December 30, 2013
The Chicago Midwinter Meeting had nearly 30,000 attendees last year. For a show that takes place in one of the coldest cities in the continental U.S. in the middle of the winter, the CMW knows how to attract attendees from around the country. We recently interviewed Lisa Girardi, director, Exhibitor Services at Chicago Dental Society, about the upcoming meeting and the 150th anniversary of the Chicago Dental Society, what she saw at the American Dental Association Annual Session, and what CMW is doing to avoid some of the bigger pitfalls of their most recent meeting.
Lauren Burns: A lot of exhibitors have expressed that the American Dental Association Annual Session in New Orleans this year was slow. I’m wondering what you noticed about the meeting, since you have a completely different perspective.
Lisa Girardi: I knew [the ADA was] pulling out all the stops possible to keep the attendees on the exhibit floor. I was on the floor all three days, and I feel bad because I thought attendance was deadly. If any exhibitor had a good show, I have to give kudos to them, because I didn’t see it. ADA always runs at a disadvantage in my opinion because they travel around the country and use different venues and always have the problem of not knowing how the hall is going to lay out and how attendees are going to flow through. I know that having President Clinton’s speech end and then having the air wall open so that the attendees could exit the theater area and come onto the exhibit hall was clever, but I just watched as they shuffled out down to the shuttle buses and left. I know when you go to New Orleans, Las Vegas, or Hawaii, you’re going to run into attendees coming for the location instead of the meeting. I think they try to keep the exhibitors happy and keep the attendees on the floor, but I think they tie it into a more relaxed setting, rather than a come-to-the-show-and-participate kind of feeling that I know they want to convey. It was nice until Sunday when [attendance] dropped and got kind of chilly. I saw what they were trying to do, but I didn’t think it was coming to fruition.
LB: So what do you do to avoid those pitfalls at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting?
LG: We don’t have any midday shuttle services. If people want to leave early, they have to pay for a cab. Providing a complimentary way to leave midday is foolish to me. Plus, it’s February in Chicago: what are you going to do if you leave the exhibit hall?
"We know that without the exhibitors, the meeting could be a webinar."
LB: How do you draw people to and keep them on the show floor?
LG: We’re always trying to come up with new ways to make it better and more rewarding for both attendees and exhibitors. We put our tote bags on the exhibit floor so if attendees want to get one, they have to go on the floor. We know the hours are long, but we look for ways to draw and keep them to the floor. We know that without the exhibitors, the meeting could be a webinar.
LB: What kind of courses does the show offer?
LG: The Midwinter Meeting continues to offer an eclectic array of scientific courses in an attempt to meet the interests and needs of the profession. From lasers to liability, from special needs patients to basic life support and emergency medicine, from cone-beam technology to oral surgery, the Midwinter Meeting provides diversified courses, so that whatever your position on the dental team, there is likely a course that you will find interesting and, above all, beneficial. The majority of courses on the Midwinter Meeting program are provided without charge, making attendance even more cost effective. Within our program itself, we do identify for whom in the dental team a course is recommended. For example, Dr. Frank Lauciello’s course “Removable Prosthodontics: Capture Opportunity” is recommended for doctors, assistants, and dental technicians.
LB: What about dental professionals outside of the dental office? Do you offer programs for lab techs and other professionals?
LG: The 2014 Midwinter Meeting offers a variety of courses that should be of interest to dental laboratory personnel. Those include courses pertaining to dental materials, impressions and model pouring, and esthetics. All such are important to the relationship between the practitioner and his or her laboratory to ensure delivery of high-quality appliances.
LB: This year’s theme is “The Bridge: Past, Present, and Future.” Can you explain how you came up with that concept and what you aim to communicate to attendees and exhibitors through it?
LG: The theme was determined by CDS president, Dr. Richard S. Holba. Dr. Holba has been quoted as saying, “It is a term that is useful not only in dentistry but music, plays, billiards, and science; it is the link from point A to B and beyond. […] The new horizons are expanding with the aid of digital enhancements in diagnosis, treatment planning, and the construction of final prosthetic devices.” As CDS enters into its 150th year as a professional body, the 2014 Midwinter Meetingwill be the bridge to its 150th Midwinter Meeting in 2015.
This article will be published in the January issue of Proofs magazine.