Apples And Oranges

Apples and Oranges: The IDS continues to push the envelope, but how do U.S. shows compare?

April 1, 2013
Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the IDS was (once again) quite delightful.

Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the IDS was (once again) quite delightful.

There is seemingly nothing that can slow down the giant that is the IDS. An unseasonable snow storm at the beginning of the meeting? Nope. A German security strike that cancelled many flights in and out of local airports toward the end of the meeting? No way.

Obstacles that could've been kryptonite to this Superman of a dental meeting just bounced off like bullets. The two to four inches of snow on the ground did little to deter attendees from 149 countries from walking the halls of IDS.

This was my sixth IDS to attend, and I have to say that, while it might sound cliché, the show gets better and better every time I walk into Koelnmesse.

And when I say "better," I'm not just saying that because it keeps growing in attendance and booth space. It's better because this is a show that serves a specific role not only to the end-user (dental professionals), but also to those who choose to buy a booth space.

Held every two years in Cologne, IDS has truly become the world's most amazing dental show. Reports say 125,000 people (a new IDS record) from 149 countries walked through its halls this year and 2,058 exhibitors (a new IDS record) showed their wares. The numbers are staggering, just like the number of steps you take in a day just trying to make all of your appointments (trust me on that one).

I had two very interesting conversations while I was at IDS. The first was with a dentist from Germany who was attending the show. I asked him what he liked best about IDS.

"It's a show where I know I am going to see the latest advances that will help me in my business," he told me. "I know when it's time for IDS, I will see the best and newest products. I come to see what's happening next."

It was a very simple and profound answer. It really made me think about the state of the dental trade shows in the U.S. How many American trade shows could a dentist make the same statement about? I think the number might be able to be counted on one hand.

Secondly, I talked with a European manufacturer who was exhibiting in Cologne and I asked him how his company plans for IDS.

"We already have a timeline in place for 2015," he told me. "We know there are products that we are working on today that we will debut at the next IDS. It won't be long before we know which products we will hope to debut at the IDS in 2017."

Again, the number of U.S. trade shows that could trigger a product debut timeline within a company's R&D and marketing departments could probably be counted on one hand. It shows the hallowed ground in the dental trade show world that IDS not only stands upon, but rules.

There was a day when I would compare the IDS to American dental meetings – but that day is long gone. They are apples and oranges, as different as the two cultures in which they exist.

This year, flying back from Cologne, I'm not comparing. Rather, I'm asking what exhibitors and trade show organizers can do together to make American dental trade shows the event that IDS has become in the minds of the dental professionals who attend a show, whether it's a local, state, or national meeting.

The question isn't, "How can our shows become like IDS?" The question is, "How can our shows get better?" And that should be a question we're asking every year, not just in an IDS year.