Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 02 Cruise 1

Are dental conferences dying?

Feb. 27, 2017
Dr. Chris Salierno encourages his peers to attend dental conferences, not just to gain CE, but to network with their peers and feel the energy of the profession. Earn CE while cruising? Yes, please!  
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Editor, Dental Economics
I’m a bit of a meeting junkie, so it breaks my heart to see many of our dental conferences struggling to bring in audiences, keep exhibitors happy, and turn a profit. The number of US dentists continues to rise, so you’d think attendance at meetings would as well, right? Apparently not.

That could be for a few reasons. Although I haven’t seen stats on this, I think it’s safe to assume that there are more meetings then there were 10 or 20 years ago, so that should spread the attendance more thinly. But we also have more places to get continuing education these days. As I learned in my 2014 interview with Greater New York Dental Meeting Executive Director Dr. Robert Edwab, ADA CERP used to be more tightly controlled. Now you have a stack of direct mail from dental manufacturers and publications that can provide your CE needs.

And let’s not forget online CE formats. Don’t get me wrong; these can be valuable platforms for learning! There are volumes of written courses and webinars available on sites such as The Dental Academy of Continuing Education that provide a great service and operate at a high level of quality. But I think we can start to see why dentists are less motivated to book time out of the office and travel to get their CE.

Fortunately, there have been some terrific innovations in dental meetings that are motivating us to book that flight. I’ll be speaking at the Smiles at Sea conference. Hanging out with dental teams from across the country on a weekend cruise around the Bahamas? Yes, please. There’s some quality time blocked off for learning and then plenty of time left for fun in the sun. If you’re not a fan of seafaring, Smiles at Sea also hosts conferences at resorts such as this upcoming one in Cancun.

I salute the minds behind January’s Voices of Dentistry conference, the first meeting of its kind for dental podcasters. Drs. Alan Mead and Jason Lipscomb of The Dental Hacks lead the charge in bringing a small army of podcasters to do what they do in front of a live audience. This is a conference to watch (or better yet, attend) in the years to come.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our own Dental Economics Principles of Practice Management conference. What made our concept unique was a laser focus on the business of dentistry and a think tank atmosphere. I loved seeing entrepreneurial dentists at the beginning, middle, and end of their careers come together to figure out how they can make everyday practice more fun, less stressful, and more profitable. Stay tuned for details about our 2017 conference.

I could go on about other meetings that have broken the mold, such as RDH Under One Roof and Dentsply Sirona World. So, I don’t think dental conferences are dying. I think we’ll always like the opportunity to get out of our routines, make new friends, and rekindle our love of dentistry. The key is for the powers behind these meetings to think outside the box. They should find a unique angle that sets them apart from other events. They should reinvent the exhibit floor to be a social hub. Stop doing things the way they were done last year and experiment with attendee experiences. There are several conferences like the ones I’ve referenced here that are growing like gangbusters.



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