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100% Optical 2022 – Out with the new and in with the old?

By Natasha Szombara

Last month, FMC Meditech attended 100% Optical for the first time since its merger with Optrafair – here’s our thoughts on the event’s new format.

A fortnight on from 100% Optical finishing, the dust has settled, the stands are packed away and everyone is beavering away trying to follow-up on those all-important conversations. We’ve taken the past few weeks to reflect on the event and how the new format impacted attendees’ opinions.

Back in 2018, when we first heard whispers that 100% Optical and Optrafair were looking to combine, we noted that Optrafair seemed to be on its way out after losing touch with its trade show roots. Fast forward four years, we’ve recently returned from 100% Optical’s debut at London’s ExCeL following the merger of the events that did, in fact, go ahead.

For the organisers that put in huge amounts of time and effort into combining the two back in 2019, this year was a vital opportunity for growth after the pandemic put a pause on events. As an opportunity to show the world new systems, a chance to secure sales on manufacturers’ equipment and a great time to demonstrate products to those in the industry – there was high hopes from attendees.

However, unfortunately not everyone found the merger to be the best of both worlds.

Low footfall

Over the years, we’ve seen a gradual decline in the number of people attending both 100% Optical and Optrafair – and was hoping the new format may have brought a bunch of refreshing faces made up of both first timers and long-term attendees of the two events.

Unfortunately, those who had been exhibiting at 100% Optical for years mentioned how the event used to be far bigger in terms of size and presence, with a walk around the exhibition taking much longer than it took this year. The decline in footfall hand-in-hand brought a decline in opportunities to network too – with the networking events, which were once a popular part of Optrafair, no longer present.

Another aspect exhibitors made note of was the runway/fashion show element of the event being noticeably smaller compared to previous years.

Relocation

Whilst London’s ExCeL is a great venue, it’s possible the move could be one of the reasons for the lower footfall this year. Compared to Optrafair’s previous home of Birmingham NEC, it’s much further afield for companies based in the midlands or the north – not to mention the high costs of parking and congestion charges.

However, it’s not all bad

Despite the decline in footfall, the event still held a lot of value for us and other exhibitors – especially with it being the first time being able to meet in person since before the pandemic. The tech on display, such as the Occuity PM1 Pachymeter and Heidelberg’s SPECTRALIS, gave us chance to emerge ourselves in the world be recruit in and keep up to date with the latest developments in the market.

And the decline in footfall wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for all attendees. Speaking personally, the smaller turnout allowed us to have in depth conversations with more people than we would get chance to usually – hopefully something other people found beneficial too.

So, is the integration of the two events the cause of this disappointment? 

It’s difficult to be sure, but after speaking with those who invest their time and money on attending each year, the feedback suggests that maybe the merger hasn’t brought the best of both worlds together.

We’re looking forward to continuing to attend 100% Optical and seeing how the event develops over the coming years – hopefully in a way which will leave all exhibitors and attendees feeling positive about the change in formats.

Will combining the events prove to be a wrong decision? Only time, and future events, will tell.

How did you find the show? I’d be interested to hear your feedback!

If you’re in the eye care space and are looking to grow your team this year, get in touch to see how FMC Meditech could help on 01522 812247 or email me at natasha.szombara@fmctalent.com.

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