Although rude crowds are a pain, dental hygienists overwhelmingly seek out exhibit halls

Feb. 1, 2013
Survey asks dental hygienists about the benefits they derive from exhibit halls at dental conferences.

Consider reading:Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain? Then you're going to keep wasting money at trade shows
Consider reading:Do we really need all of these dental trade shows?
Consider reading:ADA future Annual Sessions: The industry responds

Even if dental hygienists attend a dental conference primarily for earning continuing education credits, 96% still emphasize that touring the exhibit hall remains a “high priority.” However, most dental hygienists are turned off by crowded booths, as well as “pushy” exhibitors with “bad” attitudes during the exhibit hall visits, which average two to three hours per conference. and Proofs magazine conducted the survey of all dental professionals in January 2013, but this RDH eVillage article examines the results for the 133 dental hygienists who participated in the survey.

“Being ignored because I don’t have the dentist’s badge on,” one hygienist said of what he or she dislikes about dental exhibit halls. “The dentists I work for allow me to make purchases at the conferences. But if I am ignored or treated rudely, I will not waste my time at that booth.”

The cold shoulder or other “bad attitudes” presented by exhibitors was one of the primary reasons 66% of the dental hygienists surveyed will not visit a booth. The other factors behind the avoidance of exhibitors were:

• Overcrowded booths, 83%
• “Pushy” salespeople, 53%
• No samples offered, 44%
• Lack of time to discuss a product with an exhibitor, 33%
•Financially unable to purchase product, or influence a colleague’s decision to purchase product, 18%
• Not enough special offers in prices, 15%
• Negative comments from a speaker, 4%

The pretty women that some exhibitors hire also have a negative affect with at least one dental hygienist. “Hiring models to work in the booths,” she wrote. “Not only are most dental hygienists women, I would guess half of dentists are now women. I had a patient who while in my chair received an email from her modeling agency to work [a national dental conference] this year. She has a great smile but knows nothing about dentistry.”

Some dental hygienists also cited the length of videos, short seminars, and booth quizzes/surveys as being too time-consuming.

“I prefer not be greeted by what color my badge is,” one hygienist said. “Nowadays, I do not have an hour to spare for standing in line and watching multiple video recordings just to get a tube of toothpaste at the end. Any good sales representative should be able to give our team information and deals at our convenience at our office. Nevertheless, I would generally be willing to wait for quality information and mutual respect [at exhibit hall].”

Her last statement reinforces an overall positive desire to learn more about new products of interest to dental hygienists. Less than 2% say they do not visit the exhibit hall at a dental conference. The rest spend varying amounts of time visiting with exhibitors:

• 1-2 hours, 29%
• 2-3 hours, 27%
• 3-4 hours, 20%
• 4-5 hours, 9%
• Less than 1 hour, 8%
• 5 or more hours, 6%

Eighty-five percent said it was either “very important” or “important” to have access to exhibitor booths at dental conferences. Only 2% said it was “not important” for dental conferences to offer exhibits.

The main reason it’s important? Ninety-eight percent want “new information on products.” In addition, 47% said they will order products, and 90% will take advantage of product samples, if offered. Finally, 32% said they follow up speaker recommendations about products by visiting the exhibit hall.

Survey participants were asked what they liked best about dental product exhibitions, as well as what they dislikes. Sample comments of what dental hygienists like best about the exhibit include:

• Demonstration of products, and the ability to see and try products in my hand before purchasing.
• Learning new information (either new products or new techniques, or even refresher information about the products that we already use). It would be great if the sales reps would say "... did you know that this or that product ... can be used ... or help ... or the specific ingredient ... or why it is unique and how that product is superior compared to the others."
• Learning about new products and the opportunity to talk to reps; where I live we never have reps visit our office.
• Getting to see new products and having questions answered about how to use products better.
• Nice time to ask a rep specific questions about products, especially if I am having difficulty using them at work.
• I like having the opportunity to see new products and get information from the reps. Samples are great since they let you try the product before buying. It's easier to get your doctor to buy new products if you can use them first.

Sample comments about things dental hygienists do not like about exhibit halls include:

• The size of the exhibit floor at large meetings
• Having sales people who are not knowledgeable about our profession
• Often times, I am ignored because I am not a dentist. I am the person in my work place that has direct influence on the products we use in our office.
• Always crowded at booths and a lot of attendees are rude
• Time spent waiting to talk to reps at the busier booths
• Awkward layout of hall, I would prefer more like products corralled together for comparison.
• When there are no samples, just alot of paper/pamphlets to read.
• Rude and pushy sales people with seemingly preconceived attitudes about RDHs
• Crowds around a booth that prevents me from talking to a rep
• The exhibit hall is too crowded for the limited time that I have available.
• The waste of paper/flyers that is forced on everyone. Give us a card and a website
• Recently visited several prominent vendors at a conference and was dissatisfied with uninformed reps at the booths who could not answer my basic product questions! I have 38 years experience and felt like I should be selling to them
• The worst part of the exhibit hall is the crowds and/or the poor attitude of reps. I hate it when I try to ask a rep about their product and they act uninterested. Without information, I cannot ask my practice to invest in their products

About the Author

Mark Hartley

Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH magazine and collaborates with Kristine Hodsdon on many of the articles for RDH eVillage, which also appear on