Skyline From Water

A September to Remember

Aug. 1, 2013
The Chesapeake Dental Conference And The 147th ODA Annual Session

The Chesapeake Dental Conference And The 147th ODA Annual Session

By Lerin Madole, editorial intern

The Chesapeake Dental Conference

Kayla Fowler, events manager of the Maryland State Dental Association, let us in on a few secrets about the tricks of the trade for a successful annual conference (hint: it seems to be in the social opportunities). The MSDA offers more than just CE credits at their conference. There's fun for the whole family in a place like Ocean City, Md.

Lerin Madole: What kind of attendance numbers do you expect for this year's meeting?

Kayla Fowler: 1,400 or so. Not sure yet if that's dentists or exhibitors – probably a pretty even mix.

LM: What's new or different about this year's meeting?

KF: We had a game in the exhibit hall last year that we're changing a little bit to mix things up. As far as activities go, we're adding yoga classes each morning for the attendees that want to take part in some basic yoga, like stretching and relaxation.

LM: Do you have any plans for changes for future meetings?

KF: Well, we've been seeing a slight upward trend in our attendance numbers at each meeting in the last few years. We added a mobile app last year for our attendees to use, and we'll be using that again this year to try to stay on top of it. We also try to change it up each year with the social events. We'll actually be repeating one in particular from last year, though, that we saw really great feedback from. It's in a venue called Secrets. It's got a kind of beachfront nightclub feel to it with drinks and dancing. It's open mostly all day and all night and we've got a private area on the bay. It's really nice and it was really well received last year.

LM: What will CE credit opportunities look like this year?

KF: There will be lots of speakers – a few more than we've had in the past. Up to 26 hours of CE credits are available over the course of the weekend. There are 35 events. It makes for a pretty packed weekend. Classes range from two to four hours each. We also have a nice mix of classes for both dentists and their teams, which helps keep our attendance numbers high.

LM: What is something your members like most about traveling to the Northeast?

KF: A lot of them seem to use the meeting as a family vacation while they get their CE. Ocean City is a very family-oriented place and much easier to navigate than, say, D.C. or Baltimore. It makes for a more laid-back atmosphere. We like to keep it business-casual; we don't run around in suits all weekend. We like it to be a little more relaxed. The sales reps really like it because they get to do a little "R & R" while they're working on the weekend.

LM: What is the main draw for exhibitors who will be attending the meeting?

KF: While other meetings in our area are seeing a decline in participation, our meeting is growing each year. We have had a full exhibit hall for the last two years and we have experienced an increase in both dentists and staff. We are always introducing new and fresh ideas to our exhibit hall. When suggestions are made, by both exhibitors and attendees, we do our best to accommodate them – and we have had tremendous success. For example, an exhibitor suggested staggering class times so attendees were let out at different times, and we did so. Another exhibitor asked us for additional seating so attendees could have lunch in the hall, and we did so. We were asked for shorter hours on the last day, different food choices for breakfast, and additional benefits for exhibitors, and all were done. We make it our goal to keep our hall games new and fresh and we are always introducing new things.

The 147th ODA Annual Session

Suzanne Payne Brooks, the Ohio Dental Association's director of meetings, told us about what makes their annual session something to brag about. They hold the title of "the largest dental exhibition in the five-state region."

Lerin Madole: How are your attendance numbers shaping up this year?

Suzanne Payne Brooks: We have about 1,300 dentists and our overall attendance is over 5,000. We're pretty proud of the size of our meeting.

LM: What big plans do you have for the meeting's style in the future?

SPB: The only big change we're planning right now is reformatting the exhibit hall in 2014. The hall will be a kind of stand-alone vehicle, if you will. That allows for some reconfiguration of the booths. That way, there's more face-to-face interaction with exhibitors, and better flow.

LM: How do you encourage circulation throughout the exhibit hall?

SPB: We have the hall hours extend beyond CE programs and we have a ton of social events in the hall. For example, we have lunch options in the exhibit hall, receptions that are on the floor, and then we do a door prize giveaway. We have three big prizes to give away, one for dentists, one for hygienists, and one for office staff. They get the chance to win pretty substantial prizes like a $500 gift card to Tiffany's, Coach bags, iPads and Apple products. Our hope is to get the attendees on the floor so the sales reps can do the rest.

LM: Overall, what's especially appealing about this year's CE credit opportunities?

SPB: First of all, we have excellent clinicians and nationally renowned speakers in our attendees' own backyard. We have as many as 20 hands-on CE credit opportunities this year. We also have a dentist-only round table Saturday morning before the exhibit hall opens. They come in for breakfast and the exhibitors with the newest products rotate around to different tables every 15 minutes. They can ask questions in an exclusive, personal environment. It's being marketed as an elite event and we think both dentists and vendors are excited to participate.

LM: What's on the agenda for social events this September?

SPB: There will be a welcome reception Thursday evening with food and beverages. That begins as CE programs wrap up and goes on with extended hours for the exhibit hall. On Friday afternoon we have a unique social-media-based game where we tweet messages to folks to participate in an almost scavenger hunt sort of game. Also, Saturdays in Columbus are college football days. Being only two miles south of OSU's campus, we participate in tailgating events, providing beverages and popcorn.

LM: What are the best things about traveling to Columbus for the meeting?

SPB: There's a lot to do in Columbus and our meeting is a great part of that. The convention center is in the heart of great nightlife and tremendous restaurants to experience here in town. Being in a great college town on a football weekend is not a bad thing either. This year there are a lot of fun activities going on the same weekend as our event. Blake Shelton will be performing Friday evening and we've secured some concert tickets that some of our attendees are already snatching up. And if none of that sounds exciting, it'll be "Talk like a pirate weekend," so you have that too.

LM: What are you doing to make your exhibitors feel taken care of?

SPB: We have a very strong dentist attendance in the five-state area. You're not going to have an opportunity for better numbers, which is appealing in itself. Our committee has long recognized the value that the exhibitors bring to our meeting. We sit down with longstanding exhibitors and new ones twice each year to come up with great ideas. Our goal is to continue to format a meeting that meets their needs. The exhibitors' success is our success and vice versa, so we work very hard to provide a quality product that we're proud to host and they're proud to participate in.