What you need to know for trade show success

February 11, 2013

Planning to attend a dental trade show this year? These planning tips can help you get the most out of your time, and help ensure you reach your new technology goals in 2013.

Planning to attend a dental trade show this year? These planning tips can help you get the most out of your time, and help ensure you reach your new technology goals in 2013.

Welcome to the beginning of the 2013 trade show season!

These shows can be tons of fun as well as great places to gather information on products that can change your practice for the better as well as improve your patients’ lives. Almost everyone reading this lives close enough to one major trade show that attending wouldn’t be a major endeavor. With that in mind, why not make this the year you hit “one of the majors” and see just how great it is? While you’re there, here are a few ideas and techniques for maximizing your trip and maybe even bringing home something that could make a huge difference for you, your staff, and most importantly, your patients.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Dentistry is a demanding profession. Our goal is to deliver perfection in an imperfect world, but because of that we are trained to be really great planners. This can be a very important part of ensuring your success in multiple areas of practice and life.

Every December I take time off between Christmas and the New Year. It is much needed downtime and it gives me a chance to spend time with family and to recharge the batteries. I also use the time to write down goals for the upcoming year. This can include both personal and professional goals. The great thing about the professional part of this is you can use this planning to include changes and upgrades you would like to make to your office.

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a new technology, you definitely need to do a little planning. In most instances this isn’t a major project. It can be as easy as prioritizing things you’d like to change or enhance in the coming year. Are you thinking about finally going with digital sensors, a CAD/CAM system, or cone beam 3D? Or maybe it’s completing the final steps to chartless or simply learning a new technique like implant placement or endodontics.

I strongly encourage you to sit down and map out your plan of action to make it happen. It could mean purchasing new equipment, taking some courses, or a combination of both. Carefully consider things like the amount of time you feel you will need to accomplish your goal, the amount of money you’ll need to allocate, and the amount of time and effort it will take to integrate into your practice.

Talk to your team members and get them involved. Because these types of changes usually involve the entire office, it helps to get the whole team involved in the process. Oftentimes staff members can be a great sounding board and can think of things that will help make the process easier. This type of “pre-change” preparation can really help you get everything lined up and ready for the next step.

On with the show

The plan you’ve created will allow you to make the necessary steps to get the training and equipment in place.

Now comes the fun part-actually beginning to see the plan take shape. That’s where the dental shows can be a huge help.

If you want to learn a new technique, that will, in most instances, simply require you to pick out the correct courses at the show and then attend while taking copious notes. However, in the majority of these situations, there will be hardware (equipment) involved as well.

Normally when I’m making plans for a trade show exhibit floor visit I go to the meeting website well in advance of the meeting. You’ll be amazed at the amount of information you’ll find that will make your show easier!

Vendors can be searched for and maps can be downloaded. Many meetings now feature apps that you can put on your smartphone or tablet that allow you to carry tons of information with you. Access to maps, searchable vendor databases, CE schedules, and more can be accessed from the palm of your hand. I like to have a map before the meeting ever starts and plan my booth visits to minimize the amount of backtracking I have to do. This requires me making a list of the vendors I want to visit, locating them on the map, and then planning on visiting the vendors closest to one another. Over the years, I’ve found this saves lots of time as I’m not crisscrossing the exhibit floor.

Next, become knowledgeable about what you want to purchase. By that I mean do some homework and have a general knowledge of the product and product category.

Booths at shows can be very busy, so it’s important to be familiar with the products you are interested in so you can ask folks in the booth intelligent questions that will truly help you to make your purchasing decision. Also, remember trade show floors tend to be busier on the first day and less busy on successive days. If you need to spend a good deal of time with a rep in a booth, plan on doing that on Day 2 or Day 3 while CE courses are in session and there’s less traffic. I’ve also found it helpful to actually make an appointment on Day 1 for a longer visit on Day 2 or Day 3. Booth personnel really enjoy helping you make the right decisions for you and your practice, and if that means spending more time with you, they are happy to do that.

It’s also helpful to ask your local dental supply sales person to help you set up appointments with the best people at the show to help you. Because most purchases are made through dealers, your local sales person will be happy to help you identify the ideal person for you to interact with at a manufacturer’s booth.

Bringing it all home

Once the show is over and you have the education and the hardware, it is time to make the project happen! Remember there always will be a learning curve and mistakes are all part of the learning process.

I spend time working with anything new in a “lab” environment before going live with patients. I often spend all of my available free time in the office working with new technologies and treatments to learn them forward and backward before the actual clinical implementation begins.

Also, remember many technologies, such as cone beam or digital radiography, will come with manufacturer training, so be prepared to take full advantage of the very knowledgeable training professional while he or she is in your office. I always try to think of a list of questions to ask the trainer. It also helps to have a “pre-trainer visit” meeting with the staff to discuss what they would like to learn and any special things they feel would be helpful for them to know. This ensures everyone has a great comfort level when it comes time to implement what you have learned.

Manufacturers want you to be successful and happy with their products, so always make sure to get follow up numbers in case you have questions later. Also remember it’s much easier to start with smaller procedures and cases and then grow into the more complicated ones. I love the expression “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite, but you can eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Of course that means aim for steady progress and learn as you go. It’s a process not a sprint.

Once you “go live” and begin to see the success of your plan, make sure to step back and enjoy as well as to continue learning. For technologies and procedures that involve team members, I like to setup monthly meetings to go over where we are and what we can do to improve.

However, I’m also a firm believer in celebrating our successes. Sometimes that means having a catered lunch or taking an afternoon off for a team building event like miniature golf.

After all, once you start to see the long term trend of success, you need to celebrate. Then it’s time to set more goals!