needs of the exhibitor?
Grove: We try to survey each group. Exhibitors are usually the more responsive but we take what both groups say to heart and do what we can. We ask about everything from bus service to food service and then take those recommendations to our Midwinter Meeting Affairs Committee and board.
It’s no secret that the Midwinter Meeting didn’t gain its status and respect in the industry by not having the loyal support of its exhibitors and attendees. At the end of the day, exhibitors pay a significant amount to be a part of the Midwinter Meeting. Without their support, we’d be like a small-town dental component. We treat exhibitors as friends, not foes. They are our partners. We strive to provide great educational programs and offer a vibrant exhibit floor and we will continue to do that. We believe that strong educational and exhibit programs go hand in hand.