Dental Insider Blog

Observation and Commentary On the Dental Industry

Trade Show Reform…

Posted by dentalinsider on March 16, 2007

Today, I was reading one of my favorite dental blogs, Sakaduski Marketing Blog, and Joe had posted a story about the IDS Trade Show that begins next week in Cologne Germany.

The dental industry heads for Koln next week for the IDS meeting. Held every two years, the IDS is what a dental meeting should be. Just exhibits, no CE courses , no papers. There is even a dealer-only day. Imagine what the US market would look like with one trade meeting in the West in Spring and one in the East in the Fall. Other industries do it. In our business, it is long overdue. Dental societies have too much control and need exhibitors to bankroll their meetings. – Joe Sakaduski

I agree with Joe that the Dental Associations and Societies have too much control over the industry. I have been speaking with several manufacturers and dealers that attended the Chicago Mid-Winter meeting a few weeks ago and all of them felt that the Chicago Mid Winter has lost its luster as the Crown Jewel of the “Big 5” dental shows. The Chicago Dental Society should be releasing the attendance numbers shortly and I suspect that they will be inflated just like every other shows attendance numbers. I haven’t found any of the attendance numbers to ever be stated as “through the gate” numbers, instead they are listed as “pre-registered”. I would bet you would find that “through the gate” numbers are about 30% less than the “pre-registered” numbers. With the Hinman Meeting going on this week, I am sure we’ll be hearing stories of poor traffic and weak sales.

So what’s the big deal you say?
Manufacturers and dental dealers pay a fortune to exhibit at these shows. Besides the cost for the booth itself, the exhibitors must also pay for electricity for their booth, carpet and pay the unions to haul in and out their booths. They expect that they can get one on one time with the attendees to show off their goods or services and they track it as “Cost per Attendee”. When the actual attendance is 30% lower than stated, the cost per attendee goes up. A small independent dental dealer who exhibited at the 2006 ADA in Las Vegas spent over $15,000 to have one 10 x 10 booth and have it manned for 3 days. I can bet that a company like 3M ESPE or Eastman Kodak must spend upwards of $100,000 for a 3 day show. That’s a big expenditure for anybody!

So what’s the next step?
Trade Show Reform…The manufacturers and dental dealers have to stand up to the associations and societies and say “Enough is Enough”. Joe stated that in many industries, trade shows are held twice a year with one show being in the East and the other in the West. I got me thinking about 3 industries that I have had dealing with in the past and all of them have 2 trade shows a year, that’s it. Society of Manufacturing Engineers have Westec in Los Angeles and Eastec in Massachusetts. The Consumer Electronics industry does a show in Las Vegas in January and another in Chicago, later in the year. National Association Of Music Merchants holds their shows in Anaheim, Ca. in January and in Chicago in June. These industries are a lot bigger than the dental industry, yet the seem to be doing trade shows correctly.

I think it is time for the Associations and Societies to start releasing “through the gate” numbers. Don’t tell me it isn’t possible, all of the badges for the last several years have magnetic stripes on the back, when you check in, the card is swiped. I think you would find more accurate attendance numbers if that were the case. It’s time for the big manufacturers and dental dealers to start putting pressure on these Associations and see if we can start some type of reform. Lets get 2 trade shows per year, one in the west and one in the east, move them around between cities and start releasing accurate “through the gate” attendance numbers.

What do you think about trade shows and trade show reform? Tell us what’s on your mind. If you are a manufacturer or dental dealer, leave a comment or send an email and let us know if you support trade show reform or tell us how much you spend yearly on trade shows.



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2 Responses to “Trade Show Reform…”

  1. Associate Q said

    I can tell you in the lab sector of the industry it is even worse. But it is the same thing with the Chicago Lab Day show that is held on the Saturday the same week the CDS meeting is going on. It used to be everyone met in Chicago and that was where deals were made. Sure deals are still made but the fact that there is now 2 or 3 other shows on the Friday and Saturday of the same week, started intentionally to compete with Lab Day, so it makes the crows much, much thinner. I mean look at LMT Communications alone, they have 3 shows during the year. Lab Day Chicago in Feb, Lab Day East New York in April & Lab Day West Irvine in April/May. Are they trying to get everyone together or cash in on the fact that the manufacturers and dealers are forced to attend all the shows if they want to see all the customers. Sure it gives customers the choice to go to the show closest to them, but chances are you are flying in so what difference does it make??

    You have the Hinman/SouthEastern Dental Lab Assoc. battle and the fact that there were/are 2 shows going on down in Atlanta at the same time, plus it has been one big pissing match over who can go to what show with what badge. I mean a couple years ago one or the other was advertising not to go to the other show and there were all kinds of idiotic battles going on, it is ridiculous.

    Plus you have NADL Vision East, Vision West, DLANY Congress, Sun’ N’ Fun in New Orleans, Mid-West Spring Technical Meeting, CAD/CAM Congress (Give me a break!), then every state association has their individual meetings or have formed partnership with surrounding states such as the meeting in North Carolina that is for various states. Plus I am sure I am missing many others.

    Why do they these states have meetings like this and why do people attend? For educational opportunities and CE points. Who floats the bill for all this? The manufacturers. I mean take the Mid-West Spring Tech Meeting as an example. It is so bad there now, because they offer too many courses, that you are lucky to get 5 minutes with a client before they have to rush off to another class. You see in the lab side the guys that are CDT’s, or shall I say waste their time keeping their CDT’s, try to go to 1 meeting and cram all the courses they can into that meeting so they can get their necessary points needed for renewal. Last year I talked to at least 5 technicians who were at the show, but never stepped foot into the exhibit area. You bet they are counted as an attendee, but what did they attend?

    What is spent at these lab shows? Just for one table, a 72″ X 24″ cheap fold up table, it costs $2200. Most larger companies purchase the maximum of 5 tables for a price tag over $10k. Electricity is a minimum of $200, for 1 plug. Shipping in and out at expo rates is crazy. One company who had 1 table, minimum electricity and very little shipped in spent over $5000 just on the show. That is a 1 day show. If you want to give a course or have a “suite”, get the checkbook out because you are going to spend well over $15k. So companies like Dentsply or Zahn Dental will spend well over $50k and I am sure that Zahn spent near $100k this year with their extra “High Tech Room” and all the courses they gave. Please, keep in mind this is a ONE DAY SHOW.

    What needs to happen, the lab industry needs to fold its shows into the dentists shows. Someone with some kind of respectability needs to step up the plate and do what Dental Insider said, 2 shows a year. One in the spring, one in the fall. I can see having a minimum amount courses, but if the show is 3 – 5 days long that is not a problem. The courses are nothing but sales pitches to a captive audience, so make it open to all and not really connected to CE points.

    It is getting out of hand, and out of hand quick. I guarantee that 90% of the companies that go to Lab Day in Chicago or for that matter the CDS meeting already now they are going to lose money on the show. But it has become so engraved in everybody’s minds that they must be there that people are willing to lose money to avoid customers asking “Where were you?”.

    Manufacturers and dealers must take a stand. They are the one’s funding these things and without their cash the shows will shut down. These shows must be held accountable and they must release real figures. Control needs to be taken away from these select groups such as the ADA, CDS, etc and put int he hands of someone that understand trade shows. Cut off the funding and the shows will flounder and start to get the point.

    But is anyone kidding themselves, because we all understand that these shows are money makers for these places. Actually the associations and terribly run companies like LMT are the only ones making money on these shows. Stand up, whether you are a small manufacturer, indy dealer or a global manufacturer or one of the big dealers. If we don’t make some noise then status quo will continue as is.

    Yearly budget for trade shows? If the company attends shows on a regular basis then the answer is the same no matter the size. It is TOO MUCH!

    I am interested to hear what other lab manufacturers/dealers have to say. If anyone wants to drop me a line to tell me if you agree/disagree or tell me if you think I am off base then send the Dental Insider an e-mail, post a response or send me an e-mail at

    Maybe a letter could be drafted and those that agree that reform is necessary can endorse it. Once we get some companies behind it I could send it to all of the various people who put on these shows. (And are constantly trying to get another few thousand dollars out of our pockets.)


  2. Check out Dr. Thomas Giacobbi’s “Second Opinion” on pages 10 and 12 of the March issue of Dentaltown magazine. Interesting Reading. They should have it posted online in the next few days.


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