What challenge(s) did the show face?
Vision Expo identified the increasing importance of a specific attendee category based on their direct connection to the end consumer and a shift towards independently owned and operated businesses. With this in mind, Vision Expo set out to increase the attendance of opticians and contact lens technicians and eliminate their barriers to attend.
What was the Best of Show solution(s)?
As co-owners of Vision Expo, Reed Exhibitions and The Vision Council decided to create a dedicated initiative to increase the attendance of opticians and contact lens technicians and so approached the managers of a competitive event called OptiCon to explore a unique partnership. OptiCon and its accrediting boards were gatekeepers to a list of thousands of certified opticians and contact lens technicians. Opticians and contact lens technicians sit directly between exhibitor products and the consumer, as such their attendance and growth at the Show is important to exhibitors.
At the time Vision Expo approached them, OptiCon was managed by the American Board of Opticianry & National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO & NCLE) in partnership with the National Academy of Opticianry (NAO), Opticians Association of America (OAA), Contact Lens Society of America (CLSA) and National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS). OptiCon was an annually held meeting with both exhibition and education. Approximately 700 opticians and contact lens technicians attended OptiCon each year.
Within just five months, Reed Exhibitions and The Vision Council worked with ABO & NCLE to form a comprehensive strategy to address the pain points for this attendance category including value pricing, education, socialization, inclusion, community and networking. By addressing all of these key points, the Vision Expo team was able to put together an experience package, to appeal to the key sensitivities of the OptiCon attendee. Vision Expo was then able to market this new experience package and the Show to the database of new potential attendees that were not previously on any lists owned by Reed Exhibitions or The Vision Council. Expansion of this quantity and quality would have taken the Show years as well as a tremendous amount of resources to accomplish and will continue to provide dividends for years to come as this audience’s attendance at conferences is cyclical.
The final experience package included 15 hours of ABO & NCLE approved continuing education including an exclusive general session, Exhibit Hall access, lunch vouchers, a welcome party and peer networking, and access to a dedicated, discounted OptiCon hotel. Attendees who only wanted access to the Exhibit Hall were offered free registration and could choose to customize their free Exhibit Hall pass by adding on a la carte education courses and events.
In the Exhibit Hall we created the OptiCon @ Vision Expo Hub, a first ever, prominently placed dedicated space for all opticians and contact lens technicians to gather with their peers, socialize, and have access to key representatives from ABO & NCLE, NAO, OAA, and NFOS as well as featured sponsors. The agreement with ABO & NCLE also included the incorporation of the ABO & NCLE and affiliate groups producing Vision Expo’s education content.
And what were the overall results and impact on the show?
The inclusion of OptiCon @ Vision Expo increased optician attendance at the Show and created a new category of attendees to track, contact lens technicians (previously this group would have been counted under opticians and not tracked separately). Vision Expo East saw a 22.6% growth in the attendance of opticians and contact lens technicians and has evidence to expect similar growth at Vision Expo West this September. The OptiCon @ Vision Expo merger yielded a total of 2,471 optician and contact lens technicians, 1,412 of which were first-time attendees. (In 2017, Vision Expo East had 2,028 opticians and contact lens technicians, 893 of which were first-time attendees.)
What innovative practices, customer service and/or networking environments occurred to make it the best show ever?
It was important to both Vision Expo and OptiCon that attending opticians and contact lens technicians would continue to have access to education they trust and can use to fulfill their continuing education requirements. Vision Expo has always provided a stellar education program for these groups, and saw this merger as an opportunity to add an additional level of expertise and quality to the program. Representatives from the different governing boards of ABO & NCLE, NAO, NFOS, and OAA were brought together to create the OptiCon Advisory Board, part of the overall Conference Advisory Board. This year the OptiCon Advisory Board developed 75 hours of education programming and will continue to work in partnership with the Conference Advisory Board to create innovative and inclusive educational programming in the future across all attendee titles.
Additionally, OptiCon @ Vision Expo has two touchpoints with the audience each year instead of just one. This benefit now offers previous OptiCon attendees the convenience to choose between attending Vision Expo East and Vision Expo West and receive the same benefits at each Show.
Did you initiate an “out of the box” idea?
Vision Expo made a conscious decision to not simply co-locate OptiCon at the Show, but to fully integrate the group and create the OptiCon @ Vision Expo experience. OptiCon @ Vision Expo created a networking destination in the Exhibit Hall, the OptiCon Hub, where previous OptiCon attendees could still easily connect with their community and also enjoy enhanced networking opportunities, both inside the Exhibit Hall and at after-hours parties, to expand their industry connections while networking with all attendee groups. The OptiCon Hub provided additional benefits including complimentary food and beverage surprises, inspirational content from industry peers, fashion shows, celebrity appearances by Cynthia Bailey of Real Housewives of Atlanta and new eyewear designers Coco and Breezy, and exhibitor showcases that gave prior OptiCon exhibitors extra visibility outside of their booths.
The Vision Council and Reed Exhibitions are now using the success of OptiCon @ Vision Expo to craft the strategy to partner or collaborate with other industry events and meetings. This model, a designated space where members of an organization can gather and retain their unique membership identity while at the same time taking full advantage of unique benefits offered by Vision Expo, is one that we now know will continue to grow Vision Expo in the coming years.
View Video HERE
OptiCon Hub at Vision Expo East
The entire OptiCon Hub space
Celebrity appearance with Cynthia Bailey in the OptiCon Hub
Location of Show:
Javits Center, New York, New York
Date of Show:
March 16 – 18, 2018
Number of attendees
Number of exhibitors:
Size of showfloor in net sq. footage: